Making More Mead – Bottling Day

After our initial success with Pirate Pancake Syrup Brian and I realized that we are naturally gifted mazers and decided we needed to make 42 more batches immediately.  This revelation came to us last fall so we set to work getting batches in carboys until my closets were full of sweet honey water.  Since we’d already mastered basic mead we decided to get adventurous and make an acerglyn (mead made with honey and maple); a blueberry, lavender and vanilla melomel (mead with fruit); another batch of Pirate Pancake Syrup; and a variant of PPS we dubbed Sailor’s Warning which we made with blood oranges.

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor's Warning

Blueberry Berserker and Sailor’s Warning

We allowed the meads to age for several months before doing anything with them, once they had cleared nicely we transferred them into a secondary to remove some trub and help us get a clearer product into out bottles.  On our first bottling of PPS we got things stirred up a bit and had some sediment in the bottom of a few bottles, this hasn’t effected the mead yet but over time it can be undesirable.  Last weekend (after about 8 months aging) we sampled the meads and decided our blueberry mead, Blueberry Berserker, and Sailor’s Warning were ready to bottle.

Sailor's Warning just before bottling

Sailor’s Warning just before bottling

Sailor's Warning mead all bottled up

Sailor’s Warning mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

Blueberry Berserker mead all bottled up

We chose to put these in wine bottles and cork them as the color and clarity is fantastic and brown bottles just don’t do them justice.  Blueberry Berserker is deep violet and bursting with blueberry with nice vanilla notes and a hint of lavender.  Sailor’s Warning is clear and golden, surprisingly lacking the red tint we expected from the blood oranges however the oranges were not as red as I’ve had them before, we’ll have to make another batch to perfect this one.  This one is very sweet with a lot of citrus and spice, especially cinnamon.  It’s very nice but is best in very small servings such as a cordial.  We’ll likely try a different yeast next time to see if we can dry it out a bit more.

Overall we’ve been very happy with our meads and can’t wait to make some more.

A nice pour of Sailor's Warning

A nice pour of Sailor’s Warning

 

 

Racking, tasting and testing.

We’re feeling some withdraws over here at tMHBC.  We haven’t actually brewed in about a month now and it’s starting to stress us out.  We’ve had plenty of other stuff to keep us busy but as of this weekend our beer pipeline is running dry.  We do have some meads fermenting, but we’re still a few months away on all of those.  We need to brew soon before Brian does something crazy… er.

The lack of actual brewing sure doesn’t mean we’ve not been busy.  Last weekend we bottled our Kiwi Kaleidoscope IIPA (which we’re pretty sure is going to be awful) and this weekend we racked over 5 gallons of our Pirate Pancake Syrup mead to secondary so it can start clearing up.  This was started on 09/28 so we’re just short of 3 months into fermentation.   The samples from this were excellent, I think this is going to be a fantastic mead.  We’re also planning another batch of this using blood oranges that we’ve dubbed Sailor’s Warning, I’m really starting to enjoy meads.

5 gallons of delicious Pirate Pancake Syrup

5 gallons of delicious Pirate Pancake Syrup

We sampled some of our Nutstalgia – Coconut this weekend and it was pretty good.  The aroma is awesome, roasty and nutty with a nice coconut fragrance, and the taste is much the same but nothing “amazing”…  just decent.  So far we’ve sampled the plain, black cardamom and coconut versions of this and my favorite has been the plain brown ale.  It’s a very solid, above average brown ale in my opinion.

Nutstalgia Coconut Brown Ale

Nutstalgia Coconut Brown Ale

Other weekend bottling of a Brickwarmer Holiday Red Ale, a kit brew from Northern Brewer that was done for a friend’s wife as a gift to him for Christmas, and testing out our fermentation chamber to see if it can successfully hold high temps for brewing Belgians.  So far it’s been holding a 5-gallon carboy of water at 90°F for 3 days so looks like we should be good.  I imagine the chamber is sealed well enough that once it’s up to temp it doesn’t have to work that hard to hold it there.  Provided temps continue to hold well we’ll brew a saison after the first of the year, I’m still researching and formulating the recipe right now.  I think we’ll slide in one more brew day after Christmas and before the saison.  Brian’s been researching some sessionable IPA’s and we’ll likely brew that and our Sailor’s Warning this weekend.

I hope everyone reading this has a very Merry Christmas and an awesomely prosperous and Happy New Year!

Sima – Finnish quick Spring mead

A couple weeks ago someone posted on a homebrewing forum about a recipe from 1900 for a quick “mead”.  Of course one of the awesome things about internet discussions is that someone is likely to know details about any subject out there and I quickly discovered the recipe was for Sima (see-mah), a Finnish quick mead traditionally brewed to be enjoyed during the Vappu festival celebrating the start of Spring.  It’s popular to serve sima with funnel cakes however we didn’t have any funnel cakes so we improvised and served us with churros from Little Caesar’s.  Dee-lish.

