Meadmaking Day: Mittelfrüh Metheglin

This mead is a shot in the dark: I screwed up when measuring the water for my pomegranate mead, and realized too late that I wouldn’t be able to add the pomegranate juice. So I scooped out a liter of the must (as we call the honey water before it is fermented) and froze it, adding more honey to the (now-smaller) must destined for the pomegranate mead.

Then I wondered what to do with all that honey-water. Turned out it was about a half-kilo worth of honey, so I figured I could make something with it. 500 grams of honey is close to half of what you need for three liters of sweetish mead, or of strong mead if it’s attenuated more highly. (And a 3L jug is the small fermenter I happen to have free right now.)

I got to thinking about other things I could try with stuff I have on hand, which led me to a hopped mead. Now, in this case, hops are a spice, and metheglin is what we call a spiced mead. Since the lowest-AAU hop I have is Hallertau Mittelfrüh, I figured I’d pop a mere five grams in and boil some honey — that is, what I froze, and need to re-pasteurize — for about fifteen minutes. That should get some flavor and some aroma, but not a lot of bitterness.

I’m saving some of the remaining ounce of the Hallertau Mittelfrüh hop pellets to “dry hop” the mead when fermentation has completed.

The starting gravity will be just a tiny bit more than 1.100, and if it attenuates all the way down to 0.998, then the ABV will be approximately 13.5%. That’s lower than I’ve made any dry mead so far since the JAO mead I made (my first mead ever, last may), but I hope it shortens the amount of time needed for conditioning. I tried a bit of my bokbunja melomel, and discovered that, more than anything, this mead needs to be cleared and bulk aged a little more in a new keg. It’s still tannic, bitter, and so on. I probably put too much of the bokbunja berries, but there’s nothing I can do now except wait for the mead to heal from my presumptuousness. Meanwhile, I rather hope the hoppy mead will be drinkable sooner, maybe around December or January. But I’ll only be getting a few bottles from it… this is a mere 3L batch.

UDPATE (9 Sept. 2011): I ended up falling asleep while this was chilling on the stove, though thank goodness I’d already added all the honey to the hot water, and boiled the 5 grams of Hallertau Mittelfrüh in the water for about 10 for 15 minutes. This was about 1.5L of water, so I went ahead this morning and boiled up about another 1.5L of water with the same hops, to top up the jug.

I didn’t take a gravity sample, but I did pour a little bit into a sample cup and have a sip, letting Miss Jiwaku try it too — she immediately claimed the batch hers, all hers. Which is to say, the slight addition of hop flavor (and the tiny hint of bitterness) really did meld nicely with the sweet honey. How that will taste when all the sweetness is gone, I don’t know, but it really did seem like a mildly spiced nectar of the gods when we tried it.

Decided to go with Belgian yeast — specifically Trappist High Gravity yeast, Wyeast 3787 — to see how an ale yeast performs in a nutrient-added mead. I have a nice big yeast cake from the BPA I made saved up, and since that was a very hoppy beer it might also impart some fruity hop flavors to the mead… which I won’t really mind.

This looks like it’ll be a nice one, if I can get it attenuated to the right level. The good thing about this yeast is that incremental feedings are okay; the bad thing about this must is that it’s lacking in the nutrients that would help the yeast get by… so I’m going with stepped feedings of nutrients.

UPDATE (12 Sept 2011): So this mead is bubbling away too. All the meads took about 36-48 hours to start, but this one started quicker, since I poured some of a yeast cake into it. It also produced a much scummier krausen than the others. But it’s keeping pace and should finish alongside the others… whenever that happens!

UPDATE (14 Nov. 2011): Just racked this mead into secondary, and wow, is it a flavorful one! There’s still a degree of honey sweetness, as well as a bright honey aroma. The hops didn’t come out much in the nose, but their spiciness is evident in the flavor. I think a slightly longer boil (20 min?) might have brought out that flavor even more, without too much bitterness. But the residual sweetness is such that even with a little more hop bitterness, I think the mead would have been balanced.

I imagine a more aggressive hop flavor would be great in a mead like this — I can certainly imagine someone doing something pretty cool with Citra, Sorachi Ace, or even good old Cascade. In fact, if I had Citra leaf hops on hand, I’d absolutely be considering a 2 or even a 5 gallon batch of the stuff. However, all I have is 3 liters… and Miss Jiwaku still claims it hers, all hers. (We’ll see about that.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *