Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brewday: Purple Daze '09

So I normally make one batch of mead a year. Usually this is 8-10 gallons, and fermented in the big 12 gallon Pyrex carboy I, erm, acquired. This year I decided to combine our summer foraging with meadmaking and make a big multi-berry melomel. It's based on a recipe from Ken Shram's excellent The Compleat Meadmaker, which all meadmakers should own at least one copy of. My plan is to make a 10ish gallon batch and split it. Half will be treated like a red wine, oaked, maybe malolactic, etc. The other half will be sweetened to various levels and bottled more like a berry melomel. All of it will get a year before we start drinking it.

It all began with Meredith and I picking berries. And more berries. And more berries. (This should be called Discovery Park Mountain Lion Memorial Melomel, but I digress.) The berries were frozen on cookie sheets, bagged, and shoved in the back of the freezer all Summer. Supplemented with berries from the farmer's market, whatever was in season. Finally, some things came from Remlinger Farms out in Carnation. (I missed strawberry and pie cherry season due to the Bar Exam.) You can find frozen berries from them, in 3lb form, at T&C markets in Seattle.

I also had to find honey. In Miami, we had the serious hookup. A nearby honey wholesaler (and professional Fireworks company, if you can believe it) would sell me a gallon of Orange Blossom for $25. Weeeeell those days are over. I got a gallon of Blackberry honey from Bob's, but that cleared him out and I needed another gallon. Hmm, what to do?

I picked up a gallon of cheap spring water, then headed over to the Ballard Market. Poured my gallon of water on a thirsty looking parking lot tree, then headed inside. They sell bulk clover and orange honey there, with some dinky little tubs to put it in. Well I turned on the tap, and set my jug down. Checked out the teas and coffee, checked jug. Checked out bulk spices aisle, checked jug. Wandered fruit aisle, checked jug. Took a nap, checked jug. Recited Epic Poem of Gilgamesh, checked jug. A lifetime later I had a gallon of orange honey. Slapped a label on it and presented to confused checkout clerk. Total cost of both, nearly $100. Ouch. Plus fruit. Ouch. At least the blackberries were free (discounting bloodloss and stinging nettle).

Purple Daze Berry Melomel 2009

10 gallons. Ish. Probably. Somewhere near 50 wine bottles. ABV somewhere around 11-12%

12 lbs (1 gallon) Blackberry Honey
12 lbs (1 gallon) Orange Blossom Honey
4 t Yeast Nutrient
4 t Yeast Energizer
4 packets Lalvin Narbonne yeast

7 lbs Wild Blackberries
4 lbs Blueberries
1 lb Wild Huckleberries
2 lbs Bing Cherries, halved with pits still in.
3 lbs Pie Cherries, pitted
3 lbs Raspberries
6 lbs Strawberries

Mead is really, really, stupidly easy to make. Honey + water = alcohol. Wild yeast will be enough to do the trick, but if you want to make something more... palatable, then you need yeast and yeast nutrient. Here's the process. Should take maybe 20 minutes. 1 gallon honey goes into a sanitized carboy. 1 gallon hot water goes into the carboy. 2 tsp yeast nutrient and 2 tsp yeast energizer goes into the carboy. Swirl the bajeezus out of it until honey is fairly diluted. Add two to three more gallons water to it. Again, swirl bajeezus. The less water you add, the stronger and possibly sweeter it will be. Reconstitute two packets dry wine yeast (I like Lalvin Narbonne) and add to carboy. Done. Let 'er rip. Now do another carboy full. Let ferment for two weeks at 66-70ish.

The fruit. First, freeze all of it. Then thaw all of it. Since there were a lot of berries, 26 pounds, it was taking a while to thaw them. So I put them all in one of my brew buckets. I added some pectic enzyme (maybe a tablespoon, keep the haze down). I then added 10 crushed campden tablets. This added sulfites equivalent to 41ish ppm, which is a bit less than you'd start a red wine out at. But I don't usually sulfite my meads till the very end anyway so this is more than I would normally add for just a mead. Give it 24 hours, then sanitize the big 12 gallon carboy, add the fruit and rack the mead onto it.

Or better yet, rack just ONE of the carboyfulls onto it. Turns out I'd made a bit too much base mead. The fruit took up 3 gallons of space. I'd made 10 gallons of mead. In retrospect I should have made 8 gallons of stronger mead. So I had to cram the leftovers into hastily sanitized spare growlers. They'll come back later when it's time to blend and make up for volume lost to racking. But the carboy was nearly full. And this worried me a bit. And rightly so.

I came back to check it a couple hours later and discovered that the CO2 from the renewed fermentation was floating the berries like a raft, and the whole thing threatened to explode like a 4th grade science fair volcano. I quickly sanitized a carboy and the autosiphon and racked 2 gallons or so of the mead over to the carboy. Whew. Crisis averted. Purple stained hands and a sticky berry mess to clean up at 9:30 at night. W00t. So yeah, add just one carboy full and wait for the fermentation to calm down before adding the other.

Otherwise there it will sit for about 3 months. Then I'll rack, let it sit, then rack again probably. Bottling will be next Spring sometime.


Post a Comment