The Beginnings Of A Beer-Like Mead Recipe


A quick list

Writing about the “beer mead” vs “wine mead” divide made me reconsider how I make my own mead. All my meads have been squarely in the wine-mead category, and it got me thinking about making my first beer-like mead. What would such a mead be like? How would I make it? To answer that, I made a list of all the things that came to mind when I thought about homebrewed beer:

malt
hops
specialty grains
low alcohol (compared to wine)
residual sweetness
boiling
irish moss
gypsum

A little more detail

Malt has got to be the number one defining ingredient for beer, but I’m not going to use it. There are fermented beverages made from malt and honey, called braggots, but that’s not really what I’m setting out to do. I want the approach to be reminiscent of beer, and the result to be “beer-esque.” Still, I’m making a 100% honey mead, so no malt.

Hops have become ubiquitous in beer, but this was not always so. A host of other herbs provided bitterness (heather, nettle, sage to name a few), flavoring (juniper, oregano, and more), and aroma (rosemary, lavender, …). I’m not sure I want a bitter mead, but I may use hops, sparingly, for flavor and aroma. I haven’t decided yet, and since hop flavor is usually extracted by boiling, it probably depends on my decision to boil.

I like the idea of using specialty grains like crystal malt, which is said to add sweetness, body, and aid in head retention. I want to avoid having to mash any grain, which is a seperate step that converts starches to sugars, so that limits my choices to: black patent malt, chocolate malt, crystal malt, and roasted barley.

A specific gravity of 1.075, 10% potential alcohol, would be low for wine and high for beer. I haven’t decided on a final target yet, but it’ll be around 1.075.

Maybe the crystal malt will add enough sweetness for my beer-like mead, or maybe I’ll have to stabilize and sweeten. I’ll probably wait until I know the final SG before I decide to sweeten the mead.

Boiling is necessary in homebrewing to extract bitterness and, to a lesser extent, flavor from hops. Since I don’t plan on making a bitter mead, the only reason I might need to boil is flavor extraction from hops. If I do boil, it’ll be for about ten minutes, not the hour or so that’s common in homebrewing. I’ve already made the case that such a short boil will not harm the mead, and it might lend a homebrewing feel to the process.

If I do boil, I’ll throw in some irish moss. It’s a clarifying agent, common in homebrewing, that’s added to the boil in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

I really don’t know what gypsum is supposed to do. It’s on the list because it’s in so many beer (and some mead) recipes. I’ll try to find out more about it before I finalize the recipe.

A recipe begins to take shape

So that narrows things down a little. I’ll be making a 100% honey mead with a starting SG around 1.075. I’ll use crystal malt, and maybe other specialty grains. I might boil, and I might use hops for flavor and/or aroma. If I do use hops, it’ll be at lower concentrations than with typical beers. If I boil, I’ll use irish moss. I haven’t decided on sweetening, and I’ll try to learn more about gypsum.

Update 6/15/2007 I’ve filled in this outline to make a beer-like mead recipe.

Update 10/28/2008 Some time after I made the case that a short boil does no harm, I concluded an experiment to test the effects of boiling on mead. After a carefully arranged double blind tasting, the results are in! Boiling does indeed weaken the aroma of mead, but may improve the body and smooth out the flavor.



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8 thoughts on “The Beginnings Of A Beer-Like Mead Recipe

  1. Pingback: Washington Winemaker » Blog Archive » Fleshing Out A Beer-Like Mead Recipe

  2. Erroll Post author

    Sean,

    I got as far as a list of ingredients for my beer-like mead, but I haven’t made it.

    I just moved! Selling my house and moving turned out to be really taxing, and that means I couldn’t do everything I wanted to. I did learn some things about moving carboys, though. It looks like I’ll be moving again in the next year, so it may be a while before I get to it. Did you want to give it a go? I really want to make it myself, but if I can’t do that right away, I’d love to hear about somebody else’s effort.

    Erroll

  3. Dean

    I made a hopped mead a couple weeks ago. Sorry I’m not very scientific in my approach to making mead, so I don’t have any specs like original gravity. But to explain my methods, I boiled my hops, just like for a comparable batch of beer, 1 oz bittering for 50 minutes and ½ oz. aroma for 10 minutes (both home-grown Cascade) then turned the fire off and stirred in 15 lbs of honey (Ft Valley VA wildflower) so whereas the hops were boiled the honey was not. Other adjuncts include a couple oz. of fresh ginger and the juice of a few oranges. I fined it with a ½ tsp of Irish moss. Looks beautiful and smells wonderful, currently still bub-bub-bubbling away in primary!

  4. Erroll Post author

    Hi Dean,

    I’ve wondered about boiling the hops in water, then adding honey. I hope you come back when it’s finished and let me know how it turned out.

    Erroll

  5. Steve

    Erroll,

    Thanks so much for this, I have been scouring for non-wine-like experimentations with mead. I hope to be trying this in the next week or two, and will report back everything I do, what I start with, finish at, and final product.
    I was wondering about temperature though, using the ale yeast, should I treat it as an ale or are the properties more akin to lager or pilsner? Thanks again!

    Steve

  6. Erroll Post author

    Hi Steve,

    If you’ve got an ale yeast, then I would treat it like an ale. If you have the yeast (and the equipment) to make lager, then you could go that rout too. Good luck, and come on back to let us know how it went!

    Erroll

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