Boiling honey or not(Re: hist-brewing: mead)

Nick Sasso njs at
Tue Sep 28 12:44:09 PDT 1999

Greg and Kirsty,

I  wanted to add another viewpoint to the discussion, and agree with th basic thrust of what you both said:  There is something satisfying about making a beverage that was made by people centuries ago the way they made it then.  there is a connection, or communion, with those people and their mastery of their craft.  It's almost a spiritual experience to drink one.

The disagreement part is that of clarity and boiling and fining.  One has to make distinctions and decisions about just what part of history is being connected to.  Malt extract syrups were available to the British Navy in the 18th century, isinglas was available and used as a fining agent in the 15th century, grain beds were known to strain out gunk (trub) from the wort as long as grain was mashed intentionally,  dried yeast cultures are a late 19th century invention, liquid yeast cultures late 20th century, egg whites or shells in wines can be found in "The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby. . ." if I recall correctly, wild innoculation was the standard fermentation method in the 6th century since yeast was not really a known (they called in god-is-good in some western cultures), open fermenters were the standard rahter than the glass carboys many use today---beer is still fermented in huge open pools in modern Belgium, American 6row barley is a modern hybrid that works far better than the british 2-row for housebrewing, but is farther from what was available before 1900, wood fires and iron or copper furnaces were the standard until steel was invented in the 1800's, kiln dried malts were made with wood fires through the 1700's at least.

I am not trying to beat a horse, just offer lots of perspectives on what is historical and what we as historical brewers, vintners and meaders are trying to approximate.  We all have choices and stuggles to make with our personal goals and integrities as we balance accurate recreations with needs for sanitation and certain qualities of our products.  I encourage all the people I contact and consult with to challenge themselves to take deliberate steps toward history in their methods whenever they can afford and are willing to do so.  It will increase their experience of the beverage and push the rest of us as well.

To say that beer or mead with any specific characteristic is  or is not historical can be tricky.. Especially when you read laws in medieval Europe that proclaim beer may not be sold that is oder than 4 days or the Reinheitsgobot.  We are travelling a road backward that involves choices and balances that impact other choices and balances.

pacem et bonum,

Nick Sasso

P.S. it will be really heard to give up my steel boiling pot over the gas fire, but I'm getting there.


Good points all. I also make beer and find that (although they do clear
easier than mead usually) it makes no odds to the taste, and in fact, in may
beers may improve it if it is less than sparklingly clear. I have one brwon
ale which is a particular favourite which you can't see through - the effect
being due in part also to the very dark, almost black colour.

If you are drinking from a horn - who cares! The only thing to watch is if
you have a yeast allergy/intolerance.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-hist-brewing at [mailto:owner-hist-brewing at]On
> Behalf Of Gregory Rehm
> Sent: 28 September 1999 06:10
> To: hist-brewing at
> Subject: Re: Boiling honey or not(Re: hist-brewing: mead)
> Hello all,
> This my first post on this list after lurking for some time.
> I've made meads, and melomel with and without boiling the 
> honey.  In my
> experience, there can be little doubt - boiling makes 
> clearer, less aromatic
> mead.  The relative merits of sanitization from boiling and 
> the relative
> overall effect of the reduced aromatic compounds can be 
> debated, but I think
> it misses the point.
> If a historically inspired or acurate beverage is desired, 
> clarity can play
> a reduced role.  Finings are a relatively recent developement and
> micro-filtration is more modern yet.  I have enjoyed making mead that
> retains a completely murky, cloudy appearance.  I don't think 
> it reduces the
> appeal of the beverage one iota.  Indeed, bucking the current trend of
> crystaline drinks suits me fine.  There's something magical 
> about dumping a
> load of honey in some warm water, throwing in some yeast and getting a
> beverage that thrills your friends and ties you to history.  As for
> clarifiers/finings, loads of live yeast help stabilize a young or low
> alcohol meads and their taste is an important part of the 
> history of these
> drinks.
> I find a mead with a strong honey nose, a wine like flavor 
> and a hefe weizen
> appearance wonderfully un-modern.  I think i've made my 
> position CLEAR ;)
> Gregory Rehm
> greg at
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Kirsty Pollock <kirsty.pollock at>
> To: <hist-brewing at>
> Sent: Friday, September 24, 1999 5:36 AM
> Subject: RE: Boiling honey or not(Re: hist-brewing: mead)
> > I did have a good success with a half honey/half golden 
> sugar mix (2lbs,
> 1kg
> > respectively) with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and a bit of 
> lime juice as
> > flavouring. I boiled it a bit, but not more than say 10 
> mins. Used a wine
> > yeast. It was pretty vigorous, but stopped fermenting and cleared
> reasonably
> > quickly (a couple of months). I racked it twice, and it was 
> medium sweet
> and
> > so far no fizziness/exploding bottles and goes down rather well.
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------

To unsubscribe from this list, send email to majordomo at containing
the words "unsubscribe hist-brewing" (or unsubscribe hist-brewing-digest, if
you get the digest.) To contact a human about problems, send mail to
owner-hist-brewing at

More information about the hist-brewing mailing list