One of my favorite things about the Renaissance Festival (apart from dressing up), is that you are given the opportunity to drink during the day. It’s like a walking brunch with fair food. Grab yourself a glass of wine or beer or something when you walk in the gates, and enjoy yourself. And one of the things that I discovered when I went as an adult was that in addition to wine (which felt too fancy) or beer (which I didn’t really drink at the time), was mead. Mead is fermented honey water – it’s sweet, but it will still get you tipsy. It’s strong, but it’s good stuff. The picture above is me tasting the mead at the Renn Faire back in 2010. That’s right – it’s a throw back Tuesday up in here.
So, the first year that the Boy and I attended Renn Fest together, we visited his favorite vendor, which is the Bee Folks. Their shop has a hive outside of it, and inside they sell many different kinds of honey in “flavors” like blueberry, cotton, almond and orange blossom. It’s good stuff. They also sell little honey sticks for snacks (or for your tea), lotions, lip balms (which is what I stock up on each year), and creams. And one of the things that they don’t make themselves but that they sell is a short mead kit (which is put together by a group called Ambrosia Farm) – this is a packet of spices, and basic items necessary to make mead, and along with 2 pounds of honey (which you can buy from them), and then buy some spring water and go home and make mead for yourself. I bought a kit (the Spice kit), and took it home, and did not use it for a full year (recommend use time: within 6 months. Whoops.) But when I did finally make it, it was awesome.
And so this past year when we went back, I bought another kit (Blackberry this time!), and decided I would actually make it within the recommended time, and before the holidays, because it’s a holiday kind of thing. I did mine in early November with the plan to be prepared for Thanksgiving and those events, but I could see it being a wonderful thing to brew before Halloween, or Christmas, or Easter. So – let’s get started. First things first – warming both the spring water and honey in a warm bath.
Next step is creating a “tea” from the spices that will give our mead flavor.
Once the tea is steeped, you pour it into the spring water jug, and then add your honey. Be careful you don’t drip!
And then you get to put the lid back on the jug and shake it! The Boy loved taking this photo. I got a bit of an arm workout.
Add your yeast, and put the muslin on the lid, and then tuck your jug in a dark warm (not hot! not cold!) place. This is under our range.
Now it’s time to prep the bottles. I love the flip-top ones, and I found mine at Aldi…housing sparkling pink lemonade. Just make sure that you clean them properly, and wash them out with hot water. Removing the labels is your option, but I think it looks nicer when the bottles are clear. The recipe says you’ll make 4-750 ml sized bottles. So make sure you drink enough lemonade at least a couple days before your do your bottling! 😉
This is straining the mead. The main problem is that I don’t own any cheesecloth (reminder to self: buy some before the next time I make mead), and I’m too impatient to do a second straining. Doing paper towels on top of a fine mesh colander sort of worked…but it still let through a lot of crud. Strain twice, and find cheesecloth for yourself!
Find a funnel. Make sure it fits in the neck of the bottles you’ll be using. This one does…but just barely. I think I need a slightly smaller one.
Finally, clip and cool! These look a little thick because there’s sediment swimming around, but when it’s in the fridge, it eventually falls to the bottom, and you get a fairly clear-looking liquid. Reading the FAQs on the Ambrosia farms website tells me that I probably need to burp (that is, open, and then close) the bottles at least once a week – something I was not doing, and perhaps explains why they tend to get a little explode-y. The FAQs also say that the flavor “lasts great for 4-6 weeks”…but I’ve found that it gets better as it gets a little older. Not super old, but with more character and a little more fizz if it’s left to sit under pressured a while longer. It’s a great beverage to bring to a party, and I can pretty much guarantee that other people won’t be bringing it.
If you’re interested in brewing your own mead and you’re a beginner, I would recommend one of the Ambrosia Farms short mead kits, which are sold at the links below (the kits with honey have a discount applied to all the ingredients). If you’re more advanced, or have done beer homebrewing and are prepared for larger quantities, Lifehacker recently linked to a video which is more complicated and involves more chemicals. So many options for your homemade honey wine! If you’ve got questions about the process…I’m a beginner, but I’ll do my best – there’s always room for improvement and to learn from one another.
So – anyone else ever made mead, or some other homemade booze? I know at least one person who reads this who does – and brought me some of her mead. 😉