Make mead like us!
We want our style of mead to take hold, to stand out and be recognised for the style which it is; modern Australian made mead.
We also want you to spread the word and what better way than opening up our process and techniques, our recipes and maybe some secrets from our wheel house for those wise souls who like to dabble in the ancient art of home brewing'.
We'll continue to add to this blog page as we add mistakes learnt, new recipes and any thing else we think important to your success in making modern Australian made meads at home so make sure to keep coming back every now and then to see whats new!
Let's start with some things we definitely think you need to have your head around to ensure you create the best possible environment for your yeast. After all, the aim of the game is to keep them happy and doing their thing otherwise you risk the chance of yeast off-flavours.
Honey is nutrient deficient; the available Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN) is very low. Nitrogen makes up a huge portion of the needs of the yeast so we'll discuss Yeast Assimilable Nitrogen (YAN) later on. What's important to note right now is you will need some sort of yeast nutrient. Preferably a commercial grade and not things like pollen or raisins.
Temperature control is super important. Check your chosen yeast suppliers recommended temperature ferment range and the various flavours and esters/phenols they release. You'll be surprised that the different temperature ranges provides for differing results.
Yeast selection. Don't just buy a yeast because it says