Making Mead

I've always hated home-made wine. Every so often, you see this stuff at get-togethers: harsh and unpalatable, the main problem is finding a polite way to pass on it (or getting rid of it). So it was a surprise when a friend's brew turned out to actually be delicious! Some time later, he introduced me to mead, which uses honey as the fermentation nutrient, instead of sugar, and made a batch of it with me.

Since then, I've continued to brew melomel (a mead which is built using fresh fruit, every fall at harvest time. It feels to me like I'm putting down preserves - rather like canning fruit for the long winter. The odd thing about this hobby is that I'm actually slightly allergic to ethanol, and can only consume very limited quantities of any alcoholic beverage. The good thing about this is that the brew gets to age fully, instead of being consumed prematurely. I give most of it away to friends.

One of the more creative and interesting thing about making brew is making labels for the bottles – even if the mead doesn't turn out, it's always fun to make the labels!

I've collected a few of my recipes below, along with the labels I used for the bottles. Click on the thumbnails to see the full-size labels. I stopped updating these recipies a few years ago — let me know if you're like to see more!

Blueberry Mead August 3/96

And here's what it's made of - blueberries and mint leaves...

  • 15 lb. blueberries, steeped in 170° F water for ~10 min
  • 4 Cups chopped mint (mix of 4 types, steeped 10 mins in ~200°F water.
  • ~8 Kg Honey
  • 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp yeast nutrient
  • 2 1/2 squeezed limes
  • 16 litres BC glacier water (OK, bottled water — I didn't haul it from the glacier). Total volume with 14 litres of water was 23 litres — then I added another couple of litres to have some extra for topping up the carboy, and to account for solids volume. 2 Kg more honey added another ~2litres, so total volume is 26.5—27 litres (!).
  • Racked into plastic carboy — S.G. 1.048 @~24°C. Used a coarse plastic strainer to keep most blueberry pieces out of the carboy. Filled the carboy plus an extra 600 ml in a second bottle.

    I've brewed a variation on this recipie every year since 1996. It produces a deep red brew, slightly fruity, and with a hint of mint.

    Black Current Mead August 7/99

    Another kit wine, but I liked the label

  • 17 lbs. black currents, steeped in 170° F water for ~10 mins, and then blended for a few seconds on "stir" (low) settings to break up berries.
  • 5-6 Cups (loose measure, not chopped) mint leaves, added to must @ 110 °F).
  • ~10-11 Kg honey heated to quite warm with ~1 Tbsp Irish Moss (this took three batches on the stove), but not boiled.
  • ~ 1 cup of Murchees Darjeeling tea, made with1 generous Tbsp leaves (for tannin).
  • 3/4 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1/2 tsp. gypsum
  • 1/2 Tbsp. yeast nutrient, as part of a 1 litre starter containing a bit of corn sugar and honey as well.
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Campden tablets
  • Bottled spring water to make ~29 litres volume. This was due to me reading the hydrometer wrong, and thinking the specific gravity was already too high, adding water, and then realizing that I'd read 1.015 as 1.15. Had to add lots of honey to get to 1.112
  • Cast @ 30° C. S.G. 1.112 using bayanas (champagne) yeast. Vintage 2:15 a.m. Tastes like sweetened currents - I hope that I like the final brew, because I don't think black current is my favorite fruit flavour.

    I built a frame around my scanner, and filled it with potpourri to make this label.

    Red Wine(s) How do you like the cool mosaic effect?

    I've stopped making red wine from kits, or even from the seasonal juice crop. The reality is that making a really good red wine is a combination of science and art, and it seems to be beyond the reach of the home brewer. A friend and I tried for some time to build good red wines, only to come to the conclusion that you can buy a very decent red wine at most liquor stores - so it's not really worth a huge effort to build your own.

    The pine grosbeaks like to get seeds from the feeders on the deck, and then come up higher on the tree to eat them. I'm a bit proud of the mosaic tile effect I used to draw over the bird.

    White Wine(s) The wine was OK, but the label was better

    Every fall, you can purchase grape juice from that season's harvest. Every so often, I've made a batch of white wine from this juice, and labeled it as "Plonk Blank". After a few years, the wine is quite palatable, although it certainly isn't in line for any awards.

    Ice Wine
    My first attempt at making a colour label

    A friend and I built a couple of ice wine kits. Surprisingly, after a few years, it seemed quite decent!.

    The image is of Mount Andromeda, and the logo is my corporate logo (the company name is Andromeda....)

    I'd experimented with a variant on this logo for some time, when my brother showed me how I could simplify it to it's present form.