Summer Solstice Mead

Most likely the first alcoholic beverage ever consumed by humans was mead. Many experts believe that mead wasn’t create by our ancestors, but instead discovered. As mead is essentially fermented watered-down honey, it would occur naturally when honey deposits found in hollow trees were flooded with rain and the yeast in the air would inoculate the blend. After some time it would ferment and would be found by someone thirsty enough to take the risk. Imagine all of the people who must have died horrible deaths from trying something for the first time? I’d like that thank them on behalf of those who survive them.

Once it was realized that you wouldn’t die from drinking this magical juice found in abandoned bee nests, but would instead feel pretty good, people starting making their own mead. Mead has helped ugly people procreate for thousands of years.

I’m not ugly (in my humble opinion) and I’m definitely not ready to procreate, but I thought that mead would be a nice addition to our cellar. When I say cellar, I mean the spare room in the basement that we put cardboard over the vent to stop it getting warm, and blocked out the windows to keep the sun from turning the beer and wine.

I’ve called it Summer Solstice Mead as the recipe I used is a traditional one that takes 18 months for the brew to mature into a drinkable liquid. I started just before New Years 2011, and as I’ve heard that mead is notorious for tasting like sweet cat piss, we will be waiting until the full 18 months are up. This happens to be roughly on the summer solstice of 2013. What better time to celebrate an ancient holiday than with an ancient drink.

Our trees don’t have bees in them. Our trees don’t have hollowed out areas either. To save the work involved in hollowing a tree and starting an apiary, I decided to use a demijohn. Into the boiling water went locally sourced honey, nutrient, and few other bits and bobs. Once cooled enough (this kept me up for a while), the yeast was pitched (added), and the whole lot went into the fermenting vessel with an airlock fitted to keep out the unwanted (bacteria, like the cat).

Mead has a tendency to form a layer of lees at the bottom in its first few weeks of fermenting. If you don’t siphon the mead off of it, it will go terribly bitter and you’ve just thrown out a lot of expensive honey. Never mind the expense, but some poor bees worked all summer to collect that honey for your batch of mead and you’ve gone and tipped it all down the sink!

So once the sludge has stopped collecting, you let it sit in the dark. If you’re worried about it getting lonely, you could put a bottle of cider next to it, but they do go on a bit.

The mead siphoned from its non-tree fermenting vessel, ready to be bottled.

After all the waiting, you then get to do the fun part: bottling! Why fun? It’s 9am on a Saturday and you get to take some “quality control samples” from a nicely sweetened liquor. After you’re done sampling, it simply goes into wine bottles. Using a corker, the stops are put in and you can stand back and look at your collection of prehistoric brew.

A great way to smash all the bottles in one go.

The bottles we used are exactly the same as the bottles with our wine in, so to avoid confusion, I had the brilliant idea of marking the corks with an “M” in script to indicate mead. Only problem with this cunning plan is that an upside down letter “M” looks a lot like a “W” when written in script. Turns out “W” is the first letter in wine. Hopefully the line underneath will remind us of the correct orientation.

This will be a lot more confusing after a few bottles.

So, summer solstice 2013, come visit and we can indulge in a bottle, or two, and toast those who were brave enough to drink out of a tree.