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valverij
08-12-2015, 05:19 PM
As I'm getting more and more into mead making (coming up to one year next month!), I'm curious as to what more experienced mead makers look for in a honey or varietal blend when determining the desired sweetness in a traditional.

I see a lot of recipes for a "Dry Orange Blossom" or a "Sweet Wildflower," but what ultimately leads to those choices? Are there certain flavor profiles that lend themselves more to a sweet mead? Others that you'd never, ever go dry with? Are there flavors more receptive to oak?

I'm sure in the end it falls down to personal preference, but I'd love to hear what others think.

loveofrose
08-12-2015, 10:50 PM
Honey variety matters a great deal for reasons that I think will become obvious below. I'll give a few examples and see if that answers your question:

Orange Blossom: Very good sweet or dry. Pairs well with oak. A real crowd pleaser.

Wildflower: Extremely variable. Here in Texas, some wildflower honey has milkweed in it. This results in a mead that tastes like insect repellent. Other wildflower honeys here have a thick mouthfeel with a cyser like quality. Try a small batch of several brands. Once you find a good one, stick with it.

Meadowfoam: This honey has a marshmallow quality when sweet, but is very weedy when dry. The marshmallow flavor requires some sweetness to come through. Otherwise, it just tastes weird. Vanillin from oak reinforces the marshmallow flavor and pairs very well.

Tupelo: Tupelo has a high level of fructose. As a results, a sweet Tupelo is cloyingly sweet. A dry Tupelo mead has an implied sweetness that fools you into thinking it has a higher than actual Gravity. In addition, there is a strong floral scent that fights with most oak, so it's better without.

Palmetto: Has a maltiness to it that lends well to braggots. Alone, it is good sweet or dry. Very complex. With or without oak is good.

Black Locust/Acacia: Very thick mouthfeel with a complex flavor profile. When sweet, it is similar to Polish meads. When dry, it is good with extra aging. Oak can further add to the complexity.

Sourwood: I think Pooh bear honey. It just tastes like what you envision honey to taste like. Good dry, but better sweet. Great for JAOM and metheglin. Oak is a good pair as well.

Summer Berry (Strawberry, blackberry, etc): Good sweet or dry, but great in a semi to sweet melomel. As a sparkling hydromel, it is s great summer thirst quencher. I think oak takes away from the floral character here, but others may disagree.

Let's start there as a first installment. Does that get at the question at all?


Better brewing through science!

See my brewing site at www.denardbrewing.com

See my Current Mead Making Techniques article here:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/current-mead-making-techniques.html

McJeff
08-13-2015, 08:07 AM
Honey variety matters a great deal for reasons that I think will become obvious below. I'll give a few examples and see if that answers your question:

Orange Blossom: Very good sweet or dry. Pairs well with oak. A real crowd pleaser.

Wildflower: Extremely variable. Here in Texas, some wildflower honey has milkweed in it. This results in a mead that tastes like insect repellent. Other wildflower honeys here have a thick mouthfeel with a cyser like quality. Try a small batch of several brands. Once you find a good one, stick with it.

Meadowfoam: This honey has a marshmallow quality when sweet, but is very weedy when dry. The marshmallow flavor requires some sweetness to come through. Otherwise, it just tastes weird. Vanillin from oak reinforces the marshmallow flavor and pairs very well.

Tupelo: Tupelo has a high level of fructose. As a results, a sweet Tupelo is cloyingly sweet. A dry Tupelo mead has an implied sweetness that fools you into thinking it has a higher than actual Gravity. In addition, there is a strong floral scent that fights with most oak, so it's better without.

Palmetto: Has a maltiness to it that lends well to braggots. Alone, it is good sweet or dry. Very complex. With or without oak is good.

Black Locust/Acacia: Very thick mouthfeel with a complex flavor profile. When sweet, it is similar to Polish meads. When dry, it is good with extra aging. Oak can further add to the complexity.

Sourwood: I think Pooh bear honey. It just tastes like what you envision honey to taste like. Good dry, but better sweet. Great for JAOM and metheglin. Oak is a good pair as well.

Summer Berry (Strawberry, blackberry, etc): Good sweet or dry, but great in a semi to sweet melomel. As a sparkling hydromel, it is s great summer thirst quencher. I think oak takes away from the floral character here, but others may disagree.

Let's start there as a first installment. Does that get at the question at all?


Better brewing through science!

See my brewing site at www.denardbrewing.com

See my Current Mead Making Techniques article here:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/current-mead-making-techniques.html

great post, thank you!

valverij
08-14-2015, 09:37 AM
Awesome post. That's a great reference breaking down some major honey varieties.

Yeah, that's essentially what I was getting at, but I didn't want to restrict it to just saying, "What honey varieties work best in dry mead?" My original intention was to get a little more into what common elements we find in honeys that lend themselves to a good dry mead. Kind of like tagging flavors on the honey wheel with "dry," "sweet," and "semi-sweet." Maybe that's taking too simplistic of an approach, though.

I have a German forest honey right now that I've used in a sweet mead, and it was great. The honey itself is very very dark, caramely, slightly malty, floral, a little piney, and somewhat earthy. It worked great as a sweet mead, but it almost tastes a little too sweet. Despite the SG (~1.015), it tastes like it's in the 1.020 - 1.030 range. I figured I'd might as well try it dry, maybe with a little American oak. I think the perceived sweetness of the honey mixed with the vanilla and bourbon from the oak could really bring out and reinforce the flavors of the honey, especially with age.