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It's easy to use too many spruce tips, things can get very sprucey very quickly. The one time I tried bittering with them resulted in an undrinkable case of bottled forest. There's a scottish ale on the market (usually shows up in gift packs around November) that bitters with spruce tips and that beer gets it just about right, to my taste--slight hint of tree with piney-citrus notes picking up in the back end.

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Strange Brew... Well last week in an fit of adventurousness, (and too much reading from Buhner's book), I made an ale, or a mead, or a beer strength braggot. I honestly don't know what to call it. At any rate it was made from three pounds of malted barley, one pound of barley malt extract, fourish pounds of honey from a cutout hive bucket. For flavouring and vitamins there was three pounds of fresh stinging nettles, one pound of fresh, washed dandelion roots, and one pound of ginger root all added into the boil for about an hour. Original gravity 1.051, final gravity 1.006, brewed with Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale. It is.... interesting. Kind of spicy, kind of earthy, not bitter at all really. I think some sort of bittering agent would iprove the taste, for me any way.

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Ohh, nice I like the thought of nettles.

 

I just got done brewing a 5 gallon batch of dandelion wine. The first time I've tried it, and i've never tasted it before, so come December it should be an interesting treat. I used about 10 quarts of dandelions, a bunch of oldish citris fruit I had (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit), cloves, ginger, 10lbs of sugar, and Cote Des Blanc yeast. All said and done the recipe costs about $10 for 5 gallons.... pretty good.

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Dandelion wine is good indeed, and medicinal too. It tastes the way the flower looks like it should taste to a bee, if that makes sense. Medicinally it acts like a digestive tonic in that it'll clear up that "I think I just ate a brick" feeling you get if you overeat.

 

I've never put spices in mine, but I bet the ginger will be a nice touch. Dunno about the cloves.

 

My recipe is, for every gallon of wine desired use one gallon of fresh flowers (no stems or leaves, but the green thing under the flower is fine), the juice of three lemons and three oranges, and three to four pounds of sugar depending on how sweet you like it. Oh, and a gallon of boiling water. ;)

 

Put the flowers in a large pot and add the boiling water and stir. Cover and let sit until all the flowers rise to form a mat of bubbling goo, about three days. Strain out the flowers with a grain bag and squeeze all the juice you can back into the pot. Bring to a simmer and add the other ingredients, transfer to the fermentation vessel and let cool, and pitch the yeast when it hits the right temperature. Rack every couple of months for a year, then bottle. Ray Bradbury called it "springtime in a bottle." B)

 

I use plain old Red Star Montrachet dry yeast and dry champagne yeast, two packs of each for a five gallon batch. The montrachet gives it a nice fruity body and the champagne lets it top out at around 15% abv. :o Be sure to go heavy on the sugar if you use champagne yeast, dandelion wine is not very good when it's too dry.

 

My wife calls it "The Recipe" and has a little glass anytime indigestion threatens. Either straight up in a cordial glass or on the rocks mixed half-and-half with club soda in an Old Fashioned glass (the Recipe Spritzer) and it'll settle your digestive woes in half an hour or less. It does not, however, ease my lactose intolerance. :( Gotta break out the big guns for that - in order of effectiveness for me: absinthe, Fernet Branca and scotch, or gin with a big slug of Angostura bitters.

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Dandelion wine sounds awesome--I think a friend of my parents' drank it, but it wasn't something I was directly exposed to.

 

I've been goofing with wild yeasts, lately. In the past few days I've been starting into a beer I made about the time this thread started. I started with a sourdough starter I made from scratch (Using this recipe, subbing whole wheat for rye: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/13/raising-a-starter/). When the starter was stable (2-3 weeks in) and producing good tasting breads (though, I over-leavened a few loaves that were a little too boozy/tangy for mainstream enjoyment), I added 2/3 of a cup of starter to a little less than a quart of wort (1 cup DME to 1 Quart water boiled 10 minues with a pinch of hops--to chill I put the pot lid on for the last 2 minutes of boiling and then set in a sink of cold water for 15-20). There was a long lag time before activity ramped up, maybe a bit over 24 hours. When the activity mostly subsided, I pitched everything but the dregs (to get the raw flour out of the equation) into a new 1 qt batch. I let that ferment until activity subsided, and then pitched it (really, the bottom half of the starter, dumping most of the "beer") into 5 gallons cooled wort of the following recipe:

0.5 lbs melanoiden (inspired by the OP of this thread's use of this malt)

1 lb flaked wheat

2.5 lbs Pilsener

2.5 lbs vienna

2.5 lbs munich

2.5 lbs malted wheat

 

Single rest at 155F (though I wish I had done three stage mash with protein rest, decoction wouldn't be out of place either).

