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Old 11-22-2007, 01:07 AM   #1
ShadowWulf
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Default Medieval mead ideas, help a geek out

Heya! Im getting ready to do my first 2 or so mead brews and i have some odd-ball questions.

First off, im a bit of a medieval history buff. I collect weapons (i mean really really collect....100+ pieces), read old english fluently and can commonly be seen as one of those guys at a ren-fair wearing armor dueling.

Now, what im looking for in my next brew is something deicidely medieval in nature. However, im beside myself right now trying to find WHAT that entails as i dont believe ive ever tasted something that i could in all honesty say "Yep! Thats medieval tasting all right!"

I did find this though, may intrest some of you:
The Reynolds Historical Library has parts of the Tractatus de Magnetate et Operationibus eius (the thirteenth-century letter on the magnet by Petrus Peregrinus) available on-line. Included is one of the oldest known surviving English mead recipes (folio 20r).The manuscript is written on vellum in brown ink with red chapter headings. Much of the text is in Latin, however the recipes are mostly in English. Below is the mead recipe.
//ffor to make mede. Tak .i. galoun of fyne hony and to þat .4. galouns of water and hete þat water til it be as lengh þanne dissolue þe hony in þe water. thanne set hem ouer þe fier & let hem boyle and ever scomme it as longe as any filthe rysith þer on. and þanne tak it doun of þe fier and let it kole in oþer vesselle til it be as kold as melk whan it komith from þe koow. than tak drestis of þe fynest ale or elles berme and kast in to þe water & þe hony. and stere al wel to gedre but ferst loke er þu put þy berme in. that þe water with þe hony be put in a fayr stonde & þanne put in þy berme or elles þi drestis for þat is best & stere wel to gedre/ and ley straw or elles clothis a bowte þe vessel & a boue gif þe wedir be kolde and so let it stande .3. dayes & .3. nygthis gif þe wedir be kold And gif it be hoot wedir .i. day and .1. nyght is a nogh at þe fulle But ever after .i. hour or .2. at þe moste a say þer of and gif þu wilt have it swete tak it þe sonere from þe drestis & gif þu wilt have it scharpe let it stand þe lenger þer with. Thanne draw it from þe drestis as cler as þu may in to an oþer vessel clene & let it stonde .1. nyght or .2. & þanne draw it in to an oþer clene vessel & serve it forth
// And gif þu wilt make mede eglyn. tak sauge .ysope. rosmaryne. Egre- moyne./ saxefrage. betayne./ centorye. lunarie/ hert- is tonge./ Tyme./ marubium album. herbe jon./ of eche of an handful gif þu make .12. galouns and gif þu mak lesse tak þe less of herbis. and to .4. galouns of þi mater .i. galoun of drestis.


Well, besides THAT can anybody recomend some good medieval recipes or styles? Even specific methods and pointers would help. I have a hard time also believing that the average peasant fermented their mead for 6-12 months either. It would seem from that recipe that it was more a matter of DAYS, but that could obviously be incorrect.

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Old 11-22-2007, 01:51 AM   #2
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Here is an index page of several SCA brewing newsletters.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?p=453717

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Old 11-27-2007, 01:37 AM   #3
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Actually, and I am one of those dressed walking around Ren goers every weekend, a matter of a few days would be about right for the peasant brews. Even the pubs did not sit aside a brew for extended periods of time. Containers were of course made of wood and stoppers, if they used one were wood also.

Where I am going with this is that the medieval period tastes would have been woody flavored. From what I have seen with the Ren period brewing is very large wooden barrels stacked on shelves. The top was the final clearing stage and as they took down from the top the lower shelved barrels were racked and brought to the next shelf above. I still wonder how they did it without massive oxyidation. It was surely consumed quickly. The best as always went to the royal family then other nobles and continued down the line.

The peasant class used what they could get and would use drestis obtained from a brewer and do what they could to keep it alive or use it immediately. So I would try about 2 lbs of honey in a gallon jug, warm water and pitch a Ale yeast with a handful of wood chips. Leave covered with a towel for 7 days then slap an airlock on for 3 or 4 weeks. It should be about finished and be around the 5% abv mark. You may need to play with this a bit to get the woody flavor but that should be very close. You could start with more honey to finish sweeter but I don't believe the peasants used a large amount due to the cost.

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Old 11-27-2007, 02:03 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgayer

Where I am going with this is that the medieval period tastes would have been woody flavored.

