View Full Version : Mass Fermentation Vessels

06-08-2004, 10:35 AM
OK, being a relative new-bee to mead-making, I'm curious about the demographics of mass fermentation.

That is, what size batches are generally brewed then fermented, and how do you decide (other than marketing and sales data) what size batches you will brew.

I generally brew a fifteen gallon batch dropping off five gallons at a time into stainless steel fermentation vessels. I use my corney kegs for fermentation and they work fine for me. But in the cosmic scheme of mass brewing and fermenting I would think that the fermentation vessel would be on the order of 20 - 30 gallons or greater.

What type of material do the pros use, steel, glass, plastic, wood or what?

Do they use conical fermentation vessels, or cylindrical vats, and what size are they generally?

OK, lot's of questions for the pros, but. . . that's why you're pros, right!!

Thanks much,


06-09-2004, 02:02 AM
Not a pro myself, but IIRC rabitsfoot meadery out in california makes 500 gallon batches. Near as i can tell he takes 2-3 barrels of honey adds water yeast and nutirents. Maintains a constant temperature through the use of a water cooling jacket to disperse heat better from his stainless steel fermenter. After about 2 weeks, he claims primary fermentation is over and he transfers to oak barrels for ageing (up to 14 years... though that i think was a burried barrel that escaped notice for a few years ... I'm guessing burried and forgotten under a different batch).

All this is summed of pieces i remember from dozens of posts over last couple years in several locations.... and thus prone to having been remembered incorrectly. As near as i can tell he doesn't "Brew" as such.

06-09-2004, 05:58 AM
Great info! Thanks much!

I wonder what everyone in this forum uses to ferment. I like my corney kegs, but I am considering buying a conical fermenter in the 12 - 20 gallon range, and wonder if anyone has experience in that medium.

Also, I have seen the Better Bottle website with their plastic bottles and the spigot at the bottom, along with the Fermentap stand for inverted glass Carbuoy and blowoff/racking system.

I know some folks that use the plastic buckets as well.

Thoughts, opinions, experiences, anything in opinions would be much appreciated.



Dan McFeeley
06-09-2004, 11:47 AM
Here's a URL pointer to the Rabbits Foot meadery, showing the fermentation vessels.


06-10-2004, 04:43 AM
I've been trying some commercial meads lately. Is Rabbits foot any good?

06-10-2004, 11:51 AM
Generally the fur causes me to gag! Get it? Rabbit's foot!!! Har har har . . .

Oh . . . uh . . . was that out loud??? :o What a HAREbrained thing to say!



06-11-2004, 03:25 AM
2003 commercial competition. Rabbitt's foot entered 3 meads in the 2003.


there were 18 medals awarded in 6 categories among 61 entries. While there pear didn't place in a crowded dessert and specialty category... their other two faced four other entires. One entry was sweet, one was dry, both were still meads.

Varietal & Tej
Gold: Rabbits Foot Varietal, Rabbits Foot Meadery, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
Silver: Spurgeon Vineyards Mead, Spurgeon Vineyards & Winery, Highland, WI, USA
Bronze: Rabbits Foot Meadery Varietal, Rabbits Foot Meadery, Sunnyvale, CA, USA

06-11-2004, 03:40 AM
Yes but supposedly Chaucers won some awards too and everybody on this forum thinks Chaucers tastes like krap. I'm looking for personal opinions.

06-11-2004, 12:41 PM
Haven't tried Rabbit's foot.

Understand that I never miss a chance for some levity. I think a little humor helps to get people talking and eases any trepidation for potential posters.

I've been around boards and the Usenet for a very long time, so you'll forgive me if I inject a little humour whenever possible. Force of habit.


06-12-2004, 10:19 AM
Yes but supposedly Chaucers won some awards too and everybody on this forum thinks Chaucers tastes like krap. I'm looking for personal opinions.
Actually chacers wone no awards last year, though they did enter one mead. Lurgashal entered three meads. all 4 of these widely distributed meads were in the traditional category.

