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Mead - Swamp Honey - Need Some Advice

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AngryTom

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Hello Fellow Brewers,

I visited a local apiary (I live in southern Ontario, Canada) and they showed me one of their products - swamp honey. The honey is made by bees who collect honey from a local marsh/wetland/swamp, and the beekeeper told me they believe the bees largely collect nectar from the arrow leaf plant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balsamorhiza_sagittata). The honey has some very different characteristics. Namely, the honey has a pronounced greenish tinge - it almost looks like raw sewage - but it is, of course, sweet like any other honey. Several people who I have had taste-test the honey have commented that the taste reminds them of the smell of a forest after it rains, and several people have flat out said they don't like it or it is their least favorite of my varietal collection. I really enjoy it, but I may be a little biased since I have 20 lbs. of it. I imagine a mead made from it would go well with a meal of frog's legs or crayfish, or a fish caught from a pond - something that tastes strongly of the environment from where it was caught.

I am early in my mead-making career - I have made one batch of orange blossom varietal (71B-1122), one batch of blueberry varietal (K1 V1116), and one batch of wildflower varietal (71B 1122). Each recipe used 3 lbs. of honey per gallon. The orange blossom turned out well with a little residual sugar and a good balance. The wildflower left a ton of residual sugar and is quite sweet and even syrupy. And the blueberry ran very dry and is stripped of much of its honey characteristics.

For the swamp honey, I am trying to figure out what yeast I should use and how much honey I should use. Since it is quite strong-tasting honey, I think their needs to be some residual sweetness so that it is palatable. If all that is left is alcohol and swamp taste, I think it may turn a lot of people off, so I'm not going to use the K1 or EC-1118 yeasts, as they run too dry. I plan to use either the 71B or the D47 as they'll leave residual sweetness and will likely bring out some of the more fruity characteristics of the honey.

Does anyone have any thoughts/ideas/advice on how much honey per gallon I should use, and which yeast would be preferable? I was thinking using about 2.5 lbs. per gallon to avoid it being overly sweet like my previous wildflower batch and I could always back sweeten if it runs too dry. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
 

bernardsmith

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Hi AngryTom - and welcome. I don't have a suggestion for how much honey you want to use /gallon except to say that the amount of honey you choose to use has very little to do with final sweetness. The amount of honey you mix with water will determine two things - a) the final ABV and b) the richness (or not ) of the flavor. Three pounds of honey /gallon gives you a starting gravity of about 1.105 and that SG has a potential ABV of about 14%. With 3 lbs of honey you have a fairly rich flavored honey.
That said, unless you designed it to do so, why your wildflower ended sweet suggests a problem with some aspect of your protocol. The yeast you chose (and indeed, any wine yeast) should have no trouble fermenting 3 lbs of honey in a gallon of must brut dry. Sweetness, then, is determined by back sweetening. (Of course, if you are confident about wine or mead making you can step feed the yeast and so exceed the actual tolerance for alcohol of your colony of yeast. But you really need to know what you are doing and one thing you cannot do (OK should not do) is add so much honey before you pitch the yeast that you cause osmotic shock in the yeast. Step feeding the yeast is not engorging them.
 
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AngryTom

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Hi bernardsmith - thanks for your reply and the information. I went back through my notes and checked on a few items and think I figured out why they wildflower batch finished sweeter - I think I used more honey than I had actually thought. I thought the scale I used was measuring pounds in tenths, but it was actually measuring ounces, so I made conversions to compensate for what I though was a lack of honey, but probably ended up adding more than I intended, and with the 71B yeast only having a tolerance to 14%, finished with more residual honey than I thought I I would have. Thanks for pointing out the issue with the procedure. I'm going to do a few more batches the way I have been doing it before I venture into step feeding, but I'm sure I'll be trying all sorts of things over my mead-making career. Thanks again!
 
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