Is mead the soon-to-be next mainstream beverage? That’s not so unrealistic say commercial meadmakers and industry folks from across the globe. Hey, at least we can call ourselves an industry and — with the growth and popularity of sake and cider — we think mead is right on those beverages’ coattails. All we need are more commercial producers, more restaurants to add it to their menu and fellow beverage enthusiasts to help spread the word.
So . . . the International Mead Association (IMA) was founded in 2004 as a response to the growing needs of a growing industry. The beginnings of this association are rooted in the coming together of meaderies in Chicago in 2002 for the first International Mead Festival (IMF). (At the time is was called the First International Mead Competition and Planet Buzz! Festival.)
This gathering, organized by beer author Ray Daniels, was the largest collection of commercial mead ever assembled under one roof for a sampling by the public. Each year the International Mead Festival has grown with the 2004 festival having 85 meads from 32 companies representing 7 countries.
After the first year in Chicago, the newly renamed event was purchased by Redstone Meadery and moved to Boulder, Colorado where, in 2006, the 4th ever festival will happen. Since mead is “The Drink of Love,” on February 10th and 11th 2006, the serving and judging of the world’s largest collection of commercial mead will coincide with Valentine’s weekend!
Another one of the unique things about the festival is that many meaderies send representatives to pour their products, often the meadmakers themselves. Last year 23 producers were represented so mead fans can really garner an incredible education by attending. Also new to the event in 2006 will be an amateur meadmakers competition.
Starting in 2003, an industry meeting was held during the festival to get a better idea of what challenges meaderies were facing. We continued in 2004 with a meeting that was more focused on actually founding an association. Several committees were set up to draft by-laws, further define judging rules, prioritize industry direction, etc.
In 2005, we filed the paperwork to register the Internatiomal Mead Association as a non-profit organization. We (Julia Herz and David Myers) are the founding board members until a final draft of by-laws are put in place and dues are paid. At that point, we will have an election for a full board. The categories of membership and proposed by-laws can both be viewed on-line at www.meadfest.org.
This is an exciting time in the world of mead. There are approximately 60 meaderies in the United States with 250 or so worldwide. Mead is also being produced by another 20–30 U.S. grape wineries and breweries. New meaderies continue to open every year with only a small percentage closing. We estimate that mead sales are growing at around 300% a year and only will continue to get stronger. Just as in the 1980’s when the craft beer and California wine movement began to evolve, the diversity and quality of commercial mead products continues to grow and improve.
So go ahead, make some mead and feel good that you are helping satisfy a desire to drink the world’s first fermented beverage, plus further a movement — all with one
5-gallon (19-L) batch!
And while you’re at it, consider entering your mead into the next festival. To win a medal in this annual event is to be tapped as making some of the best mead in the world.
Entries in the amateur mead competition need to arrive at Redstone Meadery between Nov-ember 7th and November 21st, 2005. Each entry requires three 12 oz. (355 mL) bottles and costs $6. Meads can be entered in the following categories: Dry Traditional Mead, Semi-Sweet Traditional Mead, Sweet Traditional Mead, Cyser, Pyment, Other Fruit Melomel, Metheglin, Braggot and Other Mead (a category for meads that combine ingredients from two categories or otherwise don’t fall neatly into one of the other categories). See the ad on page 50 for details on entering your meads in the 2006 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition.
See www.meadfest.com for complete festival and competition information and entry forms. Finalists and medal winners will be announced February 11th, 2006.
For information on making mead, see Paul Zocco’s article, “Mead: From Nectar to Nirvana,” on page 32 of this issue for all the basic information on making mead. The meadmakers at Redstone also offer a few tips and encouragements. They say that, when making mead at home, the most important thing is to have fun! Remember to sanitize anything that touches the beverage. Feed the must (the unfermented mead) lots of oxygen. Ferment at least two honeys to give the final product more complexity and add nutrients for the yeast. Heat the must as little as possible so most of the delicate aromatics and flavors shine through. And finally, be patient.
In this article, we also present three clone recipes from commercial meaderies (Rabbit’s Foot Meadery, Redstone Meadery and Wild Blossom Meadery). A mead started today should be ready by next summer.
Julia Herz and David Myers are founding board members of the International Mead Association.
Rabbit’s Foot Meadery
Sweet Mead clone
(5 gallons/19L, honey)
OG = 1.110
FG = 1.030
ABV = 12%
The following recipe is for our award-winning sweet mead.