Gold: Traditional Mountain Honey Wine, Redstone Meadery, Boulder, CO, USA
Silver: Ambrosia by Kristy Mead, Ambrosia by Kristy, Seattle, WA, USA
Bronze: Pirtle Sparkling Mead, Pirtle Winery, Weston, MO, USA

I gave you the link to the results. you could at least have bothered to look before trying to cast mud on a good competition with falsehoods. Niether company entered meads the previous year.

As far as awards chaucers claims for thier mead

1995 - 92 Points - National Champion Fruit Wine. Best Buy - Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Gold Medal - Best Buy - '95 Beverage Testing Institute
Silver Medal - Indiana State Fair
Silver Medal - Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Competition
86 Points - '98 World Wine Championships

I never drank thier mead in 1995, but plainly they went from 92 points and a gold in "world competition" as "Fruit Wine" to only getting a silver in the indiana fair 3 years later... never been to the indiana fair... don't follow wine competitions... maybe it is a really big deal... question is where are more recent victories?

The fact that they don't have them, suggests that maybe they ain't got it all together. Actually all thier wines won awards in 1998.... but then no more... Did they lose thier winemaker? I don't know.

Please Check your facts before casting stones. Just because a company won awards 6 or 9 years ago doesn't mean they are good today. No awards they felt worthy of posting since 1998. Also in this country mead has developed a lot (though still in its infantcy). It is possible that Chaucers is the same that won some awards in 1995, but that apreciation and judging standards for mead have improved. Certainly i have a friend that produces excellent cyser. from one batch he entered 6 competitions a couple years back. he won 5 (including 2 best in shows almost unheard of in beer competitions for a mead to get best in show) and got ripped apart in the judging of the other and didn't place at all in the cyser category. Assumption is that he got a judgeing table with little experience or appreciation for mead/cyser. Certainly he is not the only one to experience such an irregularity in judging standards - though this is improving.

06-12-2004, 12:49 PM
Speaking of Chaucer's, I have tasted their Mead. It was a pleasant, smooth and very sweet mead. It had a light honey aroma, and a good bronze to gold color. The finish was sweet but tended to fall off very quickly. I was surprised that the honey flaver and "effect" on the back of the throat and the soft-palatte was not as pronounced as others I have tasted that were in the sweet mead idiom.

At $12.00/bottle I feel it is overpriced given that I've tasted meads by several of my friends that I thought were better, more balanced with more complexity than the Chaucer's.

06-13-2004, 11:32 PM
I gave you the link to the results. you could at least have bothered to look before trying to cast mud on a good competition with falsehoods. Niether company entered meads the previous year.

Sorry, I wasn't putting the Mead Fest Awards down. And I did look at your link. Let me try to explain my comment by listing some things I learned on this forum:

1. Chaucers won "a bunch of awards" as stated by someone. I must admit I didn't investigate further into the matter.

2. Most people don't seem to like Chaucers. Even though I do a bit.

Therefor, not knowing what competition, year, etc that Chaucers won, it gave me a skeptic attitude of "a bunch of awards". An award is given from a group of people. Because it is all a matter of opinion, what I was looking for was an opinion. There are so many factors associated with competitions of any kind. Like you said, if someone with good mead presented their mead to a judgeing table with little experience or appreciation for mead, that is certainly a factor. A wonderful mead might get placed bronze or not at all in a case like this. In that case I probably would never have tried that mead if I depended purily on results.

What it boils down to is this: I don't have any knowledge of the Mead Fest or much knowledge of any mead competition for that matter. Knowing that, I decided to steer around the whole subject and get personal opinions. Besides all this, looking at competition results doesn't tell me exactly what is good about a certain mead (although the feedback was appreciated).

