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View Full Version : How do you like your Traditionals?



YogiBearMead726
11-23-2010, 12:25 AM
So, after making two (one sweet, one dry), I am casting my ballot for dry. I remember reading from AToE that he likes the dry end, and I was skeptical, especially since my first dry one tasted like rocket fuel for the longest time. But after trying it again recently, the "sweet" character of the honey used has come back, and the intense alcohol flavor has mellowed out. It is definitely sweet enough on it's own, IMHO, but I thought I'd ask you all.

Let me know what you think and possibly why/how you got to that opinion. I feel like this is one of the most subjective areas of mead making, but I also would like to get a sense of what people like since I hope to open a meadery after I save up enough money. :)

Thanks!

akueck
11-23-2010, 02:12 AM
... since I hope to open a meadery after I save up enough money. :)

Call me in like 10 years, I might have a business proposition for you. ;D

I prefer the dry end of the spectrum, though they do take longer to age. I tend to not like most of the very sweet wines, meads, beers, ciders out there. I don't think it's necessarily because they are sweet, but because often they are sweet and nothing else. A well-made sweet wine is heaven in a glass, but it has to have a strong counterpoint from something like acidity, bitterness, or whatever to balance the sweetness. 95% of the sweet alcohols I have tried just taste like sugar. Blech! The dry stuff tends to be more well-made because there isn't a pound of sugar to hide behind. So I like it if it tastes good, sweet or not. For everyday not-with-food drinking, something off-dry is best for me. With food I usually go for bone-dry.

Medsen Fey
11-23-2010, 09:21 AM
While there are many exceptions, I tend to like traditionals that are semi-sweet to semi-dry. In the case of my palate, I think the honey comes through the best when it isn't bone dry. Little wifey, on the other hand likes it sweet, dessert sweet, or syrupy. :)

AToE
11-23-2010, 12:38 PM
With some heavy tannin or acid to balance I can handle sweeter mead, though my version of tolerably sweet is under 1.005 - what I've found so far is that in traditionals, any sweeter than that and the acid additions that are necessary to balance it are so high that they destroy the "mead" character and instead it takes on the character of a highly acidic sweet white or rose wine. I do plan to experiment with heavy tannin additions in batches that have finished non-dry to see if that works better than acid additions, maybe tannin will leave it still recognisable as mead.

Don't get me wrong, I can drink meads sweeter, but I cringe a bit and have to go very slowly! Balance is everything, but as I said before, I don't think acid is necessarily the best balancing agent for mead.

I find that after some point in aging a totally dry mead changes to become suddenly "thicker" in its mouthfeel, almost sticky or tacky like beeswax (I think I detect a similar taste to beeswax as well, but this is primarily in Alfalfa honey and might just be my mind playing tricks on me).

After a year or more I do not find a dry mead to be abrasively dry (sometimes abrasively dry is nice though) unless there have been acid or tannin additions (heavy ones), I find a dry mead to be round and full (not for the first while though) with a distinct sensation of "perceived sweetness"... I don't know if there's something in mead that is non-sugar but is sweet, or what, but a dry mead still tastes a little sweet to me (could be too that even at 0.990 they aren't truely dry).



Now on to my very short rant - I think everyone who starts mead should make a dry traditional mead one of their first batches. Everyone thinks they won't like it, but it can always be backsweetened later. Also, when trying to introduce mead to others, anyone who's tried mead has the same response to me: "yuck, that stuff is too sweet, no thank you" or at best, "yeah, it was pretty sweet, not something I'd drink often". Even when explaining what mead is to wine or beer drinkers they respond with puckered looking faces "isn't that really really sweet?". I constantly have to explain that it doesn't have to be sweet, it can be a nice dry drink as well.

I think if more people were trying dry traditionals (good ones, properly aged) more people would stick with mead, rather than leaving it as a once in a while novelty like ice wine. I think dry meads would garner more respect from the wine drinking community as well (though they probably would still only ever look at it as a novelty).

Anyways, sorry for the long rambling post. Dry mead is my passion, and it's discouraging to see it be the most neglected form of mead (whether mel or trad etc) when I consider it to be by far the best. (Who knows though, maybe my tannin experiments will lead me to prefer a semi-sweet mead with truckloads of tannin over a dry mead... anything could happen!)

