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MAKING MEAD

BY TERRY WRIGHT

President Caddo Trace Beekeepers Association 
Board of Directors - Texas Honey Bee Education Association

Mead is an alcoholic beverage that is made from fermenting honey with yeast. It is actually in a class of its own, but is commonly called honey wine.

It is the oldest known fermentable beverage and can be traced back to 7000 BC. It is currently growing in popularity and along with cider, is one of the fastest growing niche alcohol beverages. 

I have had an interest in brewing for a long time.

I tried brewing an apple beer when I was in college in the early 70’s with directions from a magazine article in Mother Earth News. It was a complete failure. Later in the early 90’s, my wife gave me a “Mr Beer” gadget as a gift after hearing me rattle on about brewing. This was a bit more successful but just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Finally, 8 years ago, a brewing supply store opened in nearby Longview, Tx.

I immediately went to check it out. The owner helped me get started making beer, plus I had a mentor! 

Like beekeeping, I found having someone to answer questions was invaluable.

Shortly after starting to make beer, I decided to start making wine. Why not ?

I found that homemade beer and wine is like homemade bread and ice cream. 

You can’t buy it any better.

It's also a lot of fun!

Beekeeper to Mead maker - 

Seven years ago a beekeeper friend got me interested in beekeeping. I bought some hives from Blake Shook at Texas Bee Supply and began to enjoy beekeeping! The next step was like connecting the dots. I enjoyed brewing beer and wine and I enjoyed beekeeping - so 5 years ago I started making Mead! 

Getting Started - 

The equipment I have listed below can be found online on Amazon, Northern Brew Supplies, Midwest Brew Supplies and Austin Home Brew Supply. If you have a brew supply store near you, this would be even better, since you can get some advice and pointers.

Equipment Left to Right 

Hydrometer - Corker - Bottle Sanitizer - Bottling Bucket with Bottling wand attached - Secondary Fermenter (Carboy) - Primary Fermenter - Pump - Star San

The following instructions will help you get started making your own Mead. It's important to note, you do not have to be a chemist, master brewer or vintner.

Mead Basic Instructions 

  1. Sanitize primary fermenter, air lock, stir tool, hydrometer 
  1. Add 12 lbs of honey to fermenter 
  1. Add 4 gals of spring water. Mix well.
  1. Add 3/4 teaspoon Diammonium Phosphate – Mix 
  1. Take original gravity reading with hydrometer. This is your starting specific gravity, usually between (1.060 - 1.120) 
  1. Add 5 gram packet Lalvin 71 B yeast 
  1. Place in unlit area at 68 deg to 75 deg F
  1. Leave for 3 weeks or until fermentation stops 
  1. Transfer into sanitized secondary fermenter (carboy) with sanitized pump. (Take specific gravity prior to transfer) 
  1. When fermentation is complete, bottle and age. 

When your Mead is ready to bottle, take a final specific gravity reading. This number will be much lower than your first reading. The lower the reading, the dryer the Mead. 

Dry Mead: 0.099 - 1.006 

Medium Mead: 1.006 - 1.015

 Sweet Mead: 1.012 - 1.020 

Dessert Mead: 1.02 + 

Definition of Specific Gravity: The ratio of the density of a liquid to the density of water.  

You will find that there are a lot of ways to make mead. You can add any fruit, herbs, spices or hops and you can even carbonate it if you like. 

 

The second hardest part of Mead making is the sanitation.

 All of your equipment needs to be very clean to 

prevent contamination. I use a product called Star San

and have found that it cleans honey very well.

 I keep a spray bottle of it near when I extract honey or bottle.  

Helpful Websites and Books: 

Web sites: How to Make Mead: 15 steps, wikihow.com 

How to Make Mead: 17 steps, instructable.com 

Just How Much Honey is in Mead, meadmakr.com

Books: The Complete Meadmaker, Ken Schramm 

The Complete Guide to Meadmaking, Steve Piatt

You will have to experiment some to find the taste you like. I always say that the hardest part of making Mead is producing the honey. If your hobby is playing with insects that sting, making Mead will be easier!

I have won some awards at the TBA convention with my Meads and beers made with honey. I've also made Honey Wheat beer and Belgian Honey Ale with my honey and both are great on a hot Texas day! Enjoy!

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