Mead Day 2008
July 28, 2008 3:59 AM   Subscribe

Saturday is Mead Day, a day to make, drink, and celebrate mead (honey wine).

There's an official recipe but if that doesn't strike your fancy you can select from lots of other recipes.

Browse some historical recipes or try making the designed-for-beginners Joe's Ancient Orange.

Mead making can be easy or complicated but there are mailing lists, discussion boards, and books to help you out.

Don't want to try making mead? Maybe you can order online. Or maybe there's a meadery near you.
posted by maurice (38 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

(Mead: It's not just for RenFest anymore.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:49 AM on July 28, 2008

Mead is awesome. I always wanted to make some. Now I will.

Also, I wish somebody had told me months ago about mead day:

"Ferment on the fruit for 28 days, then rack to secondary. Leave in secondary for 3-6 months. This mead may require an additional racking to leave fruit behind."

I know it's a day to MAKE, drink and celebrate mead...but I'd rather make, DRINK and CELEBRATE, amirite?
posted by taumeson at 5:04 AM on July 28, 2008

Now that the European brewing company InBev will be purchasing Anheuser-Busch, they should give some thought to making a honey wine drink in the brewer's traditional home.

That way they can mead us in Saint Louie.
posted by yhbc at 5:06 AM on July 28, 2008 [7 favorites]

I prefer my mead with a ten dollar turkey leg, surrounded by nerds in cardboard armor and accompanied by works for lute and mandolin.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:11 AM on July 28, 2008 [9 favorites]

lotsa busted linkage for a 4k'er, musta been into the mead rack again.
posted by quonsar at 5:17 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

For those who prefer something a little more exotic, there is always Tej; just the thing to wash down your injera and zilzil tibs!
posted by TedW at 5:34 AM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

The wife and I picked some up at the Earle Estates Meadery in the Finger Lakes a couple years back. Too sweet for my tastes but, as a former D&D geek, I simply couldn't resist.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:41 AM on July 28, 2008

Your Joe's Ancient Orange, mailing lists, and Maybe links are broken.
posted by jedicus at 5:42 AM on July 28, 2008

they can mead us in Saint Louie

How do I favorite something without making it seem like I approve of it?
posted by uncleozzy at 5:44 AM on July 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine brought a bottle of mead back from a trip to England. Nasty stuff.
posted by jonmc at 5:53 AM on July 28, 2008

Dudes I am so going to try and make me some of this.... the whole leg of meat with it sounds awesome!! Minus the cardboard armored nerds.....
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:59 AM on July 28, 2008

Not sure what happened when I pasted in those links.

Joe's Ancient Orange

"Mailing list" was supposed to go to the Mead Lover's Digest

"Maybe" was supposed to go to Free the Grapes
posted by maurice at 6:11 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I prefer my Mead with Velcro and shitty computer art.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:18 AM on July 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Paging Seamus. You are wanted on the Blue.
posted by spock at 6:20 AM on July 28, 2008

Mayor Curley, I wish I could favorite that a thousand times.
posted by fusinski at 6:26 AM on July 28, 2008

Holy crap, Spock.
I fpp just for me?

I shall return soon to post my modern version of a medieval small mead.
Like beer, drinks easy, usually make 5 or 10 gallons for Easter.
posted by Seamus at 6:47 AM on July 28, 2008

The only meads I've liked have been dry ones. For some reason, most folks make it too damned sweet for me. I've been a home beer and winemaker for 20 years, and I've never been able to understand why folks make it so sweet. I know it's not a technological issue--I've had dry meads, and one, with wormwood, was truly fantastic, so I know it's possible. It can be almost champagne like when fermented to dryness. Otherwise, yeah, ick.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:15 AM on July 28, 2008

I made some a couple of years ago based on a dry recipe. Easier to make than beer, and REALLY tasty after about a year of aging.

Make it sparkling, too, or you'll get the sickly sweet, pickled taste everyone's complaining about.

Also, make sure to use wildflower or mesquite honey. Standard grocery store clover honey has no character at all.
posted by mortimer at 7:52 AM on July 28, 2008

Three years ago, I made mead.

