View Full Version : A bear in the honey pot

03-23-2009, 11:38 PM
Hi all
Yes, my nick name really is Griz. An honorarium bestowed upon me by a backpacking buddy back in '85, something about the way I sound when I sleep... Anyway,
I'm a newbee at mead, been home brewing for a while (4 years at all grain) and We've done wine kits for several years but up to now I've never ventured into mead. A friend turned me on to this site and an apiary where I can get bulk honey. He also suggested I look at Joe's ancient Orange. I did and it looks like something I might be able to handle.
There are a couple of questions,
First, the recipe is for 1 gallon, I'd really like to make 5 gallons (all my gear is better suited for 5 gallon batches) Do the spices scale? should I really use 5 cinnamon sticks? and 5-10 cloves? I did an apple cinnamon beer once and those spices are really strong.
Second, Bear with me here,
My friend was telling me, that as a rule of thumb, 1 lb of honey is roughly equivalent to 1% alcohol in a 5 gallon batch, so, if you want a dry mead and you're using a yeast that tops out at 12% you use 12 lbs of honey, that way all the honey is converted when the yeast tops out. If you want sweet mead you add more honey. Joe's recipe (if it scales) calls for 17.5lbs of honey in a 5 gallon batch and uses a yeast that tops out at 12%, that leaves 5.5% of residual sugar. That seems awful sweet to this old bear. Would it screw up the recipe to drop that to 2.5 - 3%? That is to only use 14.5 - 15lbs of honey in a 5 gallon batch?

Griz, Colorado Springs

03-24-2009, 11:03 AM

Since you're already an experienced beer brewer (and all-grain, at that), you've already got all the equipment and most of the knowledge needed to make stellar meads. You'll just have to adopt a "mead mindset" and disregard a few things that you learned along the beer brewing path -- since meads are far more like wines than they are beer. As you poke around the older posts here on the site, you'll begin to see what I mean.

But in the near term, for Joe's Ancient Orange, yes - the spices do scale. And yes, they sound like a lot - but your mead is ready to drink in just a few months and it does in fact finish sweet (most of the time), so that spice counterpoint is pretty much necessary to prevent the batch from being overly-cloying.

Finally, what your friend told you about honey scaling to ABV is roughly correct, as are all successful "rules of thumb," but you'll be far better off using your hydrometer (or a refractometer if you have one) to do a more quantitative assessment of any batch of must, and fine-tune the amounts of honey, water, fruit juice, etc., to the initial SG target that you're trying to achieve. Your results will be more consistent since honey, like every other natural product, has some variations in the amount of sugar from hive to hive. Likewise you'll find variations in what different people interpret as "fully dissolved." ;)

One new mental concept for you to grok is that honey musts inherently can attenuate 100%. ALL the sugars in honey are fermentable, so the only limit to your capacity to take the must fully "dry" is the ethanol tolerance of your yeast strain. That's one of the reasons that JAO finishes sweet for most people -- bread yeast just doesn't go much beyond 7-9% ABV, for most folks in most situations. So it makes a mead that complements dessert, drinks easily, and won't get you hammered from only one glass.

Medsen Fey
03-24-2009, 12:34 PM
Second, Bear with me here,

Welcome to GotMead? Griz!

Anytime you deviate from Joe's recipe, the warranty is null and void! ;D

With that said, scaling it up is no problem, but I wouldn't suggest using more than 5 cloves - they are powerful. I would suggest making it per the recipe the first time through, and then if you do want it less sweet, you can adjust for future batches - it might be worth testing 1 gallon just to see where you like it.

And as for your puns, all I can say is bee careful! There are wild and dangerous punsters lurking in these forums. If you wake them from their hibernation, it could be unbearable. Without a paws, they'll jump on your thread and befur you know it, they'll have jacked it right out from under you. By the time they're done sinking their claws into your thread you won't even recognize the grizzly remains. It's best to remain calm, give them a growler of mead, and let them sleep it off in their caves.


03-24-2009, 03:55 PM
Ah,,, Thank you Medsen
Sounds like I ought to be offering you that Growler, eh?
Unfortunately I haven't started my first batch yet so I guess I'll just have to take the Punishment.
I am leaning toward your suggestion of a 1 gallon test batch, actually I'm thinking of a couple test batches at different gravities to get some comparison.
Wayne, thanks for the info. Do you get down to the Springs, your pic looks very familiar.

Griz (AKA John Moss)
Colorado Springs

03-24-2009, 04:52 PM
I have been known to be in those parts from time to time, but not in general in the brewing community. Maybe I've seen you at a GABF in the past? Or have you been up to the IMF in the past couple of years?

For that matter, do you want to meet up, and perhaps meet many of the mead luminaries you're corresponding with in person? Since you're a "local," we're recruiting volunteers for help with the Mazer Cup International (successor to the IMA-IMF competitions, and named with kind permission of Ken Schramm) this year. Got some free time the weekend after Tax Day and want to help? If so, then PM me.