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Old 12-23-2012, 12:26 PM   #1
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Default Really Really Traditional Mead

Has anyone made a really old time mead the way the ancestors did by fermenting the whole comb crushed with everything in it. As I understand it, the first mead makers scraped out whatever comb they could dig out of a hive in a tree, comb, pollen, bee bread, brood and whatever else was in there including old blackened comb used for brood rearing and then crushed it all up, added a splash of water and let it ferment from the native yeasts in the beebread (I assume that is where most of the wild yeast came from). They didnt know what yeast were then so they enjoyed the marvel of spontaneous fermentation. I wouldnt want to go quite so far, crushing up honeycomb, no brood comb, adding nutrients and a yeast starter just to be sure a good yeast go it going. Anyone in the mead group done one of these or is it a sure way to bring some strange flavor from the combs into the mead?

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Old 12-23-2012, 06:23 PM   #2
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Beeswax serves to hold chemicals pretty readily (not sure what source I got that from), such as herbicides, pesticides, and anything a beekeeper treats his hive with... which is why its suggested to have the bees make new comb every couple years. The ability to pick up chemicals and hold them for years might be a possible contribution to off flavors. I don't know that they build up to any significant levels to actually harm us, I've had honey straight from a frame of a commercial beekeepers hives so many times.


That said, the wax itself is not going to contribute any flavor, its flavor neutral. So if you were to do this I would make sure you are only using 1st year comb. Which I assume you are probably going to be buying cut comb, so it shouldn't be a problem.

The thing you could consider adding is propolis, "bee glue". Its sap mixed with beeswax from a few studies iirc, but depending on the time of year its smell changes. I've never actually ate any but after digging through hives late spring I can't complain about the spicey smell.



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Old 12-23-2012, 09:08 PM   #3
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I have some hives on our farm and am going foundationless so I thought what a good oppurtunity to go real full traditional old time. We do all soft treatments so our miteticides shouldnt get absorbed by the wax. We are in mostly pasture, woodland and some corn and soybeans so there is a potential for some in the comb but we are planning on using only white first year comb. WVMJ

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Old 12-24-2012, 01:52 AM   #4
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I'm curious, do you know how they used to get the honey in the first place back then? Obviously they didn't have suits to protect themselves. The old grab and run method maybe?

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Old 12-24-2012, 03:01 AM   #5
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They used to smoke the old time skeps killing the bees and then removed all the comb. Also, they were very tough back then and didnt need no suits or gloves. There are some people nowadays that say your shouldnt wear a suit, that is until they accidentally knock a hive over and ALL the bees come after them. WVMJ

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Old 12-24-2012, 03:09 AM   #6
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How about going with a show mead? You know, no nutrients, starters, etc. Just honey, water, yeast and time. Mix up the must to a lower OG than you would otherwise and then add the additional honey as it slows down. Otherwise, what you described doing is a pretty standard traditional mead method. Nothing different than what many of us do. I've not needed to make a starter for any of my me ads yet, but I might at some point.

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Old 12-24-2012, 06:21 PM   #7
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THanks GD, is KM allowed for a show mead? It sounds to me like the hardest way to make mead, I have to stick with the nutrients and acid additions even if doing a comb honey mead just to keep the yeast happy. Maybe no point in really doing a comb fermentation other than it would make cool pictures for a story for people who havent done it. WVMJ

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Old 12-28-2012, 03:07 AM   #8
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Just made a mead tonight that's only ingredients are honey yeast water one pomegranate and a cup of fresh brewed green tea. The Pom and tea are for nutrients mostly. Not an hour after pitching she was bubbling away. Didn't take a gravity reading figured I was doing it old school, I'll take a final to make sure she's dry, but other than that I just wanted a traditional.

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Old 12-28-2012, 03:42 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WVMJ View Post
THanks GD, is KM allowed for a show mead? It sounds to me like the hardest way to make mead, I have to stick with the nutrients and acid additions even if doing a comb honey mead just to keep the yeast happy. Maybe no point in really doing a comb fermentation other than it would make cool pictures for a story for people who havent done it. WVMJ
A show mead is (from what I've read) with no additions beyond honey, water and yeast. I'm sure you can aerate/degas it since that's not an actual substance addition. If you don't like the idea of not adding any other source of nutrition for the yeast, then it will be a traditional mead. I'm also pretty sure you cannot chemically stabilize a show mead. It's not an easy category to make, but it can be done. You'll just need to give it even more time than you thought, so that it actually finishes. Probably need to aerate/degas it more until the 1/3 break too.

How strong were you looking to make this?
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Old 12-28-2012, 04:27 AM   #10
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I've tried a couple meads recently that I called "whole hive" meads, with the idea from the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, which while flawed in some ways, really opened my eyes to looking at brewing and wine making in a new light.

The author's perspective is that the ancient meads were actually made by cutting down a whole hive and boiling/crushing the hive itself. This would include many ingredients that are now sold as health supplements in the mead (royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis, bee venom, etc).

Since I'm not willing to go cut down and boil a whole hive myself, the author suggests making a mead with wildflower honey (since wild bees don't have just one flower source), and use store-bought supplements to make the rest. You can buy royal jelly, propolis, and bee pollen at any health food store. I have to say it's quite tasty in the its young state (I just started these meads in the last 2 months) despite the propolis in particular being quite odd-smelling to start out.

The author makes a compelling case for the health benefits of these ingredients, particularly after they've been fermented.

Incidentally (or perhaps not incidentally?) royal jelly contains all the b-complex vitamins which act as a yeast nutrient that honey lacks.



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