MEAD#4 – The Maharajah Spiced Mead

Despite never having drank a mead before, I find myself making a third batch of the stuff. Sounds a bit odd, I know, but mead is known for taking a long time to condition into a drinkable beverage. I suppose I should have put more effort in trying to source a decent commercial or home brewed example before I embarked on my mead making journey. But the honey was on special offer, and I thought “why not..?”..

My first two batches were a simple mead (made with wildflower honey) and a cyser made with freshly pressed apple juice from the NHC group buy. So for my third batch, I’m doing something different again by making a metheglin, a name used to describe a spiced mead. I’d like to get some Indian/middle-eastern flavours into it, so I’m going to use fresh root ginger, cardamom. I considered including some saffron in the spice mix both for colour and flavour, but I know from using saffron in Indian cookery that saffron can be a bit of an acquired taste and can also become overwhelming even for those people that like the flavour. I think these ginger and cardamom flavours will work very well with the honey.

One problem with meads is that they can take a long time to clear properly. Even when they look like they’re sparkling, some further aging or racking will encourage more yeast to drop out. This is one of the reasons why meads are not often bottled-conditioned, as they create so much trub following fermentation in the bottle. But this is often dependent on the yeast strain used. The Lalvin 71B that I used for my first two meads is not a strain that is supposed to be well-suited to bottle conditioning as it’s supposed to get a bit funky with extended ageing. I like the idea of a sparkling spiced mead so I’m going with a champagne yeast strain this time, the Red Star Montrachet.

06/06/2015 – I used 5 x 340g jar of Holland & Barrett’s Organic Wildflower honey in this match, total 1.7kg honey. Heated about 750ml of water in my small stockpot and added two jars of honey which had partially crystallised. I weighed out 113g of root ginger, peeled it and attempted to grate it into the warm honey mixture. I gave up on the last third of it and just sliced it thinly into the must. Left to steep for about 10 minutes. At this point, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to whizz the other three jars of honey into the must using the stick blender or risk whizzing up the ginger further and end up with a stringy mess in the fermener. Strained the must into the 5 litre bucket fermenter using a sanitised sieve. Added 4.5 litres of bottled water in total and aerated using the blender. Used 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient, 1 tsp acid blend. Rehydrated Champagne yeast in a little water and pitched. Smells great though I’m worried there won’t be enough ginger flavour as I didn’t steep the ginger for a long time or add it to the fermenter. But I suppose I can always adjust this in secondary when I’m adding the cardamom.

07/06/2015 – Added another 1/2 tsp of yeast nutrient.

10/06/2015 – There doesn’t appear to be much going on in the fermenter but when I shine a light through the plastic I can see fizzing going on. Added another 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient.

24/06/2015 – The yeast completely dropped in this last week so I racked to the demi-john and added the seeds from 4 cardamom pods which had been lightly crushed. The high alcohol in the mead will help extract the flavour from the seeds. I don’t know how much ginger flavour is in it, but I’ll do a taste test in a couple of weeks and might adjust with more root ginger.

25/07/2015 – Racked to tertiary. Plenty of acid in there, bit of ginger, but the cardamom is the dominant flavour. Fantastic honey and spice aroma. I’m looking forward to tasting this in a years time, as it’s already quite drinkable.

07/02/2016 – First taste, took a sample from the demi-john in the shed. Very medicinal, though not helped by the fact that the acidity is overdone. I think the overwhelming cardamom flavour would be much improved if there was more sweetness there. Not much ginger showing.

29/07/2016 – Got a gravity reading of 7 Brix. Can’t be accurate! The alcohol must be skewing the reading.

26/08/2016 – Bottled this with carbonation drops. I got 5 x 500ml and 5 x 330ml bottles. 2 carb drops in the 500s and 1 drop in the 330s. Smells great. I have half a bottle left over so I’ll do a gravity reading on that and a taste test.

27/08/2016 – Got a reading of 0.098-1.000.

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