Traditional sima and Little Caesar's churros

Traditional sima and Little Caesar’s churros

As expected there are variety of recipes out there for sima however all of them include sugar, brown sugar, lemon and raisins.  A few include the addition of honey, molasses or dark corn syrup and the recipe that I used was the only one that I found that contained hops.   I took the original recipe and tweaked it to make a one gallon batch and got to brewing.

Sima – Finnish quick mead
Instructions for a 1 gallon batch

INGREDIENTS

  • ⅔ gallon water plus additional to top off
  • ⅓ lb honey
  • ⅓ lb brown sugar
  • ⅓ lemon
  • 4 grams hops (we used East Kent Goldings)
  • ⅛ tsp yeast
  • 2-3 raisins per bottle at bottling time
  • 1/4 tsp sugar per bottle at bottling time

DIRECTIONS

  1. Dissolve the brown sugar and honey in boiling water.
  2. Peel the lemon and carefully remove the white from the peel.  Slice the lemon and remove the pips.
  3. Pour the boiling water over the lemon peel, lemon slices and the hops.
  4. Top up the jug to 1 gallon with clean, cool water.
  5. After the mixture has cooled, dissolve the yeast in tepid water and add to the mixture
  6. The mead is then left to ferment.
  7. The following day, strain the mead and draw the mead off into bottles.
  8. Add a couple of raisins and some sugar to each bottle and then cork the bottles carefully.
  9. Store the bottles in room temperature for 6 hours then store in a cool place.
  10. After one week the mead is ready.

A few notes on my preparation.  Many recipes used just lemon slices without the need to peel and remove the seeds, if I was doing this again I’d probably go that route.  Filtering this was a bit of a pain.  I tried using a coffee filter and that clogged so I tried paper towel and that clogged.  Eventually I used the filter that came with my funnel however it allowed some of the hop residue through.  Meh, no big deal.  I’ve read on some other sites that sima will produce about 0.5% ABV per day that it ferments, however it doesn’t taste very good if you let it ferment more than about 10 days.  If brewed and bottled as instructed above it is suitable for children due to the super low ABV, should be <0.5%.  Sima won’t keep very long but make sure that it stays in the fridge to store it, if it heats to room temp the fermentation will start up again.

And the taste… I got a lot of brown sugar followed by honey and lemon with a touch of hoppiness.  It’s lightly effervescent and extremely refreshing.  I thought it tasted good, and would definitely make/drink it again.  Brian thought it was great and is ready to brew another batch, of course he wants to let this batch go a bit longer and up the ABV.

This was a fun experiment and produced good results.  It’s super easy and would be a cool project to do with your kids.  When you serve it don’t forget the churros.

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We Made More Mead!

Due to the overwhelming popularity of our Pirate Pancake Syrup we decided to make some more mead this weekend.  I hate to admit it but I think PPS was probably the best thing we’ve made so far, that was some good mead.  It was also very “Limited Edition” since we only made 1 gallon.  So we’re hoarding it like crazy, we gotta stretch these few bottles out at least 4 months until the next batch is done.  I’m not making any promises that’s going to happen.

We also decided to whip up a 1 gallon batch of Acerglyn, a honey-maple mead.  We don’t know what the hell we’re doing here, but that’s never stopped us before, so we used 44 oz of honey, 12 oz of Maple sizzurp and a vanilla bean and pitched some wine yeast on it.  Further reading on the subject of mead making shows a lot of people add some acid blend to their meads to help balance the mead and give it crispness or tannins to increase body.   I’m going to leave this one as is and see what we get out of it.

In Goes the Honey

In goes the honey…

Pirate Pancake Syrup V2 and Acerglyn

Pirate Pancake Syrup V2 and Acerglyn

Don’t worry though, we haven’t abandoned beer!  We also brewed a batch of a top secret pale ale we’re calling Codename: Ohio, we’ll share more info on that one later.  Our fresh hop Simcoe IPA is coming along nicely as well and I just added 4 oz of hops to the carboy to dry hop for 5 days.  That bad boy will go in bottles or a keg this weekend.  MMmmm… hops.

This beer totally got Simcoed.

This beer totally got Simcoed.

Our first mead… Pirate Pancake Syrup

Way back in May Brian and I took the plunge and made our first batch of mead.

I’d tried a few meads in the past and hadn’t been very impressed with what I’d tried so I wasn’t necessarily excited to try this out however Brian brought all the goods with him to tMHBC and I do like making alcoholic beverages so I was game.  We brewed it and stuck it in a closet then we’d peek in on it every few weeks to see how it was coming along.  Our recipe was based off Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead, a popular first mead from HomeBrewTalk.com.  Now we’re never been known to make anything as is, cause we’re rebellious like that, so we did make a few changes along the way.

