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Experiments & Adventures in Mead Making

My first encounter with 'Mead' was quite some years ago - a well known & commercial brew from the Northumbria region. It was a pleasant encounter but certainly not one which I exulted about from the highest tree tops. Since then, my mead drinking has been relatively limited. Then, in November of 2014, while 'foraging, feasting, playing' in Scotland, I was introduced to 'homebrewed' meads, lovingly and artistically created by my now friend and fellow forager, Andrew McFarlane, aka 'McMead'. Andrew, who 'husbands' bees at his home in South East England, creates his delightful beverages with the raw, unpasteurised honey produced by his bees. At the same time Andrew utilises his extensive knowledge of herbs and natural medicines, adding various wild herbal and edible ingredients into them. The first mead of Andrews I sampled was a Mugwort & Yarrow version and I was instantly hooked! The bold, gutsy, yet simple complexity had me reeling with utter joy and elation and at that moment my curiosity to experiment with homebrewing meads was born.

I currently have three herbal mead experiments on the go (picture right). My knowledge and experience of homebrewing wine, coupled with hints and tips borrowed from Andrew, leave me in no doubt as to the success of these experiments - I'm also an optimist when not being a pessimist! Should, the unthinkable happen and they don't quite turn out as I expect (which they wont!) then I will turn the brews at the very least into vinegar - no need to pour down the sink in dismay, there are always productive alternatives.

From left to right: Actually classed as a 'Melomel' as opposed to a Mead due to it's 'fruit' content -
1. Elderflower/Pine Syrup/Vodka Soaked Damsons.
2. Elderflower/Yarrow/Mugwort /*Magic Wand.
3. Elderflower/Chaga/Hogweed Seed/Magic Wand*

To make: I use mineral water, raw unpasteurised honey, magic wands and then unspecified quantities of each of the ingredients in the individual brews - I often go on gut instinct but bear in mind any personal experience/knowledge & also any hints/tips/info relayed to me by whoever/whatever source. A vigorous, cyclonic stir is required daily and keeping the brews at a fairly consistent warm temperature is required - don't place in direct sunlight or on top of radiators though. Patience is a key watch-word too, it may take some time, depending on conditions, for fermentation to start. Once fermenting, leave to open ferment for several days (and to allow any wild yeasts to add to the magic - keeping covered with muslin to prevent the incursion of flies), after this time frame, seal the jars but ensure to 'burp' daily (open the lid to allow gases to escape thus preventing 'exploding' jars. You should if making large quantities ferment through using Demi-Johns and air locks. I'm hoping that mine will be ready to bottle in 8wks time.

The 'Magic Wands' - asterixed - are Heather Sticks. Heather sticks while having colonies of wild yeasts present in their natural wild state, gather and accumulate yeasts (wild or commercial) that are present in each brew - incorporating and storing them in their woody flesh. They are added to each new brew to aid as a kick-start/leg-up and are removed end of brewing and dried ready for using in future brews.



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