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Old 09-12-2010, 04:55 PM   #1
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Default Cheap grade honey vs high quality honey

I was reading on another thread, that I cannot find anymore, that someone only makes mead from the cheapest honey that they can find. I took that as the lowest grade, not the most economically priced honey that they could find. But I could be mistaken in my interpretation.

As a former chef, I believe the higher quality of ingredients used, the higher quality end product. It is very hard and a lot of work to turn low quality ingredients into a stellar product. I enjoy reading about the different meads made with different honeys and how they taste in the finished product. My question is what was your worst honey and best honey meads and how did they rate against each other?

My best honey was a southern Texas Hujillo honey that produced a awesome end product. Worse honey mead was using a locally produced honey from just north of Austin. I have heard since that it is predominately a tallow tree honey plus a bunch more blended in. It was a gift and costs $48.00 a gallon. Assumed to be stellar but was not, produced an inferior mead all the way around.
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Old 09-12-2010, 05:02 PM   #2
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Something you might be interested in, there was a Basic Brewing Radio podcast (or maybe a couple of them) where they did experiments with different types of honey. February 2009. Made up small batches of mead with different varieties and reported back on the results. Huge variances in the characteristics different types impart. I had a mead that a friend made, I can't remember which type of honey it was but it was very harsh and woody - not terribly pleasant.

I guess what I'd say is that the "quality" of the honey, as reflected in the price, is likely going to be less important that the type of honey it is.

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Old 09-12-2010, 06:31 PM   #3
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Thanks for the link, Bird. I added it to my favs for easy access. Sounds interesting. I wish I had the space to do some large scale experiments. So far only been able to do a few small ones. I love the pictures that are posted so we can see the differences in procedures, yeasts, cooking times, ect. This site is great about that.
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Old 09-13-2010, 04:04 AM   #4
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Here is from my experience:

Cheapest I could find- was in supermarket, tasted kinda poor, terrible mead.

Local apiary- great honey, amazing mead.

Other folks mead made from supermarket "in a bear" honey - mediocre, not the best.

So my general rule is to get quality mead you need quality honey. This is especially true if you are doing straight alcoholic honey-water rather than spicing and other such steps.

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Old 09-13-2010, 10:13 PM   #5
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I've made great mead with the blended honey from Sam's Club, but usually its a melomel or strongly spiced metheglin, so I don't need 'great honey', just 'basic' honey.

I also don't compete.

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Old 09-14-2010, 03:48 AM   #6
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I think you're always best off if you get fresh, raw, unfiltered, unpasturized honey directly from a beekeeper. I know, I know, not everyone has access to that regularly, or perhaps you'll pay through the nose to get it shipped to you...and there are always some weird varietals that may give you funny flavors.

Still, I probably wouldn't make a straight mead from anything other than a good varietal honey...making a show mead even from my locally available, good quality wildflower honey seems kind of boring (although perhaps I will try it one of these days, just to see how it turns out with nothing else to hide behind...). Generally, I wouldn't use generic store bought honey for anything other than a bochet mead, although I can see malkore's point about using it for a mead that has other really strong flavors....

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Old 09-18-2010, 12:25 AM   #7
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Quality in, quality out. Find me any top end brewer or wine maker who says they use the cheapest malt or grapes they can find, and end up making Duvel or Latour, and I'll eat my words.

That said, there are expensive varietal honeys that make terrible meads. If you have doubts, dilute w/water: honey at 3:1 and nose or taste it before making a mead. If you find off, vegetal, excessively buttery or mown grass notes, beware. If it's not fun to drink or nose, it won't make great mead.

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Old 09-18-2010, 12:33 AM   #8
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KenSchramm said it all. And it seems to be the general consensus. The more natural and pure the honey you buy is, the better your final product will be.

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Old 09-19-2010, 11:52 AM   #9
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I agree with Melkor.

In my short time as a mazer I've observed that the honey you use depends on how much you want the characteristics of that honey to come out in your final product. Example: I've got a Winter mead in tertiary now that I used a 3 lb bottle of ShopRite Grade A Fancy in. The honey is very mild, almost week in flavor, and quite inexpensive. I was fine with that though because I knew I was going to toss clove, cinnamon, anise seed, and nutmeg into primary, topping off with apple juice in secondary and cranberry juice at the second racking. I knew the spices and juice flavors would dominate (especially the anise), and in fact was counting on it, so what is probably considered "low grade" honey was more than fine for what I'm trying to do.

On the flipside, I have 4 lbs of tupelo honey waiting for me to do a show mead with (I only do 1 gal batches). I wouldn't try that with the ShopRite honey. It would be drinkable I'm sure, but not as good as the tupelo will be (or better be for what I paid for it ).\

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Old 09-19-2010, 03:53 PM   #10
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Even when making recipes where fruit and spices are prominent (or dominant), good, fresh honey can make a huge impact. Honey that has a strong aroma and flavor can show up even through a pile of fruit and can make a good recipe even better.

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