This is just a short log to acknowledge the bottling session I did today. I got 20 bottles of Mad Trad D2, and 10 bottles of Fox Pyment Double Mead from last fall. I unfortunately don’t have pictures because my digital camera is complaining and not working well.
I really love the Traditional Mead formula I’ve worked up, it produces what might by my favorite mead of all. So simple, so satisfying; it has a purity to it that is very appealing to me. The Fox Pyment this batch didn’t get as clear as my other batches do, despite the fact that it is nearly a year old and has been clearing since March. I believe it is probably a pectin haze from the wild fox grapes.
One technique that I tried in this bottling session, for the first time. With the Mad Trad D2, I had 4 jugs clearing, 2 jugs each from 2 different batches, done at the same time, that came out slightly differently. This time I filled each bottle halfway from one of the batches, then filled each bottle completely with the other batch, effectively combining the 2 batches into one mead. This technique is common in commercial meaderies used to dealing with larger batches; it has the benefit of averaging out all the flavors — including any off-flavors — thereby making a more consistent product.
All in all, yet another bountiful harvest! Gratitude!
I’ve noticed that in 2013, apart from doing fewer batches of mead overall, I’ve been dialing in and reproducing some of my favorite recipes from the past. I’ve spent several years experimenting with smaller batches, but this year I feel like I have some favorites dialed in, and am making more double-batches. I did this with the recent Mad Trad D2 mead, where I took my favorite sub-recipe from the Mad Trad Trial and made 6 gallons of it, rather than 2 different 3 gallon batches.
I’m doing the same with this batch; basically I’m reproducing last year’s Double Blueberry Mullein and making 2 batches of it. As previously, I made a strong chaga decoction, added black tea and a fistful of mullein at the end, and strained it. I had 5 pounds of blueberries, so each batch will get 2.5 pounds (it got 3 pounds last year). Also it is starting at 18% initial alcohol potential, rather than the 19% from last year which turned out to be quite sweet. It was one of my favorite batches from last year, so I hope this year’s turns out as well!
Logistically I tried something a bit newer as well. I didn’t carefully measure the blueberries to make sure each batch got exactly half; in addition, I was down to the end of my honey bucket so I wasn’t sure each batch would get the same initial alcohol potential (though as it turned out, my estimating was spot on!). Therefore, I decided to split the first batch among the 2 carboys, like this:
Then, I mixed up the second batch, and topped off both carboys. As always, the rehydrated yeast went in to each empty carboy first.
As it turned out, both batches came out exactly at 18% initial alcohol potential, so I’m not really sure this step was necessary, but it should make both batches much more similar.
In the end, I have 6 gallons of what will become another beautiful blueberry mead:
May this batch turn out as good — or better — than last years!
UPDATE: 15 December
I racked the mead tonight, and it is still wonderfully dark but mostly clear. It is semisweet, at 2% remaining alcohol potential, which means this brew is strong at 16% ABV. Definitely less sweet than last years. Already nice, but is dry enough to have a bit of bite that will surely mellow out over time. Success!
UPDATE: 21 March 2014
I have officially decided to re-name this batch Blueberry Bite Mead. :-)
On Wednesday, August 7 at 10pm Eastern Time, I will be interviewed on Wyrd Ways Radio, a show on heathenry and polytheism hosted by Galina Krasskova. We’re going to be discussing craft as devotional work, the place of mead in Northern Tradition lore and ritual, and, basically, all things mead. We’ll also be opening up the phone lines and taking calls.
Tune in to paganstonight.com to listen and chat live, call in to the show at 347-308-8222, or if you miss the live show, get it archived on iTunes.
I’m very much looking forward to this one.
The show is archived here. The interview with me begins at about 71:30 into the podcast.
It’s June, therefore it’s time for anotherstrawberrymead! This year I wanted to have a stronger strawberry flavor, to be a bit drier than past years, and to simplify the herbal process.
I started with a decoction of chaga and a sumac drupe, cooled and strained back into the carboy:
Next, I used double the amount of strawberries relative to last year — 2 quarts, which weighed 3 pounds – that were lovingly (and knee-achingly) picked by my wife and daughter this morning:
Next, I juiced the strawberries in our juicer, which created about a quart and a half of strawberry juice:
Next, I added the chaga sumac tea, a bit more water, and enough honey to get me to a 15% initial alcohol potential:
Then I pitched the yeast into the carboy, poured the must in after it, and topped it off, to give me 3 gallons of strawberry thunder goodness:
I initially thought about calling this batch Strawberry Solstice Mead, but the Solstice was a few days ago, and right when I was making this batch a classic summer thunderhead blasted its way over our house. Strawberry Thunder it is! I expect this batch to be potent, and dry, and full of strawberry flavor. Time will tell!
