Bottling Day

I bottled four 1-gallon batches, three meads and an apple wine, yesterday.

2005 Apple Wine

I harvested 13 lb of Liberty apples from my backyard, in 2005, and turned them, along with a gallon of Trader Joe’s Gravestein apple juice, into a batch of apple wine. It’s got a rich golden color, a wonderful aroma, and it’s very smooth with just a hint of apple.

My first mead – with genuine Costco honey!

The meads were each a little different. One of them was part of the first batch of mead I ever made. The fermentation stuck at SG = 1.030, and it was three years old in February 2006. I decided to split the batch, stabilizing and bottling half as a sweet mead, and oaking the other half. It began to ferment again after I racked it onto the oak chips, and by the time I bottled yesterday it was a dry oaked mead that’ll be five years old in February. Even though it was dry (SG = 1.000), it had a lively sweet taste to it, possibly because of the high alcohol content (about 14%, by volume). The aroma was wonderful and powerful.

A mead like Brother Adam used to make

I made the next mead the way Brother Adam made his. He was a monk at Buckfast Abbey, famous for keeping (and breeding) honeybees and making mead. His method was to make it in large batches and age in oak casks for 7 years. He used soft (distilled or rain) water and a mild honey, like clover. He aimed for a lower alcohol content than most – about 8 or 9% ABV – and shunned most additives, though he often used cream of tartar and, for dry meads, “a little” citric acid. He boiled the honey-water mixture for 1-2 minutes and fermented cool (65F – 70F) with a pure yeast culture like Madeira or Malaga.

I didn’t have an oak cask handy (or the honey to fill it, or the space to store it, or …), and I have seen the inside of a rain barrel. So I used tap water and fermented in a plastic pail. I decided that 0.5 tsp = “a little” citric acid for a 1-gallon batch, and I added 1 tsp of cream of tartar. 2 lb of clover honey brought the SG to 1.074, which at about 10% potential alcohol, was slightly higher than the 8-9% I was aiming for. I boiled the honey-water mixture for about a minute and fermented cool with Côte des Blances yeast (I had never heard of Madeira or Malaga). So far, it has aged for a little over 3 years, including 9 months on oak chips. I don’t think I’ll be able to wait seven years!

I thought I could smell, not taste, the oak in this one. It was smooth and I enjoyed it.

A wine-like mead

The last batch of mead was the most wine-like of the lot, and the only one I didn’t oak. I started this one in March 2004 with clover honey from The Honey Store. I added tannin and tartaric acid to make a dry mead with 12% alcohol. The aroma was distinct from the other two; I would say “fresher” and I thought there was a hint of sweetness in the taste.

So now I’ve got twenty bottles of four different wines and meads to enjoy. Time to stop writing and start sipping!

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