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A mead for Imbolc
thanx_n_advance wrote in my_magic_bottle
There are a lot of factors that inspire me to brew. Generally it's something inside but once in a while there is the perfect storm of external catalysts that all come together at a given time that give rise to a very special brew. A few days ago was Imbolc and, although, I'm not a practicing Pagan I always feel a little behind the curve when a celestial event comes and goes without my acknowledging it. Then there are those 5 "queer" bottles, 750 ml, green with long necks and tapering shoulders. Absolutely nothing wrong with them whatsoever other than I'm not likely to find another twenty of them in short enough time to brew a full five gallons of mead; and the fact of the matter is that I like to keep a single batch in a uniform and standard style of bottle, mostly because I'm lazy about labelling them, otherwise. Odd bottles become clutter while waiting for enough of the same type to accumulate to cork a larger volume of mead. And since making a single gallon batch is practically the same amount of time and effort as a larger batch I don't tend to do so unless I'm experiementing with a recipe or some other determining factor makes it more practical.

Recently I've learned of a technique that piqued my interest, for brewing smaller batches and that actually takes a bit of the effort out of the process. This is a variation of an open fermentation technique, those of which I have come to favor lately. It seems that it is is possible to primary in the same stainless steal kettle used for heating the must provided it has a good fitting lid, so it saves the effort of making space of an available primary vessel and sanitizing it; simply aerate the must and pitch the yeast starter directly into the cooled must and place the covered kettle in an appropriate spot where the yeasts can to their work unfettered. A spot cleared on a bookshelf allows me to an ideal place to stow the fermentor for a few weeks with a clean towel wedged between the the glass lid and the shelf above making the lid stable and still allowing CO2 to escape through the inevitable but very marginal gap and while allowing the yeasts access to oxygen during the aerobic phase. A tall shelf space is preferable to one on the tight side. Books can be carefully wedged underneath the kettle to stabilize the lid.

Although this method does limit the size of a batch to that of a common kettle minus about 3 quarts to allow for a vigorous fermentation (in this instance that's actually a boon) the only other drawback is that it takes a brew kettle out of service for a few weeks. The trade off comes in that I have that much more time to make space in a glass carboy which are better suited for secondary fermentation anyway. The other big advantage to brewing any size batch of mead here and now is that all of the residual snow left on the ground is an ideal medium for a cooling bath - no buying, storing, and having to guard large amounts of ice. Bonus!
Basic Medium Sack Mead:
• ~8 lbs. grocery store honey (wildflower)
• ~1½ gal. clean water (clean as in chlorine-free, etc, not clean as in "not from the toilet")
• 1 tsp yeast nutrient
• 1 tsp yeast energizer (DAP)
• 5 g Redstar Premier Cuvee yeast
In the kettle/fermentor bring ~1½ gal. water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in honey, energizer and nutrient. Pasteurize at between 140 and 150°F for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool must in ice bath or with immersion heat exchanger until 90°F. Rehydrate yeast according to directions on package (½ C 100 - 105°F water for 15 minutes). When must reaches "blood" warm stir for 5 minutes to aerate and then pitch yeast starter. Cover and store in an out of the way place. Listen for signs of fermentation and resist the urge to lift the lid.

OG: 1.120

I kept this one simple for now but will likely add a cup or two of blueberry syrup at the secondary stage. Also purchased a couple of quarts of orange blossom honey that I found cheap at the Annandale Healthway to make another batch on the heels of this should the method serve my evil purposes. Until then!
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And the very next day the furnace dies and the house drops to a very chilly, see-your-breath sorta don't even want to know the temperature! So, this has become, yet again and even more so, an experimental batch! Wilderness mead ;)

. . . and yet Premier Cuvee ferments. I guess if it's not frozen solid it's food, eh?

1.030 (currently @12% abv)

I racked this to secondary last evening resulting in two very full 1 gallon carboys. Tastes wonderful, just like I remember my first taste of mead and I ought to treat it with sulfites at this point and let it clear but I don't roll that way. Instead I'll likely let it find its own "normal" and back sweeten it with a little blueberry syrup and honey mixture at bottling to make it sparkle.

Despite my initial problems, this method of fermenting works very well!

Upon checking these last night I found them crystal-clear and beautiful to behold! Time to bottle, although I'm gonna put that off for a few days. Not too long, mind you! I need these gallon jugs because I'd like to try my hand at dandelion wine this year (That is, remembering it's a option before seeing a dandelion bloom so I've time to get things ready and pick a bunch of damn-delions!)

As an aside, I'd like to use this fermenting technique in my all-grain mashing pojects, perhaps after tailoring a recipe for a 3 gallon imperial stout. Because stouts have a lot of adjuncts they benefit from a step mash infusion, which is easier done in a brew kettle (and something I've not yet attempted). My brew kettles are of limited capacity, so smaller batch size is better. The only other condition is that I'd need to meet is bittering with whole-leaf hops added to the boil in strainer bags so that they'll be possible to remove without leaving a great deal of trub behind in primary fermentation.

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