15 lbs. (6.8 kg) wildflower honey
5 tsp. yeast nutrient
5 tsp. DAP
5 tbsp. bentonite
2 pkg. Lalvin EC-1118 yeast
Step by Step
Use the finest wildflower honey that you have available. Blend your 15 lbs. (6.8 kg) of wildflower honey with about 2 gallons (7.6 L) of boiling water and stir well. Do not boil the mixture. Add the additional water (2–3 gallons/7.6–11 L) a little at a time until the specific gravity reaches 1.110. You should end up with around 5 gallons (19 L), but you may have a little more or less depending on the density of the honey. For this recipe, you should use two packets of Lalvin EC-1118 yeast. More yeast to start is better. Rehydrate the yeast in a cup of 104 °F (40 °C) water for 30 minutes, then mix it into the honey and water mixture. Pour the contents of the batch back and forth into an additional sanitized fermentation bucket to aerate.
Add 5 tsp. of yeast nutrient and 5 tsp. of DAP. Add 50% of your nutrients now and allow to begin fermenting. The next day you should see signs of fermentation. Add the remainder of your nutrients.
Ferment until the specific gravity reaches 1.030-1.035 and add 1 tbsp. bentonite per gallon mixed into a slurry. Allow this mixture to settle out and the following day stir it up again. Following this, the mead will clear rapidly but still continue to ferment. Watch the gravity for the next few days until it reaches 1.030 and then rack it off the lees (sediment). If you have the ability to filter the mead, go ahead and do it now. Ideally, you would bulk age this mead for a month or two before drinking, but it should be quite nice right away.
Bottle the mead still (without bottling sugar for carbonation) The final alcohol content will be around 12% ABV.
Vanilla Bean / Cinnamon Stick Mead clone
(5 gallon/19 L, honey
OG = 1.102
FG = 1.012
ABV = 12%
One of the traditions I started early in my meadmaking career was producing Winter Solstice Mead. Every December 21st, I make mead. For many years I would make a 10-gallon (38 L) batch leaving half of it traditional and half with either vanilla beans or vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. I would age it two years and then serve it at the annual Winter Solstice party from a special bottle. Serve 3-6 ounces at a time, very cold or mulled.
— David Myers
8 lbs. (3.6 kg) alfalfa honey
4 lbs (1.8 kg) wildflower honey
1 tbsp. yeast nutrient
1 tbsp. extra light malt extract
3-4 whole vanilla beans
3–4 cinnamon sticks
Red Star Montrachet yeast
Step by Step
Bring 4 gallons (15 L) of water up to 180 °F (82 °C) in your kettle and then add 12 pounds (5.4 kg) of honey.
Cover for 20 to 30 minutes at around 150 to 160 °F (66–71 °C). Now is a good time to start your yeast. For mead, I like to use dry yeast. Take a few packets of Montrachet yeast. Mix with a tablespoon of extra light malt extract. Stir vigorously so as to introduce oxygen.
Primary fermentation most likely will take three to four months. Try to keep the fermentation temperature between 70 and 78 °F (21–26 °C) if possible. After primary, transfer to a 5-gallon (19 L) carboy that already has the vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks in it. Just toss the cinnamon sticks in whole. Cut the vanilla beans into thirds before adding. The vanilla beans in particular need the alcohol in the mead to help extract the flavor. Let it sit for three months or so. Transfer off the spices. Keep racking until you are pleased with the clarity of the mead. Bottle still (without bottling sugar).
Blanc de Fleur clone
(5 gallon/19 L, honey, wine
OG = 1.095
FG = 1.005–1.010
ABV = 12%
12 lbs. (5.4 kg) light honey
4 tsp. DAP (diammonium
phosphate or good
1/4 tsp. grape tannin
1 tsp. elderflowers
2 pkg. Red Star Côte des
1/4 tsp. potassium metabisulphite
3 tsp. potassium sorbate
Quick Clear to fine
1 cup honey (to back sweeten)
1/2 gallon (1.9 L) dry white wine
2 tsp. acid blend
Step by Step
1. Bring honey and water to boiling and cool.
2. Add DAP, grape tannin and elderflower.
3. Mix well to aerate.
4. Rehydrate yeast and pitch.
5. Ferment 15 to 25 days in primary. 30 to 50 days in secondary.
6. Rack and add potassium metabisulphite, 3 tsp potassium sorbate and acid blend. Let stand10 days.
7. After 10 days add dry white wine, honey to taste.
8. Let stand. Top up with N2 gas until clear.
9. When clear, bottle.
This mead is best when aged six months or more. Bottle the mead still (uncarbonated).