Feast of Fools Mead

January 1, 2015

  • 12# Missouri wildflower honey
  • 4 gallons natural spring water
  • Lalvin QA23 yeast
  • Fermaid K yeast nutrient

I was originally going to use Lalvin’s strain of champagne yeast, but after talking to Dave at St. Louis Wine and Beer, he convinced me to go with a white wine yeast, QA23. He said many recipes call for champagne yeast because that’s all that was available 20 years ago, but that there are many good options now. QA23 should leave good aromas. He also said I should pasteurize the must by bringing it to 165F for 15 minutes, but not boil it.

The Plan-

  • Warm the honey in the jug in hot tap water.
  • Warm 3 gallons of spring water in kettle and add honey. Stir and heat until dissolved.
  • Top off to make a full five gallons
  • Raise must to 165F and hold for 15 minutes.
  • Cool must to 70F.
  • Rack must into fermenter.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of Fermaid K.
  • Aerate 60 minutes.
  • Pitch yeast by sprinkling in dry packet.
  • Seal fermenter with airlock.
  • In 2-3 days, after fermentation has begun, add 1/2 teaspoon of Fermaid K.

All the online literature discusses making a slurry for both the yeast and the Fermaid K, but Dave says it’s a lot easier to screw things up that way. There are a lot of conditions that commercial users must meet in order to not kill the yeast in a slurry and the Fermaid K easily dissolves in the must. There’s no reason to make make a slurry for either.

Starting Gravity = 1.090 , a little lower than antipacted.

I used the aerator I made for the first time, and I’m not impressed. Not nearly enough output, just a few small bubbles out of the aeration stone. I need a bigger pump or perhaps a smaller hose. I left it in the must for 2 hours, but I don’t think it did much. So, I gave it the fermenter a good shake, but…

A different lid for the fermenter doesn’t seem to seal tightly. It snaps into place but appeared to leak when I gave the fermenter a shake.

January 17, 2015-

Gravity = 1.070. No where near where it needs to be. I added a light sprinkle of Fermaid K and two more packages of QA23 yeast.

February 15, 2015-

Gravity = 1.028. That’s more like it, but I would still like to see it below 1.020. It is still in the primary bucket with essentially no airlock. I would rack it today but I’ve got no place to put it at the moment. As soon as a carboy opens up, I’ll rack and tuck it away again for a few months.

August 26, 2015-

Gravity = 1.000  ABV = 11.8% I racked beer tonight and find it dry. I think it very good, strong with lots of honey flavor still, lots of alcohol taste. It fell beautifully clear, light gold. I think it will age wonderfully.

December 5, 2015-

I racked the mead prior to leaving for Belgium into a keg and chilled it while we were gone. Unfortunately, the seal on the keg wasn’t good so the keg lost pressure and the mead didn’t carbonate. I racked the mead into a new keg and in the process filled 6 bottles and a sample glass. 5 of the bottles were the old stein swing tops from Mike’s mead from the Boulder days. Those 5 will go to the farm to enjoy at a later date. The 6th was a green Grolsch bottle that I’ll give to a guy at work who mentioned his day was a mead fan.

I tasted the sample and it’s got to be the best mead I’ve ever made. It was mellow but still flavorful, with no off flavors and a smooth alcohol warmth. It had a wee bit of bubble in the glass and was chilled and I can see where it is going and I’m hoping in a very good way.

January 8, 2016

The jury is still out on the mead, but in general it’s thumb’s up. We sampled it at the English Dark Mild brew and all found it good, but none of us have a strong mead baseline. I don’t think anyone was crazy about it. It was good, but not an everyday drinker. Andy took some to a StL Brews meeting and they said they liked it. I gave it to a guy a work who in turn gave it to his dad and family. They hated it, but apparently they were expecting some kinda sweet, honey liquor, not a dry, delicate honey wine.

I’m still not thrilled with the carbonation. It continues to improve under pressure, but I’ve been having all kinds of trouble with my kegs.

We’ll save the last of the keg for Mardis Gras and see what the party has to say.

 

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