 

60 min boil with 1.5 oz Tettnang @ 60, 0.25 oz Styrian @ 20, and 0.25 oz Hallertau @ 10. OG was about 1.065 and FG is about 1.015 -10.

 

The starter produced a surprisingly unsour beer--it still had sour notes, but the wheat's esters and phenolics the dominant players. I would likely cut the vienna malt in half and add something darker to make it richer, or I would cut out the munich and replace it with an equal volume of Pilsener or base 2-row to make a more classical wheat beer. I didn't save the yeast, I regret that I didn't because there's 3 weeks of work between me and this nice beer again, but next time I'll be doing this: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/yeast-washing-illustrated-41768/

Edited by Tyler Miller
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Hey guys... I don't know why I just started looking through this thread. I've got a batch of orange blossom honey mead with coriander.. stored on oak and a Tupelo honey varietal show mead in the fermentor. I'm also experimenting with ancient combinations of honey and malted grain in low gravity recipes. Basically low alcohol braggots or bracketts. Low alcohol beverages like this were the everyday household drink for most people due to the nutrition as well as the sterile (safer than water) nature. I'm also planning to bitter with things like spruce tips and juniper, etc like mentioned above. I live in a very heavy Scandinavian immigrant area and there were lots of spruce and juniper based wines, beers and liquors being made here in the early days.

 

I will have a braggot ready for my hammer-in for those who are coming...

 

I might try some small batches of Dandelion mead this summer... might as well make best of the inevitable proliferation we always get (and do nothing about since we live in the country and just don't care).

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Also.. forgot to mention... we are putting in honey bees this year. Pretty exciting. But living in sandy scrub oak barrens... might not be the best forage. So we will see we get enough for mead making.

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As an open question to the mead/braggot making guys, how do you control honey's off-flavours? My friend once made a mead from local honey and while young it had strong olive flavours, like someone had added green olive brine to it. It took nearly three years for those flavours to dissipate into a final product that was drinkable--like a dry manzanilla sherry. It's not my only experience with weirdly bouqueted meads--a commercial, Polish mead smelled like feet, and a locally made ontario mead like melting plastic.

 

A well made mead is a wonderful thing, but I've always been nervous about what I took as the unpredictability of honey as a fermentable. Aside from time, how do you guys mitigate those flavours? Is it a function of temperature control in fermentation or just good forage?

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I've never ever experienced that before. But I typically use either expensive varietal honeys or local artisan honey. If you've ever had an orange blossom varietal honey you will know that the flavor of honey can be STRONGLY influenced by the type of flower it's made from. It is possible that those off-flavors are just natural to that local honey. Boiling your must in the beginning can usually destroy a lot of the natural flavors of honey.. so that might be a way to eliminate off-flavors that are naturally sourced. I never apply heat to my must so that I can retain all the volatile flavor and aroma characteristics. Mead takes a long time to develop... they require patience and lots of racking. Off flavors that are present in the first several weeks can age into something of stupendous complexity and beauty in later periods of aging. That is why I like to drink a mead throughout it's lifetime.... not just it's later stages. That way you get to experience how the beverage evolves. Meads seem superficially easy in the beginning.. but take lots of care and attention to detail during the fermentation process.. and patience.

 

By the way.. you can often strip off flavours through the use of Polychlar.. a powder that grabs a lot of miscellaneous stuff and causes it to settle rapidly. Great way to clear stubborn meads too... but beware... it can strip the good stuff too!

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Scott, you said it man. I love drinking my mead as it goes. It's amazing to note the difference month to month.... most of my meads don't make it past the 1 year mark. I just had another sample of the mead I want to bring the the hammer-in and I really like it... sort of a mead arnold palmer with hops... I suppose lots of folks would be put off by that haha.

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Can't wait to try it...

 

I like to 'thief' my fermentors a lot while they are in primary and secondary... I feel better about it now because since I now keg my beer I can blow air out of the fermentors and replace with nitrogen/CO2....

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Meads often have strange off flavors, particularly if you don't pasteurize the honey first. Fruit can add it's own problems with off flavors. Clean technique is really the only hope. I've also had problems with mead fermentations getting "stuck", where it seems to keep fermenting for weeks or months. Often this means that some wild yeast has colonized your brew. I had a simple cider that smelled like feet at about 3 months, I thought it was a loss. I found the batch stuffed in a closet a year later and it was heaven (for a couple of weeks :lol: ). Good oxygenation is important with meads, as well. The yeast needs every advantage to get started. I like to use the dead yeast from an ale batch to feed the mead as the yeast gets started.

