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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Still brewing!

In my last post I wrote about the Fermentation Chiller Phase IV.  I may not have been too clear on this, but the old chamber (Phase III) has been trashed to make way for the new one.  I did try and give it away to any local home brewer that may need such a device but found no takers.  Without any temperature control what’s an industrious home brewer to do?  Make cider and mead, that’s what.  I could also make Ginger Beer, (Ginger Ale, with low alcohol), but haven’t had a lot of luck with this venture. 

First, I made a one gallon batch of basic mead.  Three pounds of local wildflower honey, three quarts of RO water, some minerals to improve the taste of IMG_0153[1]the water, a small amount of wine tannin, some yeast vitamins and a packet of Lalvin Narbonne (71B-1122) yeast.  Wait three days and cold crash (put it in the fridge) to get the yeast to go to sleep and sink to the bottom.  Wait four days and rack it off the lees and sleeping yeast.  The bottle on the left contains the basic mead.

I used the now empty one gallon bottle to make cider.  One gallon of Tree-Top ®, Unpasteurized apple juice and about one quarter packet of  Nottingham Ale yeast.  Throw in some yeast vitamins and wait.  The Nottingham yeast shouldn’t ferment as dry as a wine yeast would so there should be some apple sweetness left.  We’ll see, this is the first time I’ve tried this.  I saved the plastic jug that the juice came in with the intention of putting the fermented cider back in it.  This is the rightmost bottle in the picture.

Lastly, I made a one gallon batch of blackberry melomel (fruit mead).  Four pounds of organic frozen blackberries from Costco, three pounds of local wildflower honey a small amount of grape tannin and three quarts of RO water.  I reused the lees and sleeping yeast from the basic mead.  They woke up hungry and the berries and honey started fermenting right away.  I can hear the airlock bubbling away as I type this.  You do not want to try and get IMG_0152[1]berries in, or worse, out of the small neck of one of those one gallon glass jugs and I didn’t want to use a five gallon bucket for this.  Lowes just happens to have two-gallon plastic paint buckets with gasket lined lids for around $6.  Drill a 1 inch hole for a rubber stopper and airlock, clean and sanitize it and I’m ready to make small batch fruit mead (melomel is the official name).

Mead’s and ciders are easy to make and don’t require a lot of elaborate equipment or space if you keep to one gallon batches.  I don’t know about cider, but I’ve made meads that taste like sweetened Everclear until they’ve had some time to mature and mellow.  The amount of time is dependent on many variables, but usually the stronger the mead the longer it takes to be drinkable.  I’m hoping smaller batches mature more quickly, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve got a few more meads up my sleeve to try out as soon as these batches are done.  I want to try making a bochet mead, which as this article explains is a “burnt honey” mead.  I would also like to try making a mango melomel as I can’t find where anyone has tried that before and lastly, I have a large bag of star anise, a fortune in saffron threads and a bourbon vanilla bean.  A mead made with spices like this would be called a metheglin. 

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