Melarancio 170326: Summary

Id 170326
Type Still Melarancio Melomel
Start Date 26 Mar 2017
Original Gravity 1.11
Yeast Mangrove Jack’s Belgian Ale M27
Ingredients yaupon honey, orange blossom honey, orange juice & peel, lemon peel, raisins, amarillo hops, cascade hops
Rack Date 09 Apr 2017
Rack Date 30 Apr 2017
Addition Date 03 Jun 2017
Addition gelatin
Bottle Date 17 Jun 2017
Final Gravity 1.00
Alcohol by Volume 14.95%
Full Log Melarancio 170326

Melarancio 170326: Bottling

Bottling of my 5 gallon batch of Melarancio went smoothly. I bought 2 cases of fresh new punted antique green wine bottles for this mead. And I used my new solid corks with my new floor corker. All in all a lot of exciting new here.

The carboy had a bit of sediment that had settled out, so I racked it out into a clean carboy then bottled from there. I got 21 bottles, plus about half a beer glass which I drank.

My final gravity on this one was exactly 1.0, giving me an ABV of 14.95%. This is now a tie with the screwed up Cyser I bottled last week for the highest alcohol level I’ve ever brewed (so far).

Oh, the floor corker worked great with the new corks, by the way. (While bottling my Mountain Cedar Mead, I had had a problem with the tops of the new solid corks breaking using the wing corker.)

 

Cyser 161210: Summary

Id 161210
Type Cyser
Start Date 10 Dec 2016
Ingredients honey, apples, apricot, lemon, peppercorn, raisins
Yeast Mangrove Jack’s Mead M05
Original Gravity 1.105
Fermentation Temperature 74-76° F
Rack Date 01 Jan 2017
Additions honey-water mix
Bottle Date 11 Jun 2017
Final Gravity 0.995
Alcohol by Volume 14.95%
Full Log Cyser 161210

Cyser 161210: Bottling

Of course, right after I post my big ugly rant about all the lousy commercial mead out there I have to post an update about my own screwed up lousy mead. I’m not sure if it’s a bit of karma in my face or if I was projecting my own frustrations onto the samples I was tasting. Either way, it’s definitely poetic.

So, yeah, this Cyser that I was pretty sure I screwed up back in January when I did the first racking, I can now confirm that I definitely did screw up. It’s sharp and acetonic, with a hint of caramel sours mixed in. It’s also very dry, which would exacerbate the acetone notes. And it has a buckwheat honey base, which would exacerbate the off-caramel parts.

Still, I bottled up 14 bottles of it. It’s not bad enough to throw away, but it’s not good enough to share with anybody else either. I put a skull and crossbones symbol on the label so I wouldn’t accidentally share it with somebody.

I got a final gravity of 0.995 on it, which puts the ABV at… whoa… 14.95%.  I think that might be the highest ABV I’ve brewed yet.

My Rant About Mead

I am frustrated and amazed at how lousy most of the modern commercial meads are. In most cases their primary offense is that they have very little flavor, with their secondary offense being that they are too stinking sweet. But a surprising number of samples even have obvious off flavors or floaties.

That last offense is inexcusable. If you’re selling mead you should make sure it is free of floaties and doesn’t have any flavors that are not supposed to be there. This is true of beer and wine too; really any fermented drink. Don’t sell a drink that tastes like cleaning fluid, or that has chunks of stuff floating around in it. That should be obvious. Don’t sell me your screwed up trash brew.

For the first two offenses, I think there’s a severe mismatch between my expectations and the actual mead industry. I expected deep, full bodied, robust explorations into the intricacies of honey-based fermenting. Instead I got slightly alcoholic, slightly flavored spritzer. I expected an explosive experience starting from the scent in the glass, spreading through my mouth and lingering on my tongue for long moments after. Instead I got a lightly scented tingle of flavor, like an unkept promise, gone almost as soon as it touches my tongue.

Oh, maybe I’m too harsh. Most of the meads have some very pleasant and subtle flavors, but they’re so subtle and subdued, they’re like trying to caress a lover through a wool-lined snow suit. And none of the commercial meads I’ve tasted have any balance whatsoever. There was nothing in the experience to balance the inherent floral sweetness of the honey. That’s fine if you’re twelve[1] or if you like to have a Coke with your breakfast. But can we have some adult mead, please?

There is an amazing amount of flavorful potential in using honey as a fermentable sugar. And instead, it is being squandered and mitigated down to nothingness by these horrible tasteless offerings.

I know somebody is going to come along and say something like, “Did you try any hopped mead? That stuff is legit!” I have not tried every type of mead ever, or by every brewer ever. But yes, I’ve tried hopped mead; there was no hoppiness to it, and no bitter undertones to balance the sweetness. I think they must have only placed the hops near the mead rather than actually using it while making the mead. And yes, I’ve tried bochet; it was slightly caramelish, but the caramel notes were very light and it had none of the deep burnt flavors it should have had. I’ve tried braggot, show mead, T’ej, spiced mead (metheglin), fruit mead (melomel), even that horrible “traditional viking mead” which was one of the worst specimens of mead I’ve ever encountered.

