Brewing Mead

One of the best parts about making alcohol is that it tends to become a social event, and that’s especially true when beekeepers are brewing mead. My friend Steve and I threw a bit of a party with the leftovers from our crush and strain honey harvest after he’d bottled most of it. I had some yeast lying around from previous batches and my Big Mouth Bubbler (aff), which is my favorite fermentation tank ever, was empty. I’d been bragging about it to Steve, so it was great to get a chance for him to interact with it under normal brewing conditions. Also, using our own live, wild, raw honey is a uniquely satisfying way to brew anything.

Honey pouring into the Big Mouth Bubbler
Steve pouring honey into the Big Mouth Bubbler.

It’s awesome not to need a funnel to transfer the honey. We actually failed to weigh the honey, so I don’t know how much we used, but our gravity was 1.090 once we fully hydrated it.

honey for mead
Hey, honey!

We used two types of yeast. The D47 yeast (aff) is probably two or three years old, so who knows whether it’s contributing much. It has made excellent batches in the past though, with terrific honey character left over. It tolerates a decent amount of alcohol, too, maxing out at 14%.

The EC-1118 yeast (aff) is a higher test baby, topping out at 18%, but it has a reputation for a fast and clean fermentation. And yes, I tend to mix yeasts in my brews for no particular reason.

Yeasts for mead.
Both yeasts are great for brewing mead.

Yeast nutrients (aff) are really helpful in brewing mead as well. Got to feed the beasties, and honey on its own lacks a lot of nutrients that yeasts need to really bloom.

Our process was to slowly add water from my filter pitcher, then stir and shake and otherwise mix and aerate the batch for a while, and then add more water.

Bubbly, well aerated mead
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!

Took a lot of time, but this guy was visibly fermenting by the time we screwed the lid on. Plus it was insanely fun to put this batch together.

Bubbles in mead
This was happening the next day. It’s still going off like a rocket three days in.
Foam from the airlock.
The airlock was pretty foamy the next day. It has StarSan solution in it.

Another fun thing is comparing it to my Leap Day batch, which I brewed back at the end of February using honey from Costco. It’s so dark, while ours came out and continues to be a pleasant pale straw color.

Result of brewing mead

So that’s how we made mead. This’ll be racked to new vessels a few times over the next few months, and should be ready for bottling in a year or so. Shout out to my super patient spouse, who is willing to view these carboys as living art and conversation pieces for guests.

Okay, checking nearly two years later, Steve and I just bottled both batches. They are lovely and quite distinct, with the commercial honey yielding a delicious 12% dessert-style wine, and our wild honey giving us a complex, tart white wine with hints of apples and… something else I can’t quite put my finger on. These yielded just under five cases. 

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