We totally made this mead.

We totally made this mead.

This Saturday we bottled it up and made some piraty labels for it.  We even charred the edges of the labels to give it an old ragged map look.  Since we only set the smoke detector off once the process was an overall success and we liked the results.  After bottling we immediately tossed one in the freezer to try and about an hour later popped it open.  Hoe. Lee. Sheet.  I was shocked by how good it was.  Sweet honey and orange with just enough spices to add to the character.  Without a doubt the best mead I’ve ever had and, it pains me to say this, probably the best thing we’ve brewed so far. (Please don’t tell our Mostly Mosaic pale ale that I said that.)

There will definitely be another batch of Pirate Pancake Syrup in our future.  This is the first brew we’ve done where I can say there’s nothing at all I’d change about the recipe.  The major bummer here is that we only got eight 375ml bottles out of this batch.  The shortage of bottles brought out our greedy side and we immediately felt the need to dig a hole and bury this treasure so none of our freeloadin’ friends and neighbors would want to try it.  We’re normally generous with our brews but not this time, screw you guys, this is our mead.

A little bottle of gold.

A little bottle of gold.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

 

A triple brew day and more lessons learned.

This Friday we had another brew day here at tMHBC.  We’d planned to do two brews – a Lemon Wine and an Imperial Stout.  On the way to the “brewery” Brian called me to ask if I had cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.  I’ve learned not to ask why so, I just told him I did and left it and that, I figured I’d discover what kind of craziness he was up to soon enough.  It was a nice day for a brew and we had a couple of friends join us as well for some cigars and sharing of some craft brews.  We’re living the dream over here, folks.

Brian showed up and started plopping jars of honey, citrus fruits and raisins on my counter and busted out a little Fleischmann’s action to boot.  While diving into the recesses of the interwebz, he’d stumbled on a recipe for Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead and decided to try it out.  It’s a very, very simple recipe that is said to produce a very good mead.  It’s drinkable after a couple months and supposed to be excellent at about 6-7 months.  Starting it now should have this ready for us at the holidays.  We’ll keep you posted.

Joe's Ancient Orange Mead

Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead

Next up for the day was some Horse Pop.  “WTF is Horse Pop?”, you ask. (Some of you likely know the reference already, for the others… enjoy. PS – NSFW) Horse Pop is our version of Skeeter Pee lemon wine.  While I love the concept of Skeeter Pee I really hate that name.  I wanted a classy name, one you’d be proud to serve to your pastor or take to the yacht club.  “Pardon me, but might I top off your Horse Pop, good fellow?”  “Oh yes, it’s quite delightful… merci.”  It’s going to be awesome.

So after fighting with Brian about adding malt or hops or berries or whothehellknowswhat to the recipe we finally made “by the book” Skeeter Pee.  This is a quick fermenting wine and should be ready to bottle in about a month, just as the heat of summer hits us hard here in Atlanta.  I hear it’s a very sneaky drink and comes in at 10% but drinks like Kool Aid, easy to get out of control if you’re not careful.  Fermentation can be tough to get going with lemon-based beverages but I made a yeast starter and it started up nicely not long after pitching.  I look forward to bottling this one and getting stupid on it.

Horse Pop.  Some assembly required.

Horse Pop. Some assembly required.

The final brew for the day was V1.0 of our Signature Stout.  Brian and I both love a good stout so we decided this is the first style we want to perfect.  We’ve come up with a recipe that puts us in the right range of where we want to be with ABV and bitterness and using some malts we know we love.  This sucker has 18 1/2 lbs of malts in a 4 gallon batch.

This one, of course, is a bit more involved than the mead or the lemon wine.  We have to watch mash and sparge temps and time hop additions, etc.  We followed the recipe to the “T” and we’re dumbfounded when we missed our OG by 0.020.  A HUGE number to be off, and we know we followed the process dead on.  BUT… one thing we missed was how much wort got stuck in the deadspace of our mash tun.  The answer is “a lot”.  That much grain held a lot of water and we should have given it longer to  drain, we also need to upgrade the MLT drain hose as it’s quite possible even with the supports that amount of grain and water restricted our flow.  We didn’t notice how much was trapped right away but the next day, while cleaning it out, there was a lot of liquid that had settled.  A lot of delicious, sugary gravity that we missed out on.  Lesson learned.

The stout still looks very good and the wort tasted great.  Hopefully we’ll get a nice brew out of it but we’ll have to go back to the drawing board to get a perfect and reproducible recipe for our stout.

Black Gold, Texas Tea, Imperial Stout

Black Gold, Texas Tea, Imperial Stout