Melomel, or Hot Pepper Pilsner? Why Not Both?

So, I just finished racking my chocolate stout over a good 3.5 kilos of bing cherries in syrup and about 2/3rds of a bottle of cacao liqueur, plus some dried cocoa powder. It’s going to start fermenting again, which is going to be interesting since the carboy is almost full. I need to check the blowoff tube every few hours once the fermentation restarts, because if enough cherry bits get into the tube to block it, then the carboy could explode and even if it didn’t kill me, it’d mean a humungous mess.

Anyway, no worries to be had — I will be checking throughout the fermentation, and I will be racking it to the other carboy to clear, probably sometime a week or two from now. In the meantime, I’m going to get some stoppers for pair of little 4-liter wine bottles I hauled home from a party last semester, and try fermenting myself some “melomel.”

For those who don’t know, melomel is basically just mead sweetened with berries of some kind. There are all kinds of fruit-sweetened mead, but the one I want to try making is very Korean: acacia honey with wild raspberry juice, fermented over a few weeks and then left to condition for six months or so. This is going to be a testy batch, just to see what the process is like, so I’m going to just make 8 liters. It will be still mead, not bubbly, because when making sparkling mead, one must either use pressure carbonation (which I can do later, when I have kegs and gear) or champagne bottles that can withstand the crazy pressures that apparently can build up when unfermented sugars in the original must (which is what meadmakers call the stuff thatv homebrewers call wort — the stuff that is being fermented into the beverage of choice) somehow accidentally get kicked into fermenting in the bottle.

Anyway, I’ll probably have some time this week, because it’s midterm exams and my students are busy writing up the essays they’re supposed to hand in to me next week, or the week after, and zombifying themselves. (Study styles in Korea seem to converge on the cramming-at-last-minute type, overall, which means it’s pointless having more than cursory class meetings during exam weeks. Students turn into zombies for the week anyway, when they attend classes at all.)

I was also thinking of hitting Fukuoka for a couple of days this weekend, just for the heck of it. Probably won’t, since I may have plans this Thursday night — depends on my friend Nick — but it’s a cheap run and it’d be nice to try a few craft brews over there. Also, I just discovered that while my short stories ARE being counted towards the points system that every prof is tracked on, they DON’T count towards renewals and promotions. So I’ll be revising one essay, and outlining the necessary research on a couple more, this week. Plus adding a bit to my paper on the Singularity and posting it out. And then catching up on grading.

I figure, though, while I’m going all that, brewing up a nice batch of pilsner from a kit — the last kit on my shelf — should fall within the realm of possibility, and if I can do that, then I can probably also manage to do the mead as well. That’ll make it three batches of good stuff bubbling away in my makeshift brewer’s closet.

As for the hot pepper pilsner, I’m thinking of going with some lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves in the end of the boil, and then a couple of very hot Italian chiles crushed and added to the secondary (along with maybe some more dried lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, depending on how pronounced the flasvor is by then and how pronounced I want it to be. I may also crush some Balinese long pepper and add it… we’ll see how much balancing the Italian hot peppers need. I’ll only be adding a couple at a time, slowly, and sampling the beer daily till I have something a bit stronger than I want. Then, straight into the bottles (or, by then, maybe it’ll be a keg?) goes it all.

Which reminds me: I’ll be needing to get my hands on a nice strong screwdriver for a couple of days, when it comes time to build a kegerator. That’s a weekend sometime in May, I think. Anyone got one I could borrow?

Back to the beer… when I go to all-grain, I’m thinking I’ll try at least to do one single “standard” version of a beer before trying something wacky, but when I’m brewing with kits, it seems almost too easy not to spice things up a bit. That said, I have a bunch of neat stuff I’m eager to try, like some tins of jackfruit and the idea of picking up some persimmons this fall for persimmon ale. (I want to get the really soft, mushy, overripe ones, and add a bunch to a lightly hopped pale ale or a wit, as I suspect the flavor will be wonderful. Better make that one a double batch.) Also, Strawberry Wheat is a recipe I’m considering seriously, since Miss Gula has expressed some strong interest in it. And of course there’s a double batch of oatmeal cookie stout waiting to get made, and more exotic fare still off somewhere on my mental horizon. I haven’t given up on my plans to make a nice all-Brettanomyces beer, but I think I’ll need another space to work in if I really want to do that — even if it is just a temperature-regulated fridge in the attic, or the basement of this building.

Anyway, big things happening. I think this week I’ll try order some kegs and related equipment. But I’ll still be bottling my Gula-Gula IPA tomorrow, I guess. It’s been dry-hopped enough and need to get into conditioning now.

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