Braxton
11-23-2010, 01:41 PM
The first great mead that I tasted was a very dry still traditional and had been aged well. It was an "aha!" moment for me that opened my eyes to how incredible mead could be. I've had great meads of all types since, but that was the best. I still prefer dry and semi-sweet meads to sweet mead. But that's partly just my tastebuds and conditioning, I don't like sweet stuff in general. I do think that it is more difficult and takes more time to make a good dry mead than it does a good sweet or semi-sweet mead.

Sometimes I'm surprised at how popular dry, tannic wines are. Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty intense stuff, and yet it is very popular in the US. I can't think of too many things that Americans drink or eat that have a flavor profile even close to that.

akueck
11-23-2010, 04:01 PM
I find that after some point in aging a totally dry mead changes to become suddenly "thicker" in its mouthfeel, almost sticky or tacky like beeswax (I think I detect a similar taste to beeswax as well, but this is primarily in Alfalfa honey and might just be my mind playing tricks on me).

I find basically the same thing, which I also experience with dry cider. It starts out thin, kind of boring, not tasting at all like honey (or apples) and then bam! it takes on a fuller mouthfeel with the flavor coming out strongly. Totally worth the wait.

tycoon
11-23-2010, 06:54 PM
Although I have been drinking mead for only a short while (less than a year), I have been tasting wine seriously for the last 16 years, so my judgement is clearly biased by that experience.

Having said that, I find that traditional dry mead has a unique character that makes it a very interesting alternative to wine. And I have only tried un-oaked meads so far... (next weekend I intend to oak (with chips) a 20-liter batch of a traditional I have been aging for the last 5 months in a carboy) :)

AToE
11-23-2010, 07:11 PM
Having said that, I find that traditional dry mead has a unique character that makes it a very interesting alternative to wine. And I have only tried un-oaked meads so far... (next weekend I intend to oak (with chips) a 20-liter batch of a traditional I have been aging for the last 5 months in a carboy) :)

Try cubes/beans instead of chips, you'll get a much higher quality oaking and will run less of a risk of over-oaking. Personally I think the best use for chips would be during primary of a dark red melomel for the tannins to aid colour stability (oak added at this stage has less of a taste/aroma impact).

Wait till your dry meads start getting 13 14 15 months old, then you'll really love them even more!

tycoon
11-23-2010, 07:22 PM
Indeed, having read several old threads on the topic, I would like to use cubes (or staves) to oak my mead, and I would also like to try american oak as well as french. However, I've only been able to get french oak chips so far. To my knowledge, there are only two homebrewing shops in the city I live in...it will have to do for now :(

My first traditional mead is only 7 months old, and it already tastes great! I cannot imagine how it will taste in another 7 or more months, AToE! But I am definitely going to keep several bottles until that time (not that it will be an easy task, though.... ;D

crowquill
11-23-2010, 07:39 PM
I generally prefer meads on the drier end of the spectrum. At one point, I thought I only liked dry meads but what I've since learned is that I like balanced meads. A mead that is only sweet is not to my tastes, but one that has the sweetness balanced by other flavors can be delightful.

storm1969
11-24-2010, 01:18 PM
I find that after 10+ years of mead making, I have no real preference.

I like them dry or sweet, as long as they are good. (Good being defined as tasty and complex).

My first mead was dry, and it got me hooked.

Chevette Girl
11-24-2010, 05:19 PM
I haven't really had a lot of experience with dry meads (although AToE has a point and now I'm going to make some next honey run), but I have made some dry mels and don't much like them so far, and I don't like dry wines either. Doesn't have to be syrupy, but I find a very dry anything will sit in the glass all evening while I take little sips thinking "ugh, when will this be over so I can drink something I enjoy..."

I recently bottled a sweet pear wine that finished at 1.010 (I probably neglected my yeasties' early development) and it actually might be a bit on the sweet side for me for a white wine, but it's fine as a dessert wine or appertif and would probably pair up well with brie and crackers or cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese or something like that.

I vastly enjoy the JAO's and modifications I've made. I have made one that came out too sweet though. Needed acid or something to balance it. So my sweet tooth does have upper limits, but most of my mels that have finished below 1.005, I'm not terribly impressed with at the moment even though some of them have been aging a while (I will obligingly give them another try in another year but so far I haven't had apple or honey flavours just pop back into existence after aging).

YogiBearMead726
11-24-2010, 06:43 PM
These are some great responses everyone! Thanks for the input, and let's keep it up! :D

P.S. I may have to take you up on that offer once I have things going, akueck. :p