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-   -   Is this insane, or should I go for it? (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f30/insane-should-i-go-370902/)

Golddiggie 11-29-2012 10:55 PM

Is this insane, or should I go for it?
 
I posted this up over on the Got Mead? forums, but it's been several hours without any postings (and only two votes), so I figured I'd post here too... :D

I've been thinking about doing this for a while now, and am about ready to pull the trigger. I made a 21% mead almost a year ago (it's still aging) that is the base for my Mocha Madness MkII batch. I'm about to add the flavor elements to that, but don't expect to go to bottles for at least 6-12 months. But that's another thread...

I'm giving serious thought to making a 25% ABV mead. I know the White Labs WLP099 Super High Gravity yeast can go that far, if you treat it well (enough O2, pitching enough cells, etc.). I have the flasks and stirplate, as well as a pure O2 infusion system, and nutrient to add. So, technically, I could do it. I'm actually using that strain in a BIG [15.3% target] English barley wine that's fermenting in my basement (been there over a month and it's still going).

Points I have flipping thoughts on is batch size, and if I should make enough to age in an oak barrel, or not. If I don't go for the oak barrel aging, I'd make a 4 gallon batch. That would end up using about 21# of honey (already figured out the sugar percentage of it with my previous batch). IF I go with a 5.5 gallon batch (to have enough left to fill a 5 gallon oak barrel, and have a little left to top it off as needed), I'd end up using 30# of honey. I have 46# of honey on hand (balance of the 5 gallon bucket I picked up last year), so I'm ok there. I'd even have enough left for another batch of lower ABV mead. Either batch size, I'd start it off at a lower OG (less honey, reserving some of the water volume to get the honey to flow in better/easier), then add to it as it makes sense (if that can even be said in this context).

For the 4 gallon batch size, I'd end up using one of my 1/6 barrel sanke fermenters. For the 5.5-6 gallon size (need to see how much loss I should count on with a barrel) I'd end up using a 1/4 barrel sanke fermenter (could have a new pair coming via a trade).

So, am I totally off my rocker for thinking of doing this?? Should I just go for it, in the smaller batch size and use other methods for oaking it? Or should I suck it up and make the larger batch and get a barrel for when it's ready? It also appears that you can get smaller barrels, but I don't think anything under 5 gallon/20L would do a good job.

I will be getting two vials of WLP099 tomorrow, so I can make this at any point after that. :D

PacificTiger 11-30-2012 12:29 AM

I voted for go for it but you are still off your rocker :)

At that OG is that enough yeast or would you need to make a starter or small mead to build enough yeast to make a run at all that honey?

Golddiggie 11-30-2012 12:49 AM

Plan is to formulate a must to about 1.120, with a lower total volume than it will finish with. Then I'll do honey additions as it's fermenting away. Actually, will probably start with an OG of closer to 1.135-1.140. I can then either make three 3# additions, or break it down even more. I'll probably leave a week, or two, between the additions and see what it does. If the yeast eats through it all, I'll add more. If it doesn't, then I stop. So, the potential is there for mid 20's ABV, but it could also stop before it hits 20%. I am planning to degas and oxygenate before each honey addition. I'll probably add some nutrient at that time too. IF I hit my goal (hoping for north of 23%) then I'll be very happy. Either way, it won't go to bottle for 18-24 months from start. Probably not go to glass until it's at least 2-1/2 to 3 years old.

So then the other question is which batch size... Do I conserve honey for other batches, and make this one target of 4 gallons (starting volume)? Or do I go ahead and make it large enough to age in an oak barrel, with enough left to top it off as needed? I'm leaning more towards the smaller batch size, since that will leave me with about 25# of honey to make another batch, or two. :D

I need to check with White Labs to see if this yeast will do what I want or if it's destined to fail even before it starts.

Illuveatar 11-30-2012 03:34 AM

I voted in both forums just so I could see the results from the other folks. I'm relatively new to mead, I've been making it for years but only recently joined these forums in an effort to perfect my skills. Of the dozen or so batches of mead I've made I don't think I've ever shot for anything higher than 15% and don't really see the need for anything higher. One bottle at 15% will get me pretty well toasted, two and I'm down for the count.

Of course there's always that drive to push the envelope out into new realms, I'm still exploring different yeast strains and mead styles. I imagine in several years I'll find myself wondering in what new direction I can go and high gravity will seriously interest me.

Given what Medsen Fey said about WLP099 pooping out around 18% makes me think you should try a test batch before barreling into this one, pun intended. Oh and the Feds be damned, if you can push this over 24% then huzzah and drink hearty, don't tread on a mazer.

Arpolis 11-30-2012 03:34 AM

I looked into doing a mead like this a while back. I was actually planning on just a 2 gallon batch myself and then adding some Cayenne & Cinnamon to secondary making a dragon’s breath brew. I ended up not doing it because the friend that wanted it changed his mind for something else. I say just go for the smaller batch because this will be a shot drink or sipper at best anyways.

Golddiggie 11-30-2012 03:52 AM

I've done a few batches so far, well. 6-8 so far (depends on how you count one of them). My range, for ABV, has been 14-21%. I want to see just how far I can push WLP099 with nutrients, O2, degassing, and step feeding it honey. I'm also going to reach out to White Labs (again) to find out what they suggest, on top of what I already have planned. I'm already planning on grabbing two vials of the yeast (tomorrow) to use. My hope/plan is to mix up the starting must this weekend. I plan to keep that to the 1.120-1.130 range. Then add more honey (and maybe a little of the reserved water volume) as time, and the batch, progresses. I'll be keeping a log of this one, for certain. Due to the nature of what I'm making, I'll probably have the fermenting vessel resting in a plastic bin. Just in case it decides to foam over during the process (like during a degas step).

BTW, my first batch of traditional mead, made with regional wildflower honey and EC-1118 is damned great in a glass now. It was good at a year, and 18 months. But now that it's 2 years old, it's gotten even better. To the point that I'm thinking of making another 18% mead, with K1V this time.

I might have to have a gathering when the uber mead is ready to drink. Maybe include a waver form before I let people have some. :D "Warning, this mead will totally F you UP!. Enjoy" :rockin:

BTW, Arpolis, make a mead for YOU. I've been brewing/making what I want to drink. Everyone else can go beat meat for all I care. :ban:

Golddiggie 12-01-2012 07:16 PM

update
 
Got the yeast yesterday, from the HBS in Cambridge, MA. They're the closest HBS that had it on hand, or even carries White Labs yeast. :mad: Made me remember why I don't like going there. Traffic getting there, and home again, was just nasty. Store is good, inside, but parking can be difficult (meter parking only). At least I was also able to pick up a few other things that I needed that there wasn't much point in buying online.

Now I just need to get the honey to be liquid, and mix this up. I'm trying to decide if I should make a starter and use one vial, or just use both of the vials I picked up. I'm also looking to make the 4 gallon total volume for this batch. That way I have enough honey left for at least one more batch, maybe two if I'm lucky.

sonofgrok 12-01-2012 09:18 PM

Just do it... wuss. ;)

Golddiggie 12-01-2012 09:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sonofgrok (Post 4640000)
Just do it... wuss. ;)

Can you be a bit more specific?? :fro:

BTW, pretty stoked to see if I can get WLP099 to go to, or maybe above, 25%. :eek:

Obliviousbrew 12-01-2012 09:39 PM

Do it. I donīt vote because there is no option for make a 6 gallon batch and send me a bottle when is ready.


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