Considered the grandparent of fermented beverages, Mead and its offshoots have been around almost as long as recorded history.
Honey is a truly remarkable substance. It has anti-bacterial qualities that can preserve it for decades. A crystallized batch can be restored to brilliance on a warm water bath or even the microwave. Honey, water, and yeast are all that is required to make this phenomenal beverage. The bee itself is an amazing insect that is the cornerstone for most of our agriculture.
If you make your own wine, the transition to making Mead is easy, and the equipment needed is the same.
To be considered a Mead , the majority of fermentables must come from honey. There are distinct types of Mead – Classic Mead (honey, water and yeast), Melomel (fruit or fruit purees), Metheglin (spices or herbs), Pyment (grape juice) and Braggot (malted grains and hops).
The variety of honey is as important to Mead as the grape varietal is to wine. Northern Brewer carries a nice selection of honey, including Clover, Wildflower, Amber Blend, and– my favorite — Orange Blossom. Honey adds a subtle flavor quality to the final product.
The yeast you choose will go a long way in determining the type of Mead you produce. For a sweeter Mead , I prefer Wyeast 4184, Lalvin 71B-1122, or Lalvin ICV-D47. These are white wine strains and will leave a little residual sweetness in your Mead . Wyeast 4632 and Red Star Premier Cuvee will dry out your Mead a bit. For the driest Mead , go right to the Cannibal Warlord* of the yeast world and use a champagne strain. I prefer Lalvin EC-1118 or Red Star Pasteur Blanc
My base recipe for 5 gallons of still mead (non-carbonated) is as follows:
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