06-13-2004, 11:35 PM
I also failed to mention that I was already planning on trying Rabbits Foot today. ;)

06-14-2004, 08:46 AM
Sorry, i may have jumped a bit to hard.

The mead fest is a legitamate competition doing all it can to promote comercial meads in the US. To do so they have gotten well qualified judges. Mead is the ONLY beverage there. It is not an after thought where a judge gets assigned to the table because the lager (or whatever) table is full. While hosted by a meadery that did rather well in competition, there are two other meadery sponsers, as well as white labs yeast, the honney board, and others.

This competition is a serious bid for US legitamacy and recognition for our beloved infant mead industry. 23 different meaderies from several countries sent 61 meads (Poland, Great Britain, Canada, Austrailia, and of course all over the US that i know of) Over 500 people attended, and national press coverage was sought and recieved from .... Wine Enthusiast Magazine, All About Beer Magazine, CBS News Watch, PR News Wire, Associated Press Denver.

I dream of the Day... when I can go into any local liqour store here in TN and have a choice of 10 different meads.... right now there are only 2, and you have to search for the liquor stores that have them. I Can find more than 10 high alchohol imported beers in my wine super-store. But only a single mead burried in that same section. Most small stores don't carry any at all, those that do tend to carry it seasonally around christmass time.

I'm not a Comercial mead maker... but i want to be in a few years. :-)

Again my apologies for jumping too hard.

06-15-2004, 04:06 AM
It's ok, no problem. If anybody in this forum had the know-how to start their own meadery it would be you. The problem is, most of the puplic doesn't even know what mead is!

In this day and age where pop culture seems to rule the masses (what a stupid, pathetic society), it seems like the only way to get the word out about mead is to have a commercial during a reality show or associate it somehow with the Atkins diet! On the other hand, our dream will never come true unless people like you go out on a limb and try this kind of thing. Who knows, you might eventually make enough money to fill a 30 sec time slot during a Friends marathon! (stupid Friends...)

Now if all the Meaderies got together and started a "Got Milk?" -esque campaign, where they are advertising Mead in general, rather than just a particular meadery, it would really turn the tables...

Before everybody had cell phones, I heard some people say "Invest in cell phones! They are going to be big!" Maybe you are sitting on a similar, potential gold mine as well. But you won't know until you try. Good luck to you!

06-15-2004, 09:41 AM
Many people that I speak with don't really even know what mead is or what makes it special, let alone the different types of mead, melomel, etc. It's funny that this beverage with it's historical and through the age longevity is not more well known.

Most of the people I have met that know what mead is generally associate it with the Rennaissance Faires, and a kind of counterculture which I think is a really short-sighted view of something that is very much a entity in it's own right. I spoke to some folks in my family and asked them about meadmaking in the Old Country and they didn't really know anything about it until I found the word Medovina (Croatian: med=honey vina=wine so the honeywine name) There was still not as much information as I would have thought.

There is one place that I know of where they make mead on one of the islands, it's a smalll town and the apiaries are next to these huge lavender fields. The mead is excellent, but they only make enough for themselves, which is pretty much the way they make wine over there too. There are plenty of exceptions, but most people make their own wine, and liquor for their own use.

A lot of the restaurants buy wine from the winemakers on the islands so it's not unusual to see a guy getting onto one of the ferries with several 5 gallon jugs of red and white wine.

I frequent a wine market here in Southern California, and every one of the guys working there knows what mead is, but they just never have any for sale. I'm surprised because these guys have just about everything you can imagine (including Absinthe) but no mead.

Seems to me that the mass marketing craze has not set in with the mead crowd. Depending on one's perspective that can be a good or bad thing. For my part, I'll live with the limited availability and make my own, and try some commercial meads whenever the opportunity presents itself.



06-15-2004, 08:51 PM
I just want an itty bitty little corner of the wine market for mead ... about say 2%. When you walk into a wine store... i would like to see 1 bottle of mead for every 50 bottles of wine... It's not so much to ask for really.