UPDATE, 12 April 2014
This mead went for a very long time without clearing! It still isn’t clear which is somewhat of a rarity for me these days. I’m sure it’s because of the extra pectin from the abundance of strawberries I used. I finally racked it today and, while not clear, it is delicious, a bit sweet, and tastes strongly of strawberry, coming in at 12.5% alcohol, meaning there is 2.5% remaining alcohol potential, which is somewhere between semisweet and sweet. The strawberries add another layer of perceived sweetness so we’ll call this one a sweet mead.
Because it didn’t clear, I may end up not bottling it in the normal 750ml clear wine bottles, instead using smaller grolsch bottles or larger jugs, for use at fireside gatherings where it will be served in horns and the lack of clarity is not to be noticed. :-)
I have done several batches in the past with spruce (and other evergreen trees). I maintain that they aren’t necessarily my favorite, but many people have loved them. I wanted to do another batch of spruce mead this year, with a few variations on the theme as I “dial in” a precise recipe.
This year, for the first time, I used chaga with my spruce. Some of the spruce meads haven’t cleared very quickly, so hopefully the chaga will assist with that. Also, I gathered the spruce tips a few weeks later than last time. Rather than beautiful tips, these are fully formed needle branches, though they are still a noticeably vibrant green compared to the old growth:
I began with a good chaga decoction, and then added the spruce needles at the end, letting them simmer for about a half hour:
When I got this far, I realized I had far more tea than I needed. Rather than discard any, I strained out the spruce needles, and then turned up the heat to reduce it to more manageable levels. When this was done, I cooled the tea in the sink, strained everything out of it, dissolved enough honey to get to a 17.5% initial alcohol potential, and pitched the yeast into the carboy:
Note that for this batch, I did NOT add any orange juice, black tea, sumac, or anything else to adjust the pH. I wanted to see what a good strong chaga decoction and the spruce tips would do.
UPDATE: 17 October
After 4 months of primary fermentation, this batch has already cleared beautifully, unlike the previous spruce meads. I could have racked it weeks ago, but for a variety of reasons I let it sit until tonight. It’s racked, and it is now 4.5% alcohol potential, therefore it is 13% ABV. It’s quite sweet, which suits the spruce flavor just fine. This one came out great, and should only improve with age!
Well I’m very happy to say, after an all-too-long break I’m back to making mead. I finally picked up a bucket of honey and wanted to immediately get some mead going (all of my carboys were empty!)
Right off, I wanted to get a batch or two of traditional mead going. I really enjoyed The Mad Trad Trial more than I expected to, and committed to making at least a couple of traditional meads per year. Now’s the time.
Of the 4 batches I did in the Mad Trad Trial, they were very close but Mad Trad D was my favorite so I reproduced that recipe. It used chaga & sumac tea as a base, with honey and Montrachet Yeast. I did 2 batches of 3 gallons each, for 6 gallons total.
I started with a strong, 3 gallon chaga decoction that simmered in fresh spring water for about 15 hours. For the last 15 minutes of the decoction, I added 3 sumac drupes. I used more chaga and sumac than I usually do because I wanted the tea to be stronger than usual, since I would be watering it down and splitting it between 2 batches.
Mad Trad D2a had an initial alcohol percentage of 18%.
Mad Trad D2b had an initial alcohol percentage of 17.5%.
I did not take pictures throughout the process (Look back at previous batches on this site if you need help visualizing it), but the final product looks great!
As always, I look forward to enjoying this mead toward the end of 2013.
UPDATE: 18 Aug 2013
Both of these cleared in the carboys, so I racked them today. Both are 13%ABV, which means Mad Trad D2a is slightly sweeter at 5% remaining potential, with D2B at 4.5%. Both of these are, once again, scrumptious with a fantastic honey flavor profile left behind.
Interestingly, the original Mad Trad D ended up slightly stronger at 14%, and slightly less sweet. This means the yeast crapped out a bit earlier on this batch than the previous one for some reason. It was later in the year, and we had quite a heat wave followed by a month of seasonally cool temperatures in the 70s, so that could be a related factor.
Episode 2 of The Mead Hall is now up. In it, I continue the stories about Mead taken from our Scandinavian ancestors. I get a kick out of this story from the Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda because it shows just how important mead was to them — not only could you not have a feast without mead, but there had to be adequate mead for everyone, to the point where a mile-wide kettle was needed to produce enough mead for a feast for the gods. :-)
This episode tells the story of the dilemma of Aegir’s Feast, where Aegir did not have a big enough kettle to brew enough mead for his feast for the Gods. Thor comes to the rescue, winning a mile-wide mead kettle from the giant Hymir through force and cunning, evading the giantess Crone with 900 Heads, and nearly capturing The Midgard Serpent in the process.
I did all the narration, except for the Giantess and the Giantess Crone With 900 Heads characters, who were voiced by my lovely wife. I also composed and performed all the background music for this episode on guitar, bass, and drum programming.
We’ve been enjoying Kombucha in the house on a regular basis for a couple of years now. I don’t make it, my wife Lisa Marie does. This entry on how she makes the kombucha has been in the works for nearly a year — let me publicly apologize for taking so long to post this. Thanks to Lisa Marie for outlining her method on kombucha for bardicbrews.net readers.
