The Ancient Tipple

My Pale Ale is conditioning nicely with no bottle explosions just yet. All good there. I am itching to taste the result of my labours though. Can I hold out for another 10 days? It will be tough, but I really want to try my ale at its best, so I am just going to have to be patient.

A drink that I have been meaning to make for about two and a half years is the oldest alcoholic beverage of them all, Mead. I actually got a demi-john and a packet of champagne yeast in the summer of 2014 with this in mind. However, constantly moving and not really having time or focus, I let it pass. Role on to 2017 and the appearance of the Green Man’s Quest and now it has added significance.

One of the reasons I had wanted to make Mead in the first place was kind of spiritual. As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I have a unique spirituality, which blends Mindfulness and Zen Buddhism with Pagan/Animist and Heathen traditions. This means that on eight days a year I mark the Solstices and Equinoxes and what are called the Quarter Days (halfway between the solstices and the equinoxes). My ceremony is very simple and just consists of a few words to pay respect to the power of life (call whatever you want, even I don’t know what to call it!) and then pour some beer on some soil or grass (not on concrete or anything man-made). I may blog about this in more detail another time. Anyway, this simple sacrifice, or offering, keeps me connected to my natural environment in a concrete and spiritual way. Mead being an ancient alcoholic beverage has been used to celebrate special occasions like this since time immemorial. I’m not saying that the ‘ancients’ used Mead in the same way as me, but it is the most appropriate drink for my spiritual purposes.

So, feeling buoyed with my with my Pale Ale tasting and bottling, I felt like giving the Mead a try. I had a good read on-line for advice and went for it. As with everything in life, a lot of the advice and information I found was conflicting, so I decided to go with my instincts (and the general gist of the information I had read). Whether this will turn out ok, or not, who knows.

My demi-john is a one gallon/5 litre type. So that is how much Mead I wanted to make. Before anything else I cleaned and sanitised everything. First, I boiled up some water and turned off the heat. Then I threw in about 1kg of Honey, as I want my mead to have some residual sweetness. I stirred all the while. I could have added some fruit, but actually I just want to make ‘good old’, plain Mead, so decided against it. Then I let the warm water and honey mixture (called Must) cool a little. In the meantime, I re-hydrated my old champagne yeast, all 5 grams of it. This is supposed to be too much, but given that the yeast is on the old side and that a good few yeasties have probably passed on, I figured the whole packet might be ok. I tested a sprinkling of it in some sugary water and got some reaction, so there was life in the old packet yet.

A lot of the information on the web also mentioned Yeast nutrient. I don’t have any and I’m pretty sure in Anglo-Saxon times (and before) they didn’t have any either. So I won’t be losing any sleep about that. I then waited for the temperature to drop by putting the pot in the bath for a while and then adding cooled water. Like a fool, I forgot to check the temperature before pitching the yeast and to my horror found it was still way too warm. 35 degrees Celsius! Now, this is supposed to kill the yeast and if you read the advice on the internet, you’d think that you might as well just give-up and throw it all down the drain. Not one to throw in the towel however, I left to go to work (I work irregular hours) and waited to see what would happen. The temperature had gotten down to 24 degrees by the time I had got home and by the next morning was bubbling away and still is.

My problem now is where to keep it. The weather will get warmer and with the air-lock on it is too tall for my cool, mini-cellar under the floor. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that as there is so much sugar in honey it will be fermenting for a few months, possibly. So, by the time it is almost done (or maybe not done) the temperature will not be dropping below 20degrees Celsius at any time and will reach highs of about 30 degrees at least (and this isn’t even the hottest time of the year!). This one will have to take some thought. Some kind of cool bag with ice packs, perhaps? Likewise, this will be a formidable challenge with m Homebrew too.

As you can see, the mead at the moment looks quite cloudy and there is no foam on the top of it, which is apparently more usual. There was a layer of foam there the first morning, but it disappeared. Whether this bodes well or ill, I have no idea. It is bubbling away pretty well though, so the yeasties seem to be doing their job. If you are in the know, don’t be shy, drop me a line.

I have also been busy sorting out a support system for my hop plants. That too is for another blog.

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