I'd been making wine for a while, and I was alone for Christmas (my parents were planning to visit but in a few days and for varied reasons I didn't want to travel). A local Lebanese grocery -- a rarity in my relatively small city in Quebec -- had opened about a year before, and when I went for my Christmas-morning walk, I realized they were open, being Muslims, and wandered in. Lo and behold, they had three-gallon tubs of honey, which is used en masse in Halal cuisine as a sweetener, on sale.

I'd been thinking about making mead for quite a while, and given that I had nothing to do except bum around the house on Christmas, decided this was the day to do it. So I bought two three-gallon tubs of honey and walked up to the cash. The owner was on cash that day, a man I was on a first-name basis with, and after some small talk, he glanced at what I was carrying, raised his eyebrows, and asked what all the honey was for.

I opened my mouth. And closed it. Thoughts: I am going to make mead wait a minute this guy is a Muslim running a Halal grocery he probably won't be thrilled with the idea that he is selling honey to a white guy on Christmas so he can make basement booze oh shit what do I say I don't want to offend him I shop here all the time and I don't want him thinking I'm some sort of anti-Halal boozehound using his sanctified honey to make devil liquor think think think

"It's for gifts!" I said brightly.

"Gifts?" he asked.

I shrugged, which is more of an accomplishment than you might think when you've been walking around with a three-gallon tub of honey in each hand for 10 minutes. "I'm going to put this honey in other containers! And give it to friends!"

"Okay," he said.

"Honey!" I said.

"Yes," he said.

"Gifts!" I said. "Of honey!"

"That's nice of you," he said.

"Honey!" I repeated.

He stared at me for a second, then rang me up. I walked home, got my recipe out, and made my mead.

It was ready by early spring, and tasted delicious. On the second of June, I was reminded why it's so important to make sure fermentation is well and truly stopped before bottling, as cork after cork began to blow, sending the bottles off the wine rack and halfway across the room.

For about a year, the Lebanese grocer asked how my friends had enjoyed their Christmas honey. I think he was on to me. It's hard to be sure.
posted by Shepherd at 9:26 AM on July 28, 2008 [12 favorites]

With one expensive exception, which I had when I was already a little tipsy, so I may be giving it too much credit, I've always agreed with Wednesday for American Gods on the fact that mead tastes (in a figurative sense) like a drunken diabetic's piss. And I'm a huge D&D nerd and Norse mythology fan. So I want to like mead. I really do. I try it literally every time it's available, and then remember that I don't like it.

So, um, anyone know where to get actual good mead in Portland OR?
posted by Caduceus at 10:00 AM on July 28, 2008

I, too, have had a long-standing fascination with mead and decided to give it a try last Fall. I strolled down to the liquor store, and saw that there were 2 types of mead available: American and Irish. The American mead was made using traditional methods, and the Irish mead, was well, Irish. Choosing historical verisimilitude rather than actual authenticity, to my lasting disgust, I bought the Bunratty. What I got was cheap white wine over flavored with honey. I get sick just thinking about it. Makes sense though, since on my first trip to Ireland recently I passed Bunratty castle, which is a Renfaire tourist trap, about 16 times (it's located just outside Shannon Airport on the road to Limerick). Of course, now I'm loathe to try other varieties as a result.
posted by nikitabot at 10:39 AM on July 28, 2008

Caduceus, there is a list of Mead Day events and I see one scheduled for Portland. My suggestion is to show up and see if they are doing tastings.

I've not been impressed with most of the commercial meads I've tried although that's a pretty small sample. I like a dry or off-dry mead and so many commercial meads that I've had are cloyingly sweet. One exception I've found is Montezuma's dry mead but there are probably others.
posted by maurice at 10:57 AM on July 28, 2008

I had some Drunken Monk spiced mead over the weekend, and after half a bottle I LOVED THE WORLD.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2008

That's some weakass ren fair you guys are going to if the nerds don't even bother to put on actual metal/leather armor.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:05 PM on July 28, 2008

MrMoonPie is right on. Pretty much every commercial mead maker has decided that mead == honey == syrup, and that's just totally wrong.

