hist-brewing: Strength of Mead

Daniel W. Butler-Ehle dwbutler at mtu.edu
Tue Jul 1 15:09:09 PDT 1997

On Tue, 1 Jul 1997, Chuck Graves wrote:

> >> >I believe it was more likely the other way. Cyser and pyment were 
> >> >developed to extend the apple and grape juices with a cheaper, less 
> >> >flavorful ingredient (honey).  
> Honey was neither cheap nor less flavorful.  

On the issue of flavor, we'll just have to disagree. I find that 
even the flavors of heather and orange blossum honeys are much 
more delicate than those of even the blandest grapes and apples.

Oh, and speaking of heather: two weeks ago I visited Grand Rapids 
Brewing Company brewpub (GR in MI, not GR in MN).  They make the 
claim of being the only brewery in North America producing a heather 
ale. Scottish heather replaces the hops. They say it is a known 
style even in modern Scotland.  My palate was having an off day; 
while I could identify the varieties of hops used in each of 
their other beers, I could not detect any heather in the heather 
ale (neither flavor nor aroma).  (Maybe that accounts for my experience 
with heather honey, eh?)  Has anyone on this list done anything with
heather in beer?

> Using honey in cyser and 
> pyment to increase their strength is substantially different from 
> using it to "stretch" the juices.

You are correct.  I was confusing practices.  I was erroneously 
thinking about the former while writing about the latter.

> >Who *buys* juice and honey anyway?
> Frankly, everyone I know.  I'm the only person in my circle that ever raised 
> bees, and I can't do it now because of where I live...but perhaps again next 
> year.  We're not blessed with personal lands, an orchard, and an apiary.  We 
> settle for what currency can bring us.

Just making a joke; didn't really mean to gloat.  I sometimes trade 
for it.  Mead or beer for honey.  And now the farmer across the road 
is producing honey commercially this year, so I'll no longer have to 
travel a hour and a half to find an apiary.  I'm working out a deal 
with her to trade farmwork for honey.  I also trade beer with other 
area farmers for maple syrup and birch sap (for birch beer and birch 
candy).  (Okay, *now* I'm gloating.)

Fruit is sometimes a little tougher.  Fresh fruit is usually 
either free (for the cost of elbow grease) or expensive.  

For juice, there is a farmer I work with who also has an orchard 
and sells cider (well, unfiltered apple juice actually).  If I 
collect a bushel or so of apples from the two trees in my front yard, 
he'll press them into juice, give me a portion and sell the rest.

Timing's important. Last year our plum trees gave an incredible 
yield. About a hundred pounds or more per tree (instead of their 
usual 10-15 pounds).  I think my wife made a few pies and canned 
some, but the rest just stayed on the trees 'cuz we didn't have 
time to do anything with them.

But the vintner does have one competitive advantage in buying fruit: 
you can use damaged, ugly, or overripe fruit.  Appearance doesn't 
matter as much to a vintner as it does to some one who's buying an 
apple for a lunchbox, she just has to take a little extra care in 
cleaning it and trimming off the bad parts before making the wine.  

Sometimes you can get good deals from produce stores on overripe fruit. 
[It may help if they know to call you whenever they have something 
to get rid off. (Although if they sense any real demand on your part, 
it may drive the price up as they try to recover more than just 
salvage value.)]

Unfortunately, there are some problems with aquiring fruit in this 
manner. Say, for instance, you get a bushel of overripe peaches for 
half price. . .
1) If only 2/3 of them are usable, you got ripped off
2) If you're not prepared to use them *immediately*, you should let 
   the deal pass and wait for the next such opportunity, else you'll 
   be throwing it all away in week 'cuz it started attracting flies.
2a) If you only have use for half of them, you've essentially paid 
   full price, and that's no deal.
3) If there's mold, you'll probably want to pasteurize even after 
   trimming off the spoilage and washing them
4) You're limited to what's available; no raspberry melomels in 
   Novemeber...unless you have a big freezer (which, BTW, is a 
   worthwhile investment for winemakers [just try to avoid letting 
   your historical re-enactment group fill it up with fixin's for 
   their next big feast]).


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