Monday, November 18, 2013

Mead Thoughts & "Talk to me Goose" Tasting Session

I've only crafted three Meads before this one.  The first was a shot in the dark, that's still harsh at six years old.  Since this was my 1st exposure to Mead I expected all Meads to taste this way.  Phenolic and burning all the way down, not magical and beautiful like the ones I've read about in "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing".  Charlie's Prickly Pear Mead is still high up on a pedestal, unattainable in my mind.  (Wither it is good or not, really doesn't matter) The concept of me creating a well crafted mead seemed like a far off dream, obstacles like honey, blending and acid/nutrition additions kept me focused on what I did know, brewing beer.

Something changed while I was at the National Homebrew Conference.  Walking the Expo Hall, I picked up a card for Dutch Gold Honey and saw they offered bulk prices.  That next morning I sat and listened to Moonlight's Meads owner Micheal talk about mead.  While he can initially come off as arrogant and cocky I finally understood him, he was just overly passionate about his craft.  While his talk missed the technical aspects I was looking for, I came away with four important things.  Fermentation temperature (63), Fermentation timeline (2-3 Months), 71B Yeast for fermentation and he uses Dutch Gold Honey for all his meads.  Tasting the meads during his presentation I was blown away.  Well crafted, solid meads.  Maybe the ones I created years ago where all wrong?  That night I tasted a couple of 2nd round meads with Jym Ferrier (they took out all the non-placing 2nd round beers for us attendees to enjoy) they where just as bad or worse than what I created years ago.  Maybe we, as homebrewers are going about this the wrong way?

After the NHC, I ordered 60# of Orange Blossum honey, arriving 4 days later from New Jersey to San Diego.  Well packaged, solid Grade A Honey.  Now this is not raw unfiltered, but I've come to the conclusion it doesn't matter.  (If you think it does, please write in the comments) Quickly reading "The Complete Meadmaker" and compiling every technical aspect on mead fermentation's I could gather I came to one solid conclusion, its all about the fermentation.  

Putting together my plan of attack:

  • No boil, bringing the water to 130 to dilute the honey must and rack
  • Staying with 3 gallon batches to increase the varietals of honey to fruit I can play with.  
  • Use 71B yeast for all fermentations.  I bought it in bulk on Amazon.  
  • DeGas everyday during fermentation
  • Use Yeast Nutrient and Fermade K mixture every 3 days.
  • Ferment at 63 degrees, raising on day 7, up 2 degrees a day to 71.  
  • Rack and cold crash to 39 degrees.  
  • Always add some type of fruit.  (I want to stay away from Acid Blends, let the fruit do this for you, also fruit meads pair well with the wife.) 
  • Add the fruit after fermentation is complete, and cold.  Steep for 2-4 weeks.  
  • Attempt for 2 pounds per gallon or more for most fruit additions 
  • 2-3 Month timeline 
The 1st couple of my creations are finished up.  In all, I've brewed 5 meads in the last 2 months.  The first mead is a Gooseberry mead named "Talk to me Goose"

"Talk to Me Goose..."
Other Fruit Melomel

Mash Steps
Type: Mead Date: 8/17/2013
Batch Size (fermenter): 3.00 gal Brewer: Chris Lewis
Boil Size: 3.00 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 0 min Equipment: Stove
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
11.8 oz Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM) Sugar 1 9.1 %
1.0 pkg Lalvin 71B-1122 (Lallemand - Lalvin #71B-1122) [23.66 ml] Yeast 2 -
0.60 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Primary 9.0 days) Other 3 -
0.60 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Primary 6.0 days) Other 4 -
1.20 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Primary 3.0 days) Other 5 -
7 lbs 6.4 oz Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 6 90.9 %
4.00 lb GooseBerries (Secondary 30.0 days) Flavor 7 -
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.100 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.100 SG
Est Final Gravity: 0.978 SG Measured Final Gravity: .997 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 15.7 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 13.6 %
Bitterness: 0.0 IBUs Calories: 336 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 2.8 SRM
Mash Profile
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash Step Heat to 110.0 F over 0 min 110.0 F 15 min

Sparge Step: Fly sparge with 4.32 gal water at 168.0 F
Mash Notes:

Aroma: Green grapes, sweet sugars, some alcohol heat, no burning, no off flavors.

Appearance:  On the hazy side, but very light in color.  Maybe 3 SRM or so.  Very still, no carbonation.  Leaves a nice coating on the sides of the glass. 

Flavor: Beautiful sweet gooseberry flavor, could be confused with the peal of a ripe green grape skin.  No heat upfront, finishing with some heat, that I would call pleasant.  No off flavors, no DMS.  Without knowing the Gooseberries are in the mead, it would be hard to pinpoint them (flavor wise)

Mouthfeel: On the heavy/thicker side, very smooth and silky.  Flat, no carbonation.  No burning from the heat. 

Overall Impression: I love this mead, it is perfectly balanced with the heat and the sweetness.  Not burning or off balanced at all.  The fermentation balances perfectly with the final product.   As you can tell, I am not very good at writing about mead on this Tasting Session.

Brewing Timeline/Notes: This was brewed back on 8/17.  The fermentation was quick at 63 degrees following my notes above.  The Gooseberries were added and let sit on the mead for 30 days at 41 degrees.  Then racked and let settle for 3 weeks.

Next up I have a Mixed Berry Mead and a BlackBerry Mead that I blended together, it should be ready before Thanksgiving.


  1. Thanks for posting this! I have been nervous to branch out from brewign beer but I've been looking into mead lately and I stumbled across your post in my search. Very thorough. I am motivated to give this a try now!

    1. I understand meadmakers might flaw some aspects of this approach, but we as brewers often hear that mead takes 6 months and it needs this or that, scaring off brewers. In actuality homebrewing is much more advanced than meadmaking. I really recommend you giving this a try. I'm planning on sending some mead out to comps this next season and posting the results.

  2. Any further advice on the yeast nurtrient part of fermentation? You said every 3 days, did you keep this up for the full 3 months?

    1. Sorry about that. I do 3 yeast nutrient drops. Once at pitching and then every 3 days for the week. Stopping at day 6. Once I start the temp rise there is no need for more nutrients added into the mead. The rest of the time (2.5 Months) is really just cold conditioning

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