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Johanneskai
01-02-2011, 02:45 PM
Ok my dear mead making friends, I have been brewing ales for 12 years and mead for 2 years now. I would like to improve but really do not know where to begin on improving.
I have read and reread the newBee guide. I have read through the Schramm book reference in the NewBee guide.
I have also read through many recipes and discussions on these boards.
So, What do I need to do to improve and how do I measure this improvement?
How do I know that my mead making and brewing are improving?
Any help or directions are well appreciated.

AToE
01-02-2011, 02:57 PM
Well as for whether you know if you're improving, if your meads are tasting better and smelling better over time then I'd guess that's about it! You could also start sending submissions in to the Mazer Cup every year, even if you don't win anything I think the feedback sheets are more than worth the cost of entering.

I'm at this point too where I'm basically done with whacky experiments for now and am trying to simply refine and improve general ideas that I know have potential.

It's hard to say what needs improvement in your (or mine) process/recipes without looking them over, far too many variables. I've only been doing mead for about a year and a half though, even less time than you.

Personally I'm working on gaining beter control of nutrient dosing with high-needs yeasts, trying to get temperature control under control, and just tweaking recipes one or two variables at a time. Also, I do a lot of side by side test batches (like 9 different yeasts in identical musts) to capitalize on how much I can learn from each batch.

Johanneskai
01-02-2011, 03:13 PM
AToE, thanks for your advice. I think I need to choose one variable and do some side by sides, as you mentioned.
I have to admit that I really am lacking in the theory of sugar conversions, alcohol and yeast strains.
I think the honey is basically a no brainer especially with the quality we can get at the local honey co-op but I know that quality is important.

As far as meads I like, I like dry-to-sweet. I also like metheglyns and traditional meads. I do not care for fruit meads, but do like Cyser.

AToE
01-02-2011, 03:18 PM
What's the problem with sugar conversions for you? I'll admit that I've forgotten most of that math, because using the mead calculator is just so quick and easy (there's a smaller calc under the main one that just does SG-SG=ABV conversions).

skunkboy
01-02-2011, 03:56 PM
You might want to try and find some other mead makers in your local, or not so local area, to compare meads and techniques with. Hooking up with some other people early in brewing hobby helped me avoid some pitfalls, and get useful feedback on my batches.

akueck
01-02-2011, 07:26 PM
Yeah I'd say it's time to drink mead other folks make and have them taste yours. It's really hard to offer suggestions for getting past the "beginner" stage without tasting the product.

Find some meadmakers in your local area (including some of us on this board!!), send a few bottles into the Mazer Cup or another competition.

epetkus
01-02-2011, 09:05 PM
I agree with Akueck, getting others to taste, and critique, yours and you tasting others as well as commercial meads will certainly help in your broader understandings of quality, etc. I might also suggest taste tests with your friends where "age" and subsequent batches are being compared. In other words, as a mead maker, your batches overall should continue to improve batch over batch as you optimize/perfect your basic skillset. Of course, this is tougher to judge if you aren't focusing on a particular style/type. Then, of course, a batch that has been aging for 2-3 years may not be easily compared to a later (maybe better) batch that is only one year old, but that is the nature of this hobby.

However, do not underestimate time in this endeavor; time associated with aging your mead, time/repetition in reproducing similar style/quality meads, etc.

I am finding that this mead making "learning" experience, while never really ending, takes several years to get "comfortable" with your skill, quality and results. For example, my first meads are now just 2 years old, and tasting a bottle I had given to a neighbor "showed" oxidation characteristics that while tasting OK (like a very mild Sherry (wink to Medsen ;) ), was not what I was shooting for. I'm hoping this was limited to just this one bottle (neighbor admitted that he had stored it for over a year standing up versus laying on its side), but until I open another bottle (soon!), I won't know for sure if this isn't affecting the whole batch. And if other bottles are showing these effects, it's back to the brewlog to see what happened, and what not to do in the future.

What I am saying is that since mead "quality" takes time to develop, and since that time is measured in years vs. months, it seems like I am only now garnering quality feedback (via myself and others) from my efforts over the last 2 years. Further, with just a couple of exceptions along the way, all of my batches have been traditionals as I endeaver to optimize my very basic mead making skills. So when you add in all the possible variations beyond traditionals, I can see where this little hobby, like most I know of, really has no end to learning, perfecting, enhancing, experimenting, troubleshooting, correcting/adjusting, etc.

Here's to more mead making!!

Eric

Medsen Fey
01-03-2011, 09:57 AM
I would like to improve but really do not know where to begin on improving.
I have read and reread the newBee guide. I have read through the Schramm book reference in the NewBee guide.


Hey don't worry! You're not alone. I still find it a challenge and I'm pretty sure mead maker with much more experience than I have still find that its not easy to do.

In addition to the ideas shared above, my advice is to start with improving your palate. When you educate your palate, you become more able to identify the things you like about a mead and the things you don't. You'll be able to taste it and say to yourself, "this one lacks body", or "this one is flabby and needs acid," and so forth. When you can identify what is missing in a mead that would make it better, you can go back to your brewlog* and make adjustments that will allow the next batch to be closer to the ideal you are seeking. When you know what you want to change, it becomes much easier to adjust a recipe to get it.

If you repeat a recipe enough times, you can really start to fine tune things.

SO.... How does one get palate education? There's a lot of things you can do.

1. Join a wine/mead/brew club to taste with other folks.
2. Go to wine tastings - many large wine stores will have them regularly scheduled. If you're lucky, the staff there may be able to educate you while you're tasting, but if not, use google to find some reviews of the wine you tasted and compare their description with yours.
3. Take a formal wine appreciation class. Personally I'd love to go to sommelier school if I had the time and money.
4. Buy and taste wines/meads of different styles, or of a style you'd like to emulate, and again, use google to help you train. If you look at the "virtual tasting" thread started by Wrathwilde, you can see some of my attempts to do this.
5. Find a wine bar - there's one near my home that has the little machines that keep them under inert gas, and dispense them with a little pre-paid card. They have something like 50-60 different wines, and are constantly rotating new things in. (this makes doing #4 more economical in some cases).
6. Practice scoring wines. There are many books/score-sheet options but pick one and use it routinely.

While I still do not have a refined palate, I have found that this has helped to allow me to identify where my meads come up short (which happens all too often). If you see my "Ay Carambola" thread in the Patron's Brewlogs, you can see how I changed approach based on the results of prior batches (and their shortcomings) in the hopes it will be better this time. Time will tell.



* If someone is not keeping good records, now is the time to start keeping a good brewlog. Fisher Kel Tath has created an excellent editable pdf file which is a great place to start if you haven't used something before. You'll find it as a Sticky in the brewlog section. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

mmclean
01-03-2011, 10:28 AM
SO.... How does one get palate education? There's a lot of things you can do.

1. Join a wine/mead/brew club to taste with other folks.
2. Go to wine tastings - many large wine stores will have them regularly scheduled. If you're lucky, the staff there may be able to educate you while you're tasting, but if not, use google to find some reviews of the wine you tasted and compare their description with yours.
3. Take a formal wine appreciation class. Personally I'd love to go to sommelier school if I had the time and money.
4. Buy and taste wines/meads of different styles, or of a style you'd like to emulate, and again, use google to help you train. If you look at the "virtual tasting" thread started by Wrathwilde, you can see some of my attempts to do this.
5. Find a wine bar - there's one near my home that has the little machines that keep them under inert gas, and dispense them with a little pre-paid card. They have something like 50-60 different wines, and are constantly rotating new things in. (this makes doing #4 more economical in some cases).
6. Practice scoring wines. There are many books/score-sheet options but pick one and use it routinely.

Great Courses http://www.teach12.com/ has a wine tasting course on DVD. It was on sale for US$35.

mccann51
01-03-2011, 02:06 PM
Great Courses http://www.teach12.com/ has a wine tasting course on DVD. It was on sale for US$35.

That's a great suggestion! The Teaching Company put out pretty quality material from my limited experience.

skunkboy
01-03-2011, 02:56 PM
Sadly the course is no longer on sale as far as I can tell..

Johanneskai
01-06-2011, 09:26 PM
Thanks guys,
I will follow your suggestions. This weekend we have a big SCA event, and I will ask a few of the Mead makers if we can start to work together to improve our skills.