03 March 2014

Mead making rules

Here are some rules for the hobby of mead making. They're in no particular order, and don't take precedence over one another, with the exception of rules 1, 2, and 10 (with 10 being the most important).

1. You must talk about mead making. 
It is vital to spread the word about the hobby, and educate others about mead: the culture, art, taste, versatility, and general awesomeness. It is also very important to recruit other mead makers, not only to grow the hobby, but for your own education; by teaching others, we can learn more than by working in seclusion. A student can have a unique perspective that can induce our own creativity and break us from the binds of dogmatism.

2. You must talk about mead making! 

Just do it. Go to your homebrew club, join GotMead, or other forums. Go . . .  do!

3. Thoroughly clean and sanitize everything. 

Keep in mind that sanitizing is different than sterilizing; the goal of sanitizing is to reduce the cell concentration (CFU/mL) of potentially harmful microorganisms, not rid them entirely. There is a balancing act involved in this: if you don't pasteurize your must (boiling or lower temps), you have more CFU/mL than a must that was sanitized, and may want to be more diligent in your sanitation practices pre fermentation (longer contact times with sanitizer etc). Never think that your equipment is sterile, it's not, just think in terms of concentration of cells and you'll make the better judgements. Also, make sure everything is cleaned before sanitizing (and that the detergents used for cleaning are thoroughly rinsed or neutralized).

4. Patience is more than a virtue, it's a requirement! 
There are several ways to make a mead that is drinkable early in its life, but almost all mead benefits from some aging time. This is easy if you have a few cases in stock that are ready to drink, but to those who don't have that, utilize those quick mead recipes to quench your thirst while you wait for your other batches to age (or brew some beer, comparatively, it's much faster to drink). If you don't have patience mead making will teach it to you!

5. Mead making is not brewing, nor is it entirely wine making. 

There are principles that can be applied from both disciplines, but mead making is unique and breaks certain rules of brewing and winemaking.

6. Get in there, and be involved! 

Sensory analysis, that's what this rule is about. Taste and smell as often as possible: during fermentation, when your aerating, smell it; when you pull gravity samples, smell and taste; when you rack, smell and taste; during aging, every few months, smell and taste; when bottling, smell and taste; set some bottles aside (12oz work great) and preform a thorough tasting at 6, 12, 18, 24 months and longer.

7. Be creative. 

Try new things, and see how they work. Make a to-brew list, but be warned that you will never work your way through it (and if you do, you aren't being creative enough).
8. Avail yourself of local resources.
This is a hard one for me as I love berries and they don't grow well here in south florida; even though I have access to hundreds of varieties of mangos, and rare fruits that most have never heard of, I would love to have access to truly fresh blackberries and raspberries. Take advantage of unique honey varietals (avocado, saw palm, Brazilian pepper, mangrove, and mango in my case), that are local, or unique fruits (or herbs) that are grown in your region.

9. It's your mead, make what you like! 

If you like your mead to be full of mercaptan thiols and disulfides, who am I to argue. I won't have a glass, but it's not my mead. Once you have tasted other meads (via rules 1 and 2), you'll begin to understand what you like in a mead, and if it's something that others don't like, oh well; but do not think that your mead is the pinnacle of mead making if you have such strange tastes, be aware that others may not like what you do.

10. Have fun! 

Find what you enjoy most about the hobby, and guide yourself to doing that the most. If you really like experimenting, experiment; if it's the process of fermentation, get in there and enjoy it; if it's tasting, utilize rule 6 a lot. Just have fun and enjoy the hobby.

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