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Old 11-22-2005, 07:39 PM   #1
fsinger
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Default Brewing mead or "honey beer"

I need some help. I've been brewing for a year now with great success using the partial mash method. Good beer, everyone loves it.

I wanted to make some holiday brew that was mildly sweet and raspberry flavored. I figured I could make it just like homebrew, but instead of grains and DME, I would just use honey for the base. I got 12 lbs of orange blossom honey, raspberry flavoring, and White Labs Sweet Mead yeast. No hops, of course.

I thought I would boil water/honey for an hour, cool and pitch the yeast and raspberry flavoring and seal in my fermenter as I would my ale. I figure 2 weeks and the bubbles slow, I rack, then later prime and bottle. Won't I get a light, semi-sweet flavored ale like drink???? The more I read the more worried I get.

What am I missing? (I know I won't make it for Xmas, but what else??)

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Old 11-22-2005, 08:47 PM   #2
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Mead is a honey wine, certainly not a beer.

Keep in mind, boiling honey will take out a lot of the aroma and flavor compounds. If you are truly interseted in making a mead I suggest you pick up Ken Schramm's "The Compleat Mead maker" (yes that's how the title is spelt).

Meads are going to take about a year to mellow, honestly. The typical mead gravity is 1.100 and up. They ferment down to as low as .990 (yes, below 1.000).

Good luck.. also you might want to read about staggered nutrient additions on brewboard.com (ken schramm talks about them in a recent issue of Zymurgy, but his book makes no mention of SNAs)

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Old 11-22-2005, 09:01 PM   #3
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No need to boil the honey and water for that long. You only need to bring it to the boil for a minute maxium. That'll kill any potentially nasty bacteria present in the honey. Let it cool and skim off any wax deposits. Boil it any longer and i think you'll drive off the subtle flavours of your honey and risk creating off flavours with the wax still in it.

Pitching the yeast when it's cool enough will work, but bear in mind that some acidity will help the ferment - Either the juice of a few of lemons (or a little citric acid powder from your HBS).

I'd personally wait until it's finished in primary before adding the flavoring. Before bottling i'd taste it and then add your raspberry to suit your own palate and then prime.

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Old 11-24-2005, 06:27 PM   #4
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So it sounds like I won't be making true mead, but will be making a type of hop-free ale with honey as the base sugar. At least that's what I want to do.

Very good advice, I won't boil more than a minute or so to kill the baddies, cool and pitch. I like the idea of adding the flavoring at the end of the ferment, that way I can taste it a see if it is overpowering or not. 4oz of flavoring in 5 gal of honey beer seems safe, but I'd better check.

Thanks again - I'll post the results in a month or two.

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Old 11-24-2005, 07:25 PM   #5
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If you are adding fruit to a mead it is called a melomel.

Skip the flavoring for meads and use real fruit.

You don't want to boil your honey for a long period, but you do want to skim the crap off of the top during the boil.

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Old 11-24-2005, 09:23 PM   #6
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What you propose to make is mead. Without any grain, it isn't beer. Using an ale yeast won't make it taste like an ale, since honey doesn't have much in it except fructose and glucose (there are small amounts of maltose and sucrose). No grainy goodness at all.

The only way to get a sweet mead is the kill the yeast, either by chilling them or chemically, at the exact point of sweetness you want OR let the fermentation proceed to completion, kill the yeast and add sweetness. The Oregon Brew Crew did a comparison of yeasts Great mead experiment in 2002.

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Old 11-24-2005, 09:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david_42
The only way to get a sweet mead is the kill the yeast, either by chilling them or chemically, at the exact point of sweetness you want OR let the fermentation proceed to completion, kill the yeast and add sweetness.
Respectfully, what the hell are you talking about? Kill the yeast and add sweetness? What is that all about?

I've made at least 6 batches of mead and I've NEVER added sweetness. WTF?

The sweetness versus dryness of the mead depends on the yeast used. You pitch either a sweet or dry mead yeast. You don't add sweetness.

If I am wrong, please educate me. I am always willing to learn something new.
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Old 11-24-2005, 10:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david_42
What you propose to make is mead. Without any grain, it isn't beer. Using an ale yeast won't make it taste like an ale, since honey doesn't have much in it except fructose and glucose (there are small amounts of maltose and sucrose). No grainy goodness at all.

The only way to get a sweet mead is the kill the yeast, either by chilling them or chemically, at the exact point of sweetness you want OR let the fermentation proceed to completion, kill the yeast and add sweetness. The Oregon Brew Crew did a comparison of yeasts Great mead experiment in 2002.

Sorry bro but your are really confused here. The way to make a sweet mead is to add enough honey for the yeast to fully ferment to alcohol tollerance and still leave residual sugar. Ale yeast has lower tolerence than wine yeast.

Also, any time you are fermenting a mead using honey as your only fermentable sugar you need to add nutrients or your yeast won't make it to completion.
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Old 11-25-2005, 03:27 PM   #9
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Both methods mentioned work, but neither gives precise control of sweetness.

Returning to the OP: if you would like to make a mead-like ale, look for recipes for bracket or braggot Other meads . Basically, you brew an ale and then when the primary fermentation is done, start adding honey, a few pounds at a time, until it stops fermenting. This can take a long time, like 12-18 months. I've seen recipes for braggot that dump everything in at the beginning and use high-gravity ales yeast with big starters.

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Old 11-25-2005, 08:26 PM   #10
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Re-reading the original post he is describing a melomel, no grains or hops, just honey, fruit and sweet mead yeast.

Warm a pot of water. Just prior to boiling turn the heat off. Add your honey and stir until it is ALL dissolved.

After you are sure it's dissolved then turn the heat back on. Boil for 15 mins. During that time you will have a whitish scum floating on top. Remove as much of this as you can with a slotted spoon (that works best for me) and pour it into a cup. You'll also want to add any yeast nutrients and/or acsorbic acid/potassium, or whatever you decide to put into your mead. At the end of the 15 mins remove it from the heat.

What raspberry flavoring are you talking about? The fruit extract flavoring from the HBS? Personally, I don't care for them. They tast like soap water to me. If you want a fruit flavor then I would recommend buying some frozen fruit.

There are ways to add your fruit at different times, this is just one of them - after you turn your heat off add the fruit to the boil pot and left sit for 15. The color and flavoring will come from that time.

Other people may tell you to soak the fruit in vodka overnight and such. The choice is yours. Do some more reading on the subject and decide what's right for you.

Be sure to take an OG reading.

Good luck.

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