I am glad you guys are here. really. I don't mean to come off as a Richard. Please consider the following - for discussion purposes only-. If you choose to be personally insulted I see your 2 handed cleaving sword and raise you Smith and Wesson, OK?


I don't see this as worth arguing over. However - and I recognize up front you are going to do what you want- what I learned during my BA in Anthropology with a strong concentration in Archeology is mankind has been fermenting stuff in ceramic vessels for a really long time.

Did somebody in the Middle Ages in Europe ferment stuff in wood? Sure. Do you want to make a woody mead, go ahead. I don't believe for a moment that fermenting in wood only is the one true Tao of medieval mead though.

Which English Pale Ale is, to this day, fermented in troughs made out of slate, the same rock used for blackboards? Are some meads going to work better with some wood to them? Sure. I have only made six gallons of mead, lifetime. I just racked all six from glass primary to glass secondary last weekend. To me these are some pretty delicate flavors.

It seemed to me the whole point of medieval technology was to solve the immediate problem with whatever materials are at hand, sort of one big long 800 year episode of MacGuyver. And that was my whole problem with/ why I didn't join the SCA.

Congrats on learning old English, I am sure that was a major pain in the neck. I would be really interested to hear some mead and beer recipes from you, but as a gourmand (not to be confused with a gourmet) I am going to use the technology I choose to produce the best tasting result I can envision from whatever recipe you translate.

Sorry to go off on you. The one that really roasts me is 'purists' putting oak chips in their IPAs, as if Elizabethan and Victorian English don't include the word "barrel pitch".


And what is drestus? Is that an early spelling/ form of detritus? Sorry, my OED is boxed.

Not to pick on mgayer, but if I racked to a "large wooden barrel" why would I lift it to a higher shelf instead of leaving it on the floor?

Not to pick on ShadowWulf, but the first gallon of mead I ever made got sampled two hours after I pitched the yeast and was gone on day 21. It was tasty too ;-)

Just keeping it real fellas.
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Old 11-27-2007, 02:25 AM   #5
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Old 11-27-2007, 02:40 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShadowWulf
I have a hard time also believing that the average peasant fermented their mead for 6-12 months either.
Why not? They had no idea what yeast was or how fermentation took place, let alone how to control fermentation, pitch suitable strains, feed the yeast, maintain proper temps, areate,etc... At leat they suggest "pitching" yeast with the 'destris of finest ale or else "berme" '. Remember, honey is devoid of nutrients for yeast, and without modern, "proper" techniques, even today ferments can be slow and take more than a month.

Today you can ferment a mead in 6 to 12 days. I doubt you could do that 30 years ago, let alone 500.
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Old 11-27-2007, 02:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poindexter

... the first gallon of mead I ever made got sampled two hours after I pitched the yeast and was gone on day 21. It was tasty too ;-)

Just keeping it real fellas.
Drinking yeast laden honey water is, in my opinion, not, in any way, keeping it "real".
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Old 11-27-2007, 02:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olllllo
IB4YeOldeL

Oh come on.

I got to figure out how many lower case L's in the grille of a jeep... Ok. I haVe the "number."

The cool Rens will actually consider the remarks of mundanes like me before they draw the 2 handed cleaving sword. Plus I make really good leather armour, but that is a different board.

A 55 gal barrel of mead at 0.990 is going to weigh (lessee 8 pounds to the gal x0.990 x 55 click whir) 435 pounds, plus the weight of the wet wood, and the king wants me to raise it up to a "high" shelf today and lift it back down when he gets here tommorrow? Kiss my hairy redneck butt Mr. King. 435#, that is believable in some other reality where the laws of physics don't apply, maybe.

How many gallons is a "very large" wooden barrel? 20 gal? That is still (click, whir) 158# of mead plus the wood. I am leaving it on the floor. If my mead is good enough for the king to drink he can freakin get over it.
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Old 11-27-2007, 02:52 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALPS
Why not? They had no idea what yeast was or how fermentation took place, let alone how to control fermentation, pitch suitable strains, feed the yeast, maintain proper temps, aerate
You sir, are at high risk for being a thoughtful Ren. Would you be needin a Cuirass today?
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Old 11-27-2007, 02:59 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poindexter
You sir, are at high risk for being a thoughtful Ren. Would you be needin a Cuirass today?
Dude, you wanna build me some armor, I'll send you measurements from my tailor.
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