One of the most interesting meads Shelley tasted was a homemade mead that had been dry-hopped (the hop flavor was added by allowing hops to steep in the mead). The bitterness of the hops balances nicely with the sweetness of a sweet mead.
One of the challenges of this recipe is bottling the final mead. You want to avoid siphoning the hops into your bottles!
Shelley Stuart (Mead Magic)
- Mead Magic kit
- Spring Fruit booster pack (The wildflower honey from a mead magic kit or booster pack will also work fine.)
- 0.5oz Fuggles cone hops
There are dozens of hops varieties available, and each offers something different to the meads. Fuggles offers a great deal of aroma, but less bitterness. Shelley wanted some bitterness, but chose a conservative approach for the one-gallon batch. Go to www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/hops/ for a list of hops and their properties.
- Brew one gallon of mead according to the kit’s directions.
- At the end of Stage 3 (Fermenting, Part 2), re-rack your mead.
- Use the two-gallon pail (cleaned and sterilized) to pour your mead off the lees (the siphon hose is handy here).
- Be as careful as you can to not stir up the sediment. It won’t be the end of the mead if it’s cloudy, but you have an opportunity to make a clear final beverage.
- Rinse out your gallon jug to get rid of the lees.
- Add the hop cones into your gallon jug. (We recommend hopping it in your gallon jug to reduce the air-to-mead surface area.)
- Now return the mead to the gallon jug with the hops. Give it a gentle swirl, and put the airlock back on.
- Let the hops steep until you like the flavor. Use a “wine thief” to siphon steal the taste if you have one. A long straw also works well as a makeshift wine thief. (Put the straw into your gallon jug below the liquid line. Place a finger on top of the straw and draw out a sample.) If you don’t have a straw, grab a turkey baster. (Make sure you clean them first!)
- Continue on to Stage 4 (Bottling & Aging). Gently pour your mead into your clean two-gallon pail, filtering it through the cheesecloth, then use the siphon hose to bottle.
Notes from the brewer
I dry-hopped the one-gallon batch for a week before tasting it. The hops flavor imparted much quicker than I anticipated, and the mead I bottled had a hoppy/grassy flavor to it, not the hops balance I wanted to achieve. I will test a bottle in the spring, once it’s aged, to see how the flavor profile changes.
Tasting update (April, 2014)
We bottled the mead on September 11, 2014, so it had seven months of aging in the bottle before we tested it. The grassy flavor completely vanished, leaving behind a straw-colored mead with an interesting flavor from the fuggles. Our first impression was “hm, this is different.”
We didn’t have enough of a mead epiphany to make a five-gallon batch based on this recipe, but like it enough to try variations on this theme. This is exactly why we sample recipes in one-gallon sizes. We only have about eight 10-ounce bottles of this mead to drink, which is perfectly fine. Five gallons would probably have been way too much for us.
We’ll taste this again in September, and see what longer aging does to the flavor profile.
Changes and variations
Things that Shelley might change on a second run:
- Instead of dry-hopping the mead, I would use a small amount of cone hops with more bitterness. I would boil the hops with the water that I use in my must in step 1 (letting it cool before it gets mixed with the honey).
- I might also dry-hop at the same stage, with a cone hops, but using a different hops for a different flavor profile.
- I might try hopping with a pellet hops instead of the cone. My concern here is that the mead would be harder to clarify.
- This mead might benefit from not only a stronger hops, but a stronger honey as well to balance out the flavors and aromas. Instead of the lighter spring honeys, replicating this with a fall honey may prove even tastier.