Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meadmaking redux

So, yeah. Despite having a grand old time at the inaugural Texas Mead Festival, I haven't actually made any mead in more than a year. In fact, the only homebrew I've done in quite a while is a dark ale about 8 months ago (which is aging quite nicely, thankyouverymuch). Overall, not a great track record when I'm trying to refine my skills to make libations that taste more like the professional beverages I sampled at the Mead Fest and less like rocket fuel or sour mash.

So anyway, I started a new batch of mead on Sunday. I took 11 pounds of clover/wildflower honey (pretty generic stuff) and dissolved it in hot water on the stove (never actually bringing it to boiling, mind you). I added two teaspoons of yeast nutrient, then poured the honey and enough cold water to make five total gallons in my 6-gallon fermentation vessel.

While that was going on, I had my yeast starter warming up. The yeast I pitched is Lalvin D47, also known as the wine yeast Cotes du Rhone. I've never tried this strain before, but it's supposedly good for medium and dry meads, and as I'm shooting for a semi-dry/demi-sweet batch this time out, it will hopefully fit the bill. I started it in a glass of apple juice with an extra spoonful of sugar, and it took off very quickly. By the time the must in the vessel had cooled enough to pitch the yeast, I had a very active glass of yeast. I stirred the must vigorously to oxygenate it, then let the yeasts do their thing.

After taking a sample of the must and running it through my hydrometer, I got a specific gravity reading of 1.085, which should give me a final alcohol content of approximately 11.1 percent. Of course, that's going to change slightly, because I'm not making a traditional mead. Once the primary fermentation tapers off, I'll rack the mead and separate into smaller containers. I've got about 15 pounds of pears from my moonglow pear tree in the back yard that are ripened and frozen in the deep freeze. I plan on crushing them and adding the nectar to make a type of perry/cyser. The moonglow are considered a dessert pear, but the do have a stronger flavor than any store-bought pear I've ever tasted, so we'll see how they work. I also still have some frozen plums from earlier in the year for one of the smaller batches, and plum mead has traditionally been one of my more successful meads (even if I've failed miserably at plum wine every time I've attempted it).

Right now it's a case of hurry up and wait for the yeast to finish it's job. Since this is Texas and it's relative warm even in the fall and winter, I've got the fermentation vessel in a shallow tub filled with two inches of water. I keep the vessel wrapped with moist towels and the ceiling fan blowing to cool the must and reduce the amount of undesirable fusel alcohols generated. I also agitate the vessel regularly, to release dissolved CO2 (there's a lot of it!) that builds up in the liquid and can contribute to stressed fermentation. So yeah, I know enough about this stuff to be dangerous, but not enough to actually produce an unequivocally "good" vintage of mead. Maybe this time...

Now Playing: Rafael Kubelik Dvorak: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8
Chicken Ranch Central

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