Mead. Honey wine. Ambrosia. The Nectar of the Gods, the Gift of the Bees. Until recently, my only real experience with mead was as a beverage consumed in Dungeons and Dragons quests, or fantasy-realm games. I had a vague notion of wine made with honey, but nothing specific.
Then I found a bottle of Viking Blod at a gaming bar in Orlando. I opened the bottle, took a few sips, and felt my mind’s eye opening. This drink was something special, something to be savored and treasured.
And so some months later, my friend Dan and I got together and brewed a batch of mead with apple juice and citrus. The act of pouring honey into a kettle and watching it melt into the must, tasting the flavors and watching it develop, was made even more sacred when we drank the concoction some months later. I was hooked.
Since then I’ve experimented once more with mead, a recipe I called Heat Lightning, the details of which I will lay out later. Suffice it to say that Heat Lightning had a kick on it like an angry mule and a shock on it like a high-tension line. Heat Lightning was good if you like booze, but definitely not for everybody.
So this time, I have tried to find a mead that will be a little more accommodating, a little less outrageous. I call it A Meadsummer Night’s Dream.
First of all, I sourced some good local honey. I’m fortunate enough to live fairly close to an apiary which produces local honey. I pondered my options and selected a tasty jug of wildflower honey, sweet with a distinctively sharp flavor, bright and intense.
I also gathered a lemon, two limes, a hand of ginger, a sack of frozen blueberries, and some yeast. I used Red Star Cote des Blancs for this one. While the must cooked, I went ahead and activated the yeast by saturating it in body-temperature water. I also put 1/4 cup of sugar on my blueberries and left them on low heat in a pot.
Two gallons of water went on the stove, and once a simmer was in progress, I dumped in 5 pounds of that amazing wildflower honey.
I chopped up a finger of ginger and chucked it into the must, skin and all. After letting it perk for a solid ten minutes I added my blueberry mash, squeezed in the lemon and lime juices and let the rinds cook with the ginger for another 20 minutes.
After all that, I added water to make it an even 3 gallons and let the must cool to 80 degrees before pitching yeast.
Now comes the hardest part: waiting. In two weeks I’ll check the brew and see what magic has happened. Some people would rack their mead to a new fermenter at that point but I don’t have a huge equipment budget, and I believe that less intervention often yields less chances to screw up the brew, so I’ll likely leave it be for some time.
If all goes well and the Bryggjemann blesses me with a rich and nurturing fermentation, I’ll have some pretty good mead ready to drink right around the time the Florida heat peaks in late August.
Updates as the mead perks and the brews brew. Until next time, may Bacchus guide you and the Bryggjemann bless you.