Champion your inner Viking and make some mead!

Okay, so while it’s been a while since I home brewed anything (a quick check tells me it was quite the Munich Helles back in 2018!) I have been itching to get back to it. And since I don’t have everything organised for a grain in a bag brew up of old yet, I do have the basics for something a little different this time. Let’s make some mead!

Yes we’re going to grow a long bead, swing an ax, bring on Ragnarok, eat meat off giant bones and salute the Gods at the same time with this offering worthy of their very being. For the drunk oath father!

Quick note, this is going to be a continually updated post because from what I’ve read about making mead, it’s like making a baby. A quick bout of furious activity followed by months of waiting. So I highly suggest you bookmark this page as there’ll be plenty of updates, revisions (and cursing no doubt) along the way. If you’re not sure how to Bookmark a page, just Google it or of course ask the gods.

What is this mead you speak of?

It’s an alcoholic drink made with honey, water, yeast and sometimes a few spices thrown in for good measure. It’s been around for far longer than you or I have and has a history right across the world, although typically it’s associated with Vikings or Norsemen and anyone who’s played a fair bit of Skyrim.

Guards love mead!

And this will be a first for me..

I’ve drunk some mead once (bought a bottle at Dan Murphy’s years ago but don’t remember much of it) but this will be the first time I’m making it. The good news is a) The ingredients are basic and very affordable (no fancy yeast needed here, just the supermarket stuff!) and the process is pretty basic too. Short of the shed blowing up by other means, I don’t think we can go to wrong let’s make some mead then!

Tools of the small batch mead making trade

Originally I had a 5 litre carboy from Small Batch Brew Co back when I was putting IPA’s together and foolishly I didn’t bring it with me when we moved. I was going to order another one in complete with a bung until I came across this in the supermarket and wondered well I only need something with 5 litres space in it technically and this has 5 litres, so…

make some mead

Yes the plan will be to drink most of this (I still need water as part of the recipe) and recycle the container as my mead making machine (whispers: Triple M…) Instead of an airlock in the cap (not sure if I still have one..) I’m planning to drill a small hole and run some 10mm tubing (which I still have from previous brew days) into a bottle half filled with water where it can burp to its hearts content without introducing anything unwanted back into it’s fermenting goodness. It’ll look a little like this as it ferments.

make some mead

I also have this remnant of my home brewing days – a hydrometer. Pour some of your brew into the glass container that goes with it, take the reading and do some calculations – viola, you get an alcohol by volume reading.

make some mead

One issue I have with this though is that I recently discovered the glass container that is part of the process in measuring here had a cracked base and a small hole in the bottom. Put mead in, watch mead flow out. Not ideal. So we’ll have to find another measuring flask or just guess at how potent it truly is.

Stereophos aka Neo Pink – a sterilising/cleaning agent that also performs magic by seemingly leaching stuff out of containers you thought were already clean. Throw in a couple of tea spoons of this stuff in some warm water and put anything that’s going to be touching your creation into this cleaning mix (so in my case the main fermenting chamber, the blow off bottle and the tube) leaving for a few hours or overnight if possible. Found online or at selected brew shops, apparently it’s great at restoring old seals on washing machines although I haven’t tried that myself so don’t quote me there..

And finally: Cappadonna (named after both the member of the Wu Tang Clan and my wife Donna)

make some mead
This should cap things off nicely..

This was the first bit of home brew gear I ever bought, just 8 bucks later and I had a device ready to cap bottles of beer with. It was a bit stiff when I took it home however some lucubrating spray (Inox) smoothed things right out and all going well, I’m going to get some fresh caps and some sterilised empty beer bottles to put the finished product in.

And of course we can’t forget the recipe! As mentioned previously I downloaded this to my phone a couple of Novembers back and then proceeded to leave it there for whatever reason. Where I got it from I have no idea (maybe Reddit? Perhaps Something Awful?) but it’s the work of the Illawarra Bee Keepers and it looks good (and easy), so we’re going with that one. You can read up on their measurements and process right here!

Now can we make some mead?

The ingredients pile builds..

And because of the small amounts of this stuff we’ll be using in this first batch, there’ll be plenty left over for the next one. And the next one after that. If your local supermarket doesn’t stock these basics…well you need a new supermarket me thinks..

Now since the recipe we’re using calls for raw unprocessed honey, I did wonder exactly where I was going to find some. I know just one person in my life who actually has any bees (hi Matt from work) but I won’t see him for at least a week and I don’t know how much turn around time he needs to get me 1.6kg of the raw stuff.

Luckily I’m right around the corner from Harris Farms here in Albury which is like this giant fruit and veg market. Not only did they have raw honey, they have great barrels of the stuff which means I’m not going to run out of ingredients to make some mead anytime soon. Turns out this stuff is super local and just down the road – top work there Hachibee Honey!

With the size options available, I’m only 20 grams off the 1.6 kilos of this raw stuff that I’m going to need – but hey, that should be close enough! The final ingredient for this little meady get together:

Yes not just any collection of raisins, a medley. How fancy. Smallest packet I could find though which is a shame because I only need 25 for this batch, which isn’t much when you count them out (and now we’re going to be eating raisins out of the bag for the rest of the week..)

Today is (officially) Mead Monday!

So let’s down to business and make some mead! After sterilising everything overnight (I was going to do this last night but then the in laws showed up and rather than face 2 million questions of what and why I was doing this and ‘are you sure that’s in the recipe?’ I waited one more day) everything has had another quick rinse and we’re ready to go.

The small jar of honey went in first and then all the ingredients, just thrown in without any pomp and ceremony.

Dad, did you put a sausage in there?

-Sophie, 8

No Soph, that’s cinnamon.

Now be aware that no matter how careful you are with this stage you’re still going to get honey everywhere. It’s inevitable and a fun tasty mess to have. Warming up the honey in a bucket of warm water helps heaps as does a funnel…which I didn’t think to grab. Oh well.

Make some mead
Isn’t this looking exotic?

The big bucket of the raw stuff (which has a lovely aftertaste I’m quite happy to report) goes in and things are looking good so far. Then we fill with water to the 3.8 litre mark which gives our creation room to bubble, froth and do all sorts of fermenting stuff.

Now because the honey is still a little warm from it’s recent bath, we let it cool to room temperature before adding the yeast. It says just a teaspoon of the yeasties and as much as I want to throw the whole pack in there for fun, I refrain.
A teaspoon it is then.

Then a quick shake, the cap back on and my classy wine bottle airlock device in place ready to hopefully see some bubbles in. Oh and now we wipe the honey off everything because as I mentioned before, it’s going to go all over the shop.

My brother and sister in law brought this lovely drop around earlier in the week. Here’s to recycling!

Roughly an hour later..

The yeasties are having a foaming dance party and the water airlock is registering bubbles – success! We have fermentation!

Now to find a good dark place for it to sit for the next few months and see how things go. Wish me luck!

UP NEXT – It’s time to bottle up this bad boy! But can we find something suitable to put this creation into? Let’s find out!

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