Mead should be bursting with flavor. Mead should be full-bodied and dripping with lustiness, if not actual lust. Mead should fill your entire mouth and leave you short of breath and a bit flustered. Mead should be good.

So what’s the problem? Why, oh why, is every meadery out there turning out lightly flavored soda mead? What is wrong with the entire mead-making world?

When I started brewing mead, I had no idea what I was doing. I had never even tasted mead before. I had been making this honey-based probiotic drink that I picked up from my friends and family on the other side of the planet. Extending that to a full fermentation was just like water flowing downhill.

My first mead recipe was a JAOM. That’s Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead, or something along those lines, and it’s rather infamous in the mead homebrewing community. It’s easy to put together and hard to screw up. It’s also spiced out the wazoo. My first attempts were not bad, but not good either. My poor friends and family suffered through it mostly gracefully.

I experimented for 2 years, brewing somewhere around 30 small batches, to find good full flavor profiles. I was looking for an end result that smelled good, tasted good and left an aftertaste that begged for more. I am proud of what I brew now; I’m still an amatuer, making mistakes and messing things up, but I’m constantly improving and my meads now are deep and complex.

I finally decided I should really taste commercial mead to find out what mead is supposed to taste like. I was curious and excited to see how other brewmasters had developed the flavors. There are so many possibilities with mead. What I found was terribly disappointing.

Footnotes

1. I’m not suggesting or condoning serving alcohol to minors. You sweet-tooth monkeys know who you are, addicted to your sweet-tea and your Pineapple Austin Eastcider.

Mountain Cedar 170212: Summary

Id 170212
Type Still Metheglin
Start Date 12 Feb 2017
Original Gravity 1.10
Yeast Mangrove Jack’s Mead M05
Ingredients wildflower honey, orange juice & peel, cardamom seed, mountain cedar berries, raisins
Rack Date 25 Feb 2017
Additions honey-water mix
Bottle Date 28 May 2017
Final Gravity 1.00
Alcohol by Volume 13.56%
Taste Notes Potpourri
Full Log Mountain Cedar 170212

Mountain Cedar 170212: Bottling

I bottled this Mountain Cedar Berry Metheglin along with the Dandelion Metheglin that I started at the same time.

I got a little over 4 bottles. The extra I drank.  It tastes like potpourri.  That’s how the last batch of this tasted at bottle time back in 2014 as well, but when I opened it this year it was wonderful.  I’m wondering if lessening the amount of berries I use in it would make it drinkable sooner.

The final gravity on this guy was right at 1.00, giving me a nice dry mead with an alcohol level of 13.56%.

I had picked up a bunch of solid first grade corks to try out. So I used one of them on this batch. During the corking the top of the cork deformed enough to break off in a ring.  That was a bit unexpected.  It looks like I’ll need to upgrade my corker in order to use these higher quality corks.

20170527_132150-x.jpg

Dandelion 170212: Summary

Id 170212
Type Still Metheglin
Start Date 12 Feb 2017
Original Gravity 1.11
Yeast Mangrove Jack’s Mead M05
Ingredients wildflower honey, dandelion petals, orange juice & peel, lemon juice & peel, raisins
Rack Date 25 Feb 2017
Additions honey-water mix
Bottle Date 28 May 2017
Final Gravity 1.01
Alcohol by Volume 13.56%
Taste Notes mild, floral, slight wheat
Full Log Dandelion 170212

Dandelion 170212: Bottling

I was on kid duty while I was trying to bottle this Dandelion mead up, along with the Mountain Cedar I had started at the same time.  It should have taken me a little under an hour start to finish.  But the boys were having an especially high-energy day.  More high-energy than normal, I mean.  So three hours later, I was still working on it.

I racked into a fresh carboy just to get it away from all the sediment that had clarified out of the wine.  I (eventually) got four bottles out of the carboy and about half a pint glass more.  I passed the glass around to some friends who were nearby.  They finished it off for me, because what are friends for.  The taste is very mild, floral and sweet.  It had a hint of grain, which should age out in a few months, but was very drinkable immediately.

I got a final gravity of 1.01, which I would call a semi-sweet.  That puts the alcohol by volume at about 13.56%.

Bochet 170422: Racking to Clarify

This yeast is really slow.  It’s still making me nervous.  I heard that Mangrove Jack’s has a yeast called French Saison which is almost identical to the Belgian yeast I had been using, so maybe I’ll try that out next.

At any rate, I racked this off the first round of lees this past weekend. It was still bubbling slowly.  So I’ll let it age a bit then check on it again.