I make all my meads dry, and my most popular recipe is also my simplest. I make it at least once a year. Here it is:

1. In a five gallon bucket, add one gallon of wild blackberries and one gallon of honey. Add enough water to bring the volume up to three and a half gallons. Mash lightly to break up the berries. Add a packet of champagne yeast. Cover and ferment until the bubbling stops (a couple weeks). Lightly shake occasionally to break up the fruit further. You might want to let it sit in a spare bathtub with the curtain drawn. I've never lost a batch of blackberry, but cleaning up a batch of exploding strawberry was one time too many.

2. After the fermentation has died down, filter and siphon into a glass five gallon carboy. Add another quart of honey. Ferment again until the bubbling stops (about a month). You shouldn't have to add more yeast, but if bubbling hasn't started in a couple days, add a bit. This fermentation will be long and slow. Champagne yeast (or other high alcohol tolerant variety) is essential.

3. After all fermentation has stopped, you'll have a wonderfully dry reddish amber mead, rich in honey flavor with overtones of berry. Alcohol content will be high, so watch out for that (12 -18%). It's ready for drinking right then and there, but you'll want to bottle at least some for storage. It does get even better with age.

Blackberry season is just ending here in North Georgia. You folks a bit further north: the time to make this is *now*.
posted by ewagoner at 1:41 PM on July 28, 2008 [8 favorites]

It can be almost champagne like when fermented to dryness.

I let one ferment for about a year, and it came out very dry and carbonated. Yum.
posted by Huck500 at 2:32 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Shepherd, if he was Lebanese he might not have been so strict about alcohol. Arak is pretty big there.

Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: [as Herger offers a mead horn] I can taste neither the fermentation of grape, nor of wheat.

[Herger laughs]

Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: What? Why do you laugh?

Herger the Joyous: [laughing, and handing over the bottle] HONEY! It's made from honey!
posted by vsync at 3:11 PM on July 28, 2008

Olaf: I am fine. Really. I could go for some mead, though.

Aud: Certainly.

Olaf looks around the room.

Olaf: Is it my imagination or do we have substantially more rabbits in this house today?

Aud: Oh, they breed so quickly that it's-

Olaf: All this talk of breeding... it makes me want to breed!

Aud: Honey, of course. But here, drink your mead first.

Olaf: Ah, yes. Mead.
posted by Auden at 3:15 PM on July 28, 2008

I remember a two day SCA camping event an ex dragged me too.

I was having a great deal of difficulty managing to get a good raging drunk on, despite having a full tankard for a day and a half.

I was pawing through our little group's communal supplies when I noticed a couple of bottles from our amateur vintner that were unusually light in color, with a tape label saying LEMON.

After some questioning, I found out that this was his mead experiment, and, yes, I could kidnap a bottle.

I started tucking in to that during court and found me getting quite a nice buzz on (the only way to attend court).

That is until my ex spilled half the bottle out...
posted by Samizdata at 3:54 PM on July 28, 2008

Mod note: Fixed the busted links.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:56 PM on July 28, 2008

It's been a while since I made any, but I must've spent at least a couple of years making various kinds of meads - experimenting with the wide variety of honeys available here. A half-half mix of leatherwood with something light usually turned out well, but that's probably because leatherwood is such a wonderful honey to begin with.

Even made a special one-off bottle using maple syrup.

Next up: mead champagne. Maybe I'll get started on Saturday. This would eventually involve the fun of freezing a plug in the neck to get rid of the bottle-fermenting yeast residue.

And also, it's no surprise that people complain about commercial mead. The thing is, it's actually a very slow fermenting process (weeks or months, compared with a turnaround of a day or two for beer) so it's not actually suited to commercial mass production, unless the consumers can be expected to fork out big dollars for the real thing.

This is why most commercial 'meads' are actually any old alcoholic crap with some honey thrown in at the end. They go for the shitty, sweet flavour to emphasise to the consumer that it's based on honey, when in fact the dry versions - in which the sugars in the honey are completely fermented away, leaving only the volatile aromatics - are where it's all at. Not unlike champagne, as others have pointed out.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:55 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are there any commercially available meads worth trying? I've only ever had tej, so I'd definitely would like to get some. Or maybe local brewers in San Francisco?
posted by danny the boy at 9:45 PM on July 28, 2008

I know Chaucer's isn't real mead, it's vastly inferior, etc., but as my procrastinating brother-in-law still hasn't sent me any homebrewed like he said he would ages ago, I might just have to try it anyway. For the holiday. Yeah.
posted by luftmensch at 4:52 AM on July 29, 2008

Good mead tastes like the flowers from which the nectar was fermented. I've made it a couple of times, but I have a hard time dedicating a fermenter to anything for that long. Plus kitchen space is at a premium for fermentation.