Kombucha is “an effervescent fermentation of sweetened tea.” But rather than using yeast to “eat” the sugar and create alcohol, we use something called a SCOBY. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast. It is a coherent structure, almost like a “blob” or a collection of slime that looks like this:
In general it is best to get a SCOBY from someone willing to barter; paying for these things (unless it’s like a buck or something) is just dumb. Wrong energy, at least in Lisa Marie’s opinion. If you don’t know where to start, don’t start on the ‘net. Ask around at local health food stores, etc. You meet some of the coolest people this way. : )
You will also need a container for fermenting, NOT a carboy with an airlock. We prefer a traditional crock. We have also used a glass gallon jar, but didn’t get as nice a ferment out of it. Perhaps it was too much exposure to light? We don’t recommend using anything metal. Metal should never come in contact with your SCOBY or your fermented beverage. Check around yard sales or flea markets for cool crocks.
As always, use the best water you can. If there is fluoride or chlorine in your water it won’t help your brewing in any way.
Kombucha is also made with tea. We use the store brand of organic black tea. We prefer a caffeinated black or green tea to make my kombucha, though there are several variations and combinations of herbs and teas that could be used. This is where the internet is quite helpful. There are so many people experimenting with kombuchas these days, which is fantastic.
You will also need sugar. The type of sugar one should use is controversial. No, you can’t use honey because honey is an antibacterial and will kill your SCOBY. Different sugars will give you different-tasting kombuchas. Our advice is to always go as local as possible and use something as unrefined and as organic as possible. We use organic cane juice. I’ve been jonesin’ to try a local maple sugar. Maybe someday soon!
Add-ins… This is where the fun starts. The one we’ve been stuck on recently is Rosehip Kombucha. It’s fun to experiment, but definitely do your research first. Some plants and mushrooms are antibacterial and/or antiviral. Keep those away from your SCOBY! Add-ins can be added to the tea during fermentation (like the rosehips) or to the bottle before filling with the fermented tea (like spirulina powder, cider, or grated fresh ginger).
You will also need bottles, and other supplies like a funnel and a ladle. We prefer Grolsch bottles because they are easy to use, are re-usable, and don’t require new caps periodically. For making the tea you will need a wooden spoon and a strainer. Lastly, you will need a thin cloth like a handkerchief or a cloth napkin and a rubber band to cover the crock during fermentation.
This recipe for Rosehip Kombucha makes 1 gallon or about 6 12-oz. Grolsch bottles’ worth of ‘booch.
1. Boil 1 gallon of water:
2. Turn off heat and add 1 c. sugar, 5 tea bags (or approximation of equivalent tea), and a couple handfuls of dried rosehips:
3. Stir well with wooden spoon and let steep with lid on. If you are using black tea, do not let this steep for more than 10 minutes. Our research has shown that steeping times longer than 10 minutes release unhealthy amounts of fluoride into your teas.
4. Strain tea into crock:
5. Cover with cloth and rubber band and let cool to room temp (test with pinky):
6. When cool to room temp, stir in (with your wooden spoon) about 1 cup of a previous batch of kombucha. Gently lay your SCOBY [my picture shows a mother with a few babies… some are thicker, some are thinner) on top of the tea mixture. Don’t worry if it sinks. It will eventually rise up in a day or so.
7. Cover with cloth and rubber band and label, if necessary.
8. Most kombuchas take anywhere from 7-30 days to ferment. We always check ours after about 5 days to see where it’s at. Using a wooden or plastic spoon, take a sample from underneath the SCOBY and taste it. Some people like it more vinegary, some more sweet. When it tastes good to you, it’s ready to bottle.
9. For bottling, we prefer to use Grolsch bottles with re-useable seals at the top. It’s important to ladle the ‘booch slowly, with the bottle turned at a steep angle to preserve carbonation and prevent overflow.
Remember, some kombuchas are fizzy and some aren’t. This has to do with ingredients used and ambient temperature of the room in which you’re storing the kombucha, as well as how much sugar is left in the tea when you bottle. Some of our kombuchas have gone in with no fizz and have opened with quite a bang! To prevent a mess, always open a homebrew kombucha bottle over the sink!
Storage advice varies from person to person. We store ours outside the fridge and put in two each night for the next day. Refrigeration slows fermentation; I still want those yeasties working.
You’re going to get little kombucha stringies (some call them “threads”) or mini-mothers (little SCOBY) in your kombucha. They’re totally fine to ingest – and are actually quite beneficial to the gut! Go ahead: slug ’em back!
Sorry for not providing more notice, but I am about to be interviewed on the Desperate House Witches podcast. The show is underway and I should be going on soon! Once the archive is up I’ll post it here….. I believe they take live call-ins, so if you want to ask me a question about mead (or anything else for that matter) tune in!
EDIT: The show is archived here:
The interview with me starts about 23:30. I had a great time! Thanks to Desperate House Witches!