Fleshing Out A Beer-Like Mead Recipe

I’ve done some thinking and some research on my beer-like mead recipe. I decided to use just one specialty grain, crystal malt. Since I’m counting on it to do a lot of heavy lifting, I wanted to use a high concentration – still within the range that you’d see in a beer, but at the high end of that range.

No bittering hops probably means I’ll need to add acid, and that bugs me a little. I’m afraid it might add some noticeable wine character.

I’m still thinking about sweetening too. I’d really like to carbonate, and that means fermenting to dryness, adding a little more sugar to get the yeast fermenting again, and capping the bottles to trap the resulting CO2. This process doesn’t allow for sweetening. If you tried, by adding more sugar than necessary to carbonate, then the yeast would ferment it all. This would put so much pressure on the bottles that they might fail. So it looks like I’ll have to choose between sweetening and carbonating.

As far as hops go, 0.25 oz for flavor and/or aroma is probably about right, but I haven’t decided whether or not use them.

Translating all of that into a recipe would result in something like this:

For six US gallons (23 L) of must …

11.5 lb (5.2 kg) honey
5 gallons (19 L) of water
1 lb (450 g) crystal malt
6 tsp (28 g) DAP

0.25 oz (7 g) flavoring hops (optional)
0.25 oz (7 g) aroma hops (optional)

Ale yeast – Nottingham?

I’m expecting an OG of 1.070 or so.

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9 thoughts on “Fleshing Out A Beer-Like Mead Recipe

  1. Aaron

    As a homebrewer I’m looking forward to reading the results of this. Do you expect the aging time to be less then a wine type mead with the lower alcohol content? If you want sweet and carbonated you could use lactose to sweeten, as its not fermentable. Maybe add it to taste just prior to bottling.

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hi Aaron,

    I do expect the aging time to be less than a higher alcohol mead, but I don’t know how much less. It will probably need more time than a beer. I’ll just have to start sampling bottles to see how it changes with time – somebody’s got to do it!

    Thanks for the lactose tip. I’ll look into it.


  3. eric

    11.5 lb (5.2 kg) honey may be a bit much for the yeast to handle. The alcohol may over power the yeast before it can finish it’s job.

    I’ve done a few beers with London Ale yeast and I like the finish that it produces. British and Dry. The yeast profile is similar to a Bass or Newcastle. The Nottingham sounds about the same.

    Once, I brewed a Belgian with honey. I used an Abbey Ale yeast. The fruitiness from the yeast/barley really added to the honey flavor, and it can ferment to higher alcohol. It was quite good.

  4. Erroll Post author

    Hi Eric,

    Yeast manufacturers publish alcohol tolerances for their wine yeast, but I’ve not seen this data for beer yeasts. I used to think that beer yeast could only ferment to 6% or so because that’s mostly what they are used for. A homebrew shop owner once told me that beer yeast could go as high, or almost as high, as wine yeasts. I’ve never put that to the test, so I don’t know. This is my chance to find out.


  5. Mike

    On your comment about choosing between sweetening and carbonating, I’ve been reading The Art of Making Wine (Anderson/Hull) which describes a method for doing both. After making a dry wine with 10% to 11.5% alcohol, which is finished and stable, they first add the sparkle by performing a secondary fermentation in bottles that will withstand the pressure of the CO2. When that fermentation is complete, they put the bottles in a freezer for several hours to drop the temperature to 26 F. At the same time they put sugar syrup and wine stabilizer into an equal number of Champagne bottles and put these into the freezer as well. When the wine is cold enough, they remove one bottle of wine and one Champagne bottle and gently siphon the wine into the Champagne bottle, cap it and invert several times to mix it. Apparently, very little of the CO2 is released from the wine due to the low temperature. An intriguing idea but I’d be a little concerned about the freezing affecting the wine. BTW, I have 30 lbs of home-grown Evans cherries in the freezer and will be starting a batch of wine tomorrow. Thanks for the information and inspiration!

  6. Erroll Post author

    Hello Mike,

    It makes me happy to think I inspired you, even just a little, to ferment those cherries. Please let me know how it turns out!

    And thank you for sharing Anderson and Hull’s method for sweetening and carbonating. I don’t know if I’ll try that the first time I make my beer like mead, but I’ll definitely try it.

    Over three months have gone by since I posted this article, and I still haven’t started. I’ve had lots of things going on, still do, and I’ve only got so many fermenters and carboys. With my purchased grapes due to arrive soon, I’m going to have to push this one back yet again.


  7. Pingback: Beer/mead? « The Seventh Sweet of Aristaeus

  8. Erroll Post author

    Hello Matt,

    Fermenting honey and malt does indeed get you a braggot, but what I’m trying to do here is make an all-honey mead that is more reminiscent of beer than wine.

    Some people, like me, come to mead from a winemaking background. We naturally apply what we know (taste and technique) to mead and make a mead that is a bit “wine like.” So I started to wonder, what would a ‘beer like’ mead be like? That’s the question I’m trying to answer in this post.


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