Summer Champagne Mead

The first mead I brewed came from the wonderful book Microbrewed Adventures, adjusted to make one gallon. It’s a light, dry, quick mead, the complete opposite of the heavy Polish meads I was accustomed to, perfect for summer. First, the recipe, as I threw it together:

  • 1.5 lbs. Light honey
  • 3 oz. Fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 oz. Bitter orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp. Gypsum
  • 1/4 tsp. Citric acid
  • pinch of Irish moss
  • 1 package of Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup priming sugar

After you’ve done the usual sanitation, start the yeast in a clean container with a little priming sugar in warm (not hot) water and cover. Next, put ~12 cups of water in a big pot and start to bring to a boil. Boil another quart of water on the side, to sanitize, and let cool. Add everything but the yeast and priming sugar and boil for 10 minutes. Be sure to watch it carefully – it has a tendency to boil over when you’re least expecting it, and molten honey is no fun to clean up.

After the 10 minute boil, place the pot in cold water, like a nearby sink filled with water and ice. Leave it sitting, covered, for half an hour. Make sure it’s no longer hot (try for 70 degrees), then strain out the ginger root and pitch the yeast (throw it into your brew). By this time your yeast should have a nice head and smell like bread. If not, it’s probably dead, so start another package and wait. Transfer everything into your primary fermenter, top off to one gallon with your extra sanitized water, and keep at room temperature. Within a day the airlock should be pumping away. Now, we wait.

After all visible fermentation has ceased and the mead is nice and clear, you’ll want to transfer it to a secondary fermenter by siphoning it in. Try not to get any of the dead yeast at the bottom. In my batch, I left it in primary for 2 months, but this can be shortened, and 2 additional months in secondary fermentation. Afterwards, mix in the priming sugar and bottle as you see fit, using swingtops, old wine bottles, or beer bottles and a capper.

If you taste it at this stage, it will resemble a hard cider, but will be quite nice after a month of aging, like a dry, clean white wine. This is where mine stands, in early July, and since it’s a quick mead, it should be in perfect shape for St. Bartholomew’s day. I’ll continue updating as the flavors mature and it comes of age.

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