Review by Frederick B. Wardwell
All you need to know to make prize-winning mead is told in Dr. Roger A. Morse’s book Making Mead. in 125 pages, he gives formulas, sanitation procedures, equipment requirements, and other helpful information. i know that this is all you need, because I first made wine 60 years ago, studied college chemistry for six years, and read every word of The Chemistry of Wine Making, but i never made a satisfactory wine before reading Making Mead, or found any helpful suggestions not included in this book. There is thus no need for me to explain here in detail how to make mead. Just read his book.
There is, naturally, other material to study if you wish. The October 1994 issue of the MSBA Bee Line interviewed Walter Orlovsky of Dresden in detail on his prize- winning process. The American Mead As- sociation has published volumes on mead, and lists many references. Our coopera- tive extension Service has entomology Leaflet #82 devoted to mead making, and the February 1998 issue of The American Bee Journal carried a fine article by Morse, Kime, and Steinkraus on the latest tech- nology, which listed several references.
Beware! Mead making is not unlike bee keeping in that there are many opinions, many formulas, and if you wish to add them, an almost infinite number of flavor- ings recommended. perhaps the most often encountered process variable, how- ever, is whether or not to boil the honey/ water mix before fermenting. Dr. Morse et al advise in The American Bee Journal article that the flavor is better if boiling is avoided, but in Mead Making, Morse states boiling is the best way for the home vint- ner to make a clear mead. Take your pick.
The cost of making mead is nominal for the home vintner. equipment consists of a few glass jars a gallon or larger, a few rubber corks, a simple air lock system, some flexible tubing, and empty bottles for the finished product. A cool cellar, optimally 60 – 65°F, is very desirable.
Since mead is wine made from honey, you need honey, and presumably bees. One half pound of honey will produce about a 750ml bottle of dry mead, and a bit less of sweet mead. Your mead’s flavor will depend in a large part on the flavor of your honey, just as grape wine depends on grape variety. Dr. Morse favors late- season goldenrod honey for its strong bouquet, while most others prefer lighter honeys like clover or orange blossom. if you have a reasonably developed sense for wine quality, you have probably found home made wine not better than cheap jug wine. You can do much better than that by carefully following Morse’s direc- tions. Still, you may not like mead on first tasting, for, to some extent, all bever- ages take experience or education to enjoy; however, people who like wine usually like good mead from the start.
Most mead makers feel that mead must age at least two to three years before being ready to drink, while five years is not contested. Some recommend eleven years, but that’s a long time to wait. in any event, if you wish to consume one 750ml bottle a week (before a nap), and have a 15-year life expectancy, you will need 250 gallons in the cellar. That will take about 600 pounds of honey and five years of aging, so get started!
Making Mead, by Roger A. Morse, is in the MSBA library.