 

Geoff

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Geoff... I don't agree that honey needs pasteurizing (with heat).. unless you mean separating it from all debris directly from the hive when you raise the honey yourself. Honey is naturally antibiotic so there is really no reason to pasteurize it in a traditional sense. I've made hundreds of batches of mead and I've only had contamination twice.. which was probably due to me using a lot of super aggressive Belgian strains of yeast for my beer and is hard to kill from your fermentors. The only time I've had issues with bad off flavors is when adding fruit. You do need to pasteurize the fruit going into the mead and you need to be sure to add pectinase. And if conditions aren't good in the beginning with fruit.. then you can quickly start building up sulfur compounds (easily fixed with dipping in a coil of clean copper). With fruit or without... you are absolutely right about getting the must off to a good start with oxygenation (only in the beginning!) and proper nutrient feeding. And then clean racking conditions followed by displacement of air with inert gas to prevent long term oxidation.

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I heat my mead musts and still find that the honey flavor is identifiable. The secret is not to overly boil it, but to simmer it and skim off the foam, which consists of unwanted proteins. This helps to get rid of the off-flavors. My other argument is that Odin, Thor and Tyr once went looking for the biggest cauldron to make mead for a feast... not the biggest barrel or bucket. ;) The other thing that helps with off-flavors is avoiding adding oxygen after the primary ferment gets underway at all costs. You want it when you aerate, and then you don't want it at all. With fruit you have to add pectin enzyme and / or rack, rack, rack- especially with high pectin fruit. I've had very good success with adding the (steeped) fruit after primary ferment subsides, especially to kick the sugar up for a sparkling sweet fruited mead. Mead loves a little bit of tannin- a tea bag or oak chips. It is normal for meads to primary ferment for three to six months, depending on mostly temperature, with 65-70 F being the quickest and most optimal. Conditioning bottled temps should be cooler. If it tastes bad, just keep bottle conditioning it... I've had very mediocre early taste tests that became profoundly good after a year or more of benign neglect in the cellar.

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I don't believe heating gets rid of 'honey' character.. I think it gets rid of the delicate flavors in varietal honeys like orange blossom, tupelo, sourwood, etc. Odin and the gang had to boil the must because their honey was so raw from the hive that it was necessary to get everything floating to the top for skimming (dead ants, bee legs, wings, mummified mice, etc). I've never seen off flavors in unboiled must.. at least bad ones that weren't solved by aging. They might also have been carmelizing the honey by boiling it to the point of burning. I do that with local honeys that don't have much varietal character. It makes for a nice dark, rich quick aging mead that clears uber quick.

 

Yes.. oxygen is so important. I now keep a nitrogen/co2 mix for displacing the air after rackings or even 'thieving'. As soon as the fermentation goes flat I become paranoid about any oxygen getting in there. If you are heating your must you also don't want any introduction of oxygen (excessive splashing, etc) at high temperatures. This can create off flavors.

 

edit: by the way.. I'm currently in the midst of making a knife for Jeffrey Hildebrandt in trade for one of his Oseberg cauldrons. Can't wait. I will certainly cook a mead over the fire once I get that.. maybe from my own hives this year.

Edited by Scott A. Roush
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It's not a massive plot, there's still risk of killing frost up here, but I got some barley planted, along with some wheat for bread. More to be planted after May 25th, when things are properly warm. Sorry for photo size, I only have my phone and can't resize.

 

Thanks for the informative discussion on meas, btw, has made for great downtime reading.

image.jpg

Edited by Tyler Miller
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Nice, Scott! I don't bemoan those who don't heat, it's just that I have always had good luck and never noticed problems when I did. You're right though, overheating and carmelizing would be a problem!

 

If you ever have any bee questions... I've had 4-6 hives for 5-6 years now, almost entirely organically. Let me know if you have any questions.

 

I love the bees! Little Valkyries. ;)

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Awesome Tyler... Nice to be starting from square one!

 

Actually J.... I meant the carmelizing in a good way.. or at least a different way. I have an old medieval French recipe called 'burnt mead' or 'brochet' that calls for heating the honey in a pot without water until it turns almost black.. and then adding water.

 

Yeah.. I will definitely have questions on the bees. New stuff for us. We are just doing one hive to see how they do. We don't live in optimal forage area being in scrub oak/sand barrens.. but lots of blueberries and raspberries they can hit. Excited...

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  • 1 year later...

old thread, but i have to say thanks Alan for the dandelion wine recipe, although my first gallon only made it a year. This year I intend to make two or three gallons. :D

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