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Old 02-21-2010, 07:20 PM   #1
BeeEarle
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Default Brother Adam and used oak casks for mead

I am now an old commerial honey producer and queen breeder but 35 years ago my wife and I went to Buckfast Abby and talked with Brother Adam about queen breeding. We spent the day with him discussing many things and drank a bottle of his mead wine...He told us, as his recipe says, that all you need is good honey, rain or soft water, a good French wine yeast like Maury and an used oak cask...I said one day in my old age I would try it...So yesterday I got the yellow pages out and tried to find the yeast and cask and the homebrew store here told me to go to your web site....Where can I find used wine casks? Is there a 25 gallon size or just the 55 gallon size..I am in Texas...Thanks.

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Old 02-21-2010, 08:43 PM   #2
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There are a few wineries in the Hill Country around Austin. Why not try calling one of them? If they don't have any they may be able to direct you to someone who does.

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Old 02-21-2010, 10:03 PM   #3
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I'm curious what you remember about the mead. How did it taste? I'm envious of anyone who had the chance to sip mead with Brother Adam, and I'd love to hear more details.

I believe Brother Adam favored used Sherry casks, though I'm sure you can make a great mead with a new barrel.

Maury yeast is going to be hard to come by - they don't sell it as a commercial strain as far as I know; same with Malaga. Madeira yeast can be ordered from Europe (I believe) Vierka makes it but it is no longer imported (someone please correct me if I'm mistaken). Over on GotMead, Fatbloke made contact with the folks at Buckfast Abbey and they went through some of Brother Adam's old things and found a packet of Gervin Strain E (aka K1V-1116), so if you want to try an actual yeast that Brother Adam used, that will be your best bet. Other recipe details are posted there as well.

I wish you good luck in the adventure.

Medsen

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Old 02-22-2010, 04:52 AM   #4
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Thank you for the information…You are so very kind.

I was fortunate enough to interview Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey for 6 hours on bee breeding. He was as kind and compassionate as he was generous with his vast knowledge of the honey bee. It was from his hives and breeding program that Europe re-established its hives after the Isle of Wight disease killed all the bees in 1919. Now they call it the acarine or tracheal mite. Brother Adam was deeply concerned about the future of the honey bee because he kept telling me when I asked him questions about bee genetics, “This is what is important.”

We drank 2 bottles of mead, a dry, still mead and then a sweet sparkling mead. He insisted that it was as good as the best wines on the continent. I can tell you the mead was very delicate, nothing overpowering. I can not remember the honey of the meads but I do remember he talked about his crops of heather honey.

At first, since he spoke British English with a thick German accent, I was having trouble understanding him but after the second bottle, I understood him very well. He insisted on the Sparkling mead, “You must try this.” He said it was the best to make. He started the batches in the fall and bottled in the Spring and it is ready to drink in the Fall. It was a light sweet mead with a little effervescences. Again, he insisted it was as good as the best Champaign in France.

In Toulouse, France, we later visited a beekeeper who had a large honey house that shared his mead wine with us. He was a French Freedom Fighter during WWII. When I asked him about the mean French bee, he told a great stories about hiding guns in his bee hives from the German Nazi SS troops. His mead had much stronger character, nothing like the delicate mead of Brother Adam.

All the best
Bob


Here is the folktale that preceded his Brother Adam’s mead recipes*:

On many a winter night, with a wax candle on the table, and a fire of logs on the earthen hearth, the old bee-keeper entertained his neighbour, or solaced his own soul by a cup of mead. The home was simple, but the fare was rich; the talk around the fire most companionable, and the liquor most stimulating.
For many a year there stood on Salisbury Plain a shepherd's hut on wheels, among bushes of gorse, and surrounded by hives. Few passers-by would notice the hives among the gorse, and possibly not even see the hut, unless the gale blew ribbons of smoke across the traveller's path and drew his attention to it.
In that hut lived a solitary man who had travelled far, but had found anchorage at last among his bees on Salisbury Plain. He sold his honey, and made his candles, and brewed his mead. At night, let the storm howl as it might, though the hut shook and trembled, he was content to lie on his bunk and read the pages he had written, and sip the mead he had drawn from his cask in the tiny shed outside. It was a work on philosophy of possibly little value, but the man was in essence a philosopher.
The mead warmed his lonely heart, and was the only concession to a luxury he otherwise despised. He let the world go by, and he coveted none of the pomps and delicacies that others spent so much labour to acquire.
*First published in BEE WORLD 34(8): 149-156 (1953). Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey,1975, By Brother Adam

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Old 02-22-2010, 11:11 AM   #5
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Thanks Earle - so much of what we do can be traced to Brother Adam and it's good to have some background on a man who's had such an impact on a hobby so many of us cherish.

BTW - check out Vadai barrels for inexpensive Hungarian oak barrels in any size you might want. Well, it appears their website is down but it should be back up soon. If you're interested we can probably get a phone number. Sandor Vadai prefers doing business by phone anyway.

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Old 02-28-2010, 08:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MedsenFey View Post
I'm curious what you remember about the mead. How did it taste? I'm envious of anyone who had the chance to sip mead with Brother Adam, and I'd love to hear more details.

I believe Brother Adam favored used Sherry casks, though I'm sure you can make a great mead with a new barrel.

Maury yeast is going to be hard to come by - they don't sell it as a commercial strain as far as I know; same with Malaga. Madeira yeast can be ordered from Europe (I believe) Vierka makes it but it is no longer imported (someone please correct me if I'm mistaken). Over on GotMead, Fatbloke made contact with the folks at Buckfast Abbey and they went through some of Brother Adam's old things and found a packet of Gervin Strain E (aka K1V-1116), so if you want to try an actual yeast that Brother Adam used, that will be your best bet. Other recipe details are posted there as well.

I wish you good luck in the adventure.

Medsen
Erm, further investigation on the yeast front!

As far as I found out, the "Maury" yeast that Brother Adam originally used (it would have been packaged by Gervin, hence it becoming "unavailable" and him changing over to the Gervin Strain E) is available, but it seems that it's the Lalvin/Lallemand D21 yeast.

Lalvin/Lallemand don't package D21 into consumer/home brew sized packs, only 500 gramme commercial sized packs, but...........

If you're in the US, here's the place/link. I actually have part of a commercial pack that a friend in Oaklahoma sent me. I'm due to pitch some in 2 batches of pyment today (later on this afternoon).

So either way, it would seem that we are able to mirror Brother Adams technique - it's only the honey that'd be different!

regards

fatbloke

p.s. Oh and if you wanted sherry casks, then you'd have to find a barrel broker who has contacts in Spain/Portugal....... and yes, I'm still looking.......
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