I began brewing a long time ago (16 years). I brewed beer for a few years and then started collecting ancient roman and medieval english recipes with plans of having lavish period meals in my yard, sans goofy garb. I also have plans of serving an entire meal of beans followed by a long game of twister, but I digress.

In the medieval recipes was a recipe for small mead. It involved fermenting in open crockery, which, while possibly a good idea in pre-industrial Britain, is a sure-fire way to destroy an alcoholic beverage in Texas. So I went about modifying what was a rather vague recipe, and here is what I got.

Small Mead
8# honey (don't get anything special, flavors will not show through)
1 hand of ginger, julienned to increase surface area
zest of three oranges, large pieces (though you could blend the ginger and zest to get maximum extraction, but it will cloudify yer mead to an extent.
(any other flavoring you might desire)
Yeast - London ale yeast works well, beer or cider yeasts are fine.
Yeast Nutrient (optional, but will help your ferment)

Add honey to 3 gallons of water and boil. As you boil, albumen and other impurities will rise to the surface. Scoop the scum off the top and convince a friend to eat it. I usually give up after a 30 minute boil, but a 60 minute boil would probably be better.
Add the flavorings and boil for another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool, add to a carboy, top off with water to 5 gallons,throw on an airlock, ferment two weeks.
Bottle as you would beer. Drink in two weeks.

This comes out a little sweet, similar to a ginger beer but with a kick. We usually end up at 5-7% ABV. Excellent for an Easter Feaster gathering or other spring affairs.
It never gets me hung over, especially if we did the full boil and it ferments dry.
For about 5 or 6 years I sorta abandoned beer and made small mead almost exclusively. There is plenty of room for variations in flavor and dryness; different yeasts, habaneros, using hops, lemons with no ginger, anything.
Good stuff.

Thanks for the post, Spock.
posted by Seamus at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

Oooh, sorta off topic, but I gotta add this for the brewers.

Yet another drink of the gods.
Follow Ed Wort's recipe above and you will have a beverage of 8.5 to 9% ABV with a total of 30 minutes work and a month of fermenting (no secondary transfer needed) at a cost of ~$25 for 5 gallons. It's clear and crisp and delightfully sparkly if you carbonate it.
No cooking so it is great for brewing AND drinking in the summer time.
I may need to try this with some honey next time.

Be sure to follow all of his directions. Drink at least 3 the first time (8 oz. glasses) and be sure to drink plenty of water whenever you consume this beverage. Though, that's good advice whenever yer quaffing mead too.
posted by Seamus at 10:12 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

That was worth the wait. Thank YOU, Seamus.
(Not my post, but I did give him a "heads-up")

I turned a friend on to homebrewing who has become a brewing monster. Quickly jumping into all-grain, (everything he's done is more than good, but his Oak Bourbon Barrel Stout is really something). Now he's growing 4 varieties of hops.

Anyway... his little brother is engaged to my middle daughter and he's got this idea of doing a special mead for the reception. We've got about 10 months between now and then. Any suggestions?
posted by spock at 10:15 AM on July 29, 2008

I say start a batch of mead today. The old folks can drink that. Or you can use it for the toasts. I'd go dry, sparkling, unflavored with some kind of good local honey.
For the reception, make a keg or two of small mead and some beer. The kids (of legal drinking age) will dig that. Cheap honey and ginger. The ginger will help ward of stomache aches.

And damn Spock, I swear I read your name there. 70 hour work days for three weks will make you stupid. Sorry for the mis-attribution Maurice, great freakin post. 'Tweren't nothin' happening in Austin, but Abilene...?!
posted by Seamus at 1:37 PM on July 29, 2008

I don't know if it's due to Mead Day publicity or what, but since posting I've run across a couple of recent articles on commercial mead:

The Detroit News on B. Nektar in Michigan.
The Syracuse New Times on Montezuma Winery.
posted by maurice at 4:08 AM on August 1, 2008

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