As for starting a meadery, all i need now is the money. Working on that, btw. My 55 gallon cyser this fall, is sort of a trial run. Also trying to pick the brains and the recipe of an experienced home meadmaker locally. Will be fermented in a used Jack Daniels barrel. I found the subtle whiskey tones and the light oaking to be very complimentery in the cyser he brought to the tasting i held in January.

06-16-2004, 11:21 AM
I'm also a wine afficionado so I really enjoy both. I have, in the past made some meads that were sold in local pubs here and went very quickly.

Until such a time as I am able to upgrade my brewing capacity, my upward limit for one batch is 45 gallons at a time.

I've only done that once and it was basic sweet mead. It turned out great, but I used my fleet of corny kegs and a lot transferring from vessel to vessel. Lot's of work. Unfortunately that sales avenue is no longer available, but I am exploring others.



06-17-2004, 02:29 PM
not sure where you are, but around here (in the us) unless you have a nice big pile of paperwork, permits and tax payments... that is called "How i wound up in jail" lol

06-18-2004, 01:49 AM

Yeah, the registration for importing and then making spirits with the BATF and State Liquor Board here in CA, are a pain in the ass. At the time I didn't have the proper permits in place, and it is (currently) taking a long time as it is.

A local pub-owner liked it so much that he wanted to sell it, so I "rented" him the use of the corney kegs as soda kegs for his taps on the bar because he was running low on his count for Pepsi and Coca-Cola returns.

Unfortunately there was still some mead in each of the kegs and he was rather put out that he had to empty the kegs before he could use them. Enterprising chap that he was, he found a way profit by it.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it! LOL


06-18-2004, 05:02 AM
I heard of a bar in New Jersey that did that with a corney of homebrew. The ATF found out and the guy is no longer in business.


06-18-2004, 01:01 PM
20/20 Hindsight it wasn't exactly a Phi Beta Kappa move, but no ill came of it, and I don't regret doing it. I wouldn't do it now because time and experience are good teachers.

But, at the time youth and inexperience prevailed!

`nuff said,


David Baldwin
06-24-2004, 08:12 PM
I'm doing my homework to gear up toward commerically procucing mead. My target date for a first release is 2010. Why so long? Well, I don't plan to be a startup that fails in 2 years.

What I am doing now is education. One store in my town carries Chaucers, Carolines, and a couple other honey flavored wines that they call mead. I am giving samples of mead to all the friends I can find. My goal is to get them to try it and then have them spread the word.

Ok, now Chaucers may not be the worlds finest mead, but it's pretty tasty, and I've only found one person who did not like it at all. Carolines was quite comparable to Chaucers. I've not been able to get other domestic meads yet, but I have fallen in love with Jadwiga. That stuff is increadible. I'm trying to bully/beg/bribe a local distributor to carry it.

Right now, it's all about educating the masses. I agree that a getting commercial meaderies to band together in a product campaign would be good for all.

06-24-2004, 11:39 PM
I think it would be a great idea to get the commercial meaderies together to market and advertise, but I think that would be about one-third of the equation.

The other two would be to get the National Honey Board, and the Beekeepers Association involved in that effort. If you look at the market data on the National Honey Board website you'll notice that the growth of honey production in many states is pretty sluggish. In fact the gross honey production levels have dipped since 2000 and have not yet returned to that level of production.

From my perspective the honey growers, bee keepers and NHB need to start some kind of marketing juggernaught to get their product into the mass media if they want to increase production and grow sales and distribution. The mead makers need to be a vocal part of that effort.

I did a quick survey of the honey board's website and there are no direct mentions of mead, nor any direct links to mead makers, etc. There are links to brewing on sub-links off the main links, but I think that mead deserves it's own unique link.

I'd say that would be a good place to start. But, as I said in another post, I like mead being a more "homegrown" kind of product, so I won't be leading that charge.