View Full Version : Looking to create a "Memorial Mead", need a bit of recipe advice

10-25-2011, 01:46 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm looking to create a mead as a tribute to my dear Irish Setter who recently passed away. I apologize if any of you find this to be a silly idea, and don't feel it belongs in the forums. I'm just looking for a little guidance on developing a recipe that will be pleasant tasting and won't repulse the intended recipients when they should chose to consume the drink. This mead isn't going to be brewed for just myself; I plan on making a total of 6 bottles, one for myself, my mom, my dad, my younger sister, my stepfather and one to keep along with the other keepsakes I have left from my Scarlett girl.

I have some idea of what I would like to brew up, and I have been reading other recipes posted by forum members, as well as a plethora of newbie guides and books. I do want to take the time to save up the money I will need to purchase better quality ingredients, and I already have a few shops picked out from where I would like to buy my supplies. This is more than just a chance to brew mead for me, this is my opportunity to create a lasting and unique tribute to my best friend and a sentimental gift for the people who were hit the hardest by her passing.

Since I haven't fully plotted out what sized bottles I would like to fill, I am afraid I haven't devised an exact recipe but really what I am looking for here is advice on flavour pairings and quantities. For example, I know when adding spices its best to start with a little and let the flavour mature and develop as the mead ages rather than adding a lot in the beginning and ending up with an overwhelming flavour.

My recipe idea:

5 gallons distilled spring water
12-15 pounds of honey, sage honey preferred
2 or 3 Macintosh apples, sliced
1/2 of an orange, sliced
2-3 figs, finely sliced
2-3 cloves
1/2 stick of cinnamon, possibly less
1 teaspoon of powdered allspice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

I plan on using champagne yeast for this brew.

Please, if you can spare any advice or help with fine tuning this recipe, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you in advance,


10-25-2011, 02:27 PM
I should mention, I know that that large of a recipe will yield more than 6 bottles worth of mead. I plan to bottle and save all that is left over if I decide to use those measurements . Ideally I would like to scale the recipe down a bit so I can make maybe 8 bottles, 6 for the above mentioned recipients and maybe 2 to keep for consumption many years down the road.

10-25-2011, 02:44 PM
Certainly nothing wrong with this idea, and welcome!

So you're looking for this to ferment dry? Otherwise I'd stay away from that yeast, or add more honey or both.

Cloves - I''d use less, you can always add more during aging but those things are powerful and can take over quickly.

10-25-2011, 02:46 PM
Oh and for the vanilla, if this is all just going into primary that amount should be ok, if it's going into secondary I'd cut it back to half a bean based on some recent experience of mine.

10-25-2011, 05:16 PM
I would rather this be a sweeter drink, and not so dry. A friend of mine who brews his own mead recommended the champagne yeast, but then again he IS a fan of super dry red wines and other beverages. What would you recommend instead?

And thanks for the advice on the cloves and vanilla bean! I will definitely impliment your suggestions when I get the chance to make this. (:

10-25-2011, 05:33 PM
See what wine yeasts you can get your hands on with an alcohol tolerance of 14% (that's the most common rating).

In a 5 gallon batch 12lbs will get you to an SG of around 1.086, which translates to 11.5% ABV if fermented dry, so that's going to be too little honey - unless you want to let it ferment dry, then age, then backsweeten it with more honey to taste (after adding sulphite AND sorbate to stabilize the remaining yeast).

15lbs gets you to 1.108 -ish so slightly over 14% - depending on how sweet you want it to be you'll add more honey to a higher SG than this (or example if you added enough honey to get to 1.118 you MIGHT end up with it finishing fermentation at 1.010, which is considered semi-sweet by most, I consider it pretty darned sweet - the problem is that you never really know exactly how far the yeast will ferment to, so they may decide to just eat all the sugar and go to a higher ABV... that's why stabilzing and backsweetening is preferred by many, because it's not a crapshoot).

Chevette Girl
10-26-2011, 02:56 AM
Welcome to the forum, and sorry to hear of your loss. :( I really like your idea, and may end up doing something like that for my pony when the time comes (may it not be for many years yet, although she's finally acting her age from time to time). If you do make the really large batch, well, you can give everyone several bottles, and crack them one per year on an anniversary or something, and you'll be able to note the changes in it after aging...

On vanilla, I rather like the effect of 1 bean per gallon (as long as it's got some age! I seriously disliked it fresh but it was amazing a year later), I'm not sure you'd notice half a bean in 5 gallons.

The reason your brewer friend suggested a champagne yeast is that they're fairly hardy and generally buckle down and do the job without too much fuss. The reason we might suggest not going with a champagne yeast like Lalvin's EC-1118 is that it can ferment so vigorously it blows off some of the more delicate aromas, also it's got a high tolerance and will end up dry.

I've been using the Lalvin 71B yeast for a lot of things and so far no problems as long as you rack it off the lees. If you can keep the ferment cool, Lalvin D47 is also good... my notes say both are good for sweet/semi-sweet traditionals. I've also been using K1-V1116, it's got a high tolerance, but it's less likely to blow off all the delicates and it doesn't usually throw weird tastes, it's not a nutrient hog, and it's pretty well-behaved if you ignore it. If you go for a yeast with a hefty tolerance, I'd also recommend saving a bit of whatever honey you use so that you can backsweeten it after stabilizing it, like AToE suggests... also, if you start a must at a lower specific gravity, it's more likely to finish nice and clean and quick so you can stabilize and clear it quickly.

If you think you might like to make more meads (or wines, or beers) after this one, I'd also recommend you get your hands on some yeast nutrients (DAP) and yeast energizer (like Fermaid), and a hydrometer. The nutrients and energizer will ensure that your yeast does its job without complaining and the hydrometer will let you confirm how your fermentation is doing and whether your stabilization worked properly.

Oh, and I know it's a LONG way down the road, but if you design some labels using her photo, then the bottles can be keepsakes (candle holder, flower vase, etc.) long after the mead is gone. Something to think about while you're waiting on the mead, anyway. I like colour laser-printing mine on paper shipping labels, although jet-printed labels sprayed with a shot of clearcoat before sticking them to the bottles worked pretty well to keep the ink from running if it got damp from condensation or splashing...

10-30-2011, 08:15 PM
...And thanks for the advice on the cloves and vanilla bean! ...


This may be old news to many, but I just found out the hard way: If you add a split vanilla bean from the very beginning, the initial "fermentation frenzy" will blow all those tiny little seeds up, where they will stick to the neck of the carboy. (up in the head space, above the fluid line)

Next time I try a bean, I will wait till after the fermentation frenzy has subsided, or even put it in the secondary.

Has this happened to anyone else?

PS - I am sorry for the loss of your sweet friend. This is a lovely tribute.

cayo hueso
10-31-2011, 11:06 AM
This may also seem like a no brainer, but if you are going for 12-15 lbs of honey and 5 gallons of water, make sure you have a 6 gallon carboy. 12 lbs of honey displaces about 1 gallon. I know it should seem obvious but my first mead I forgot to calculate this and as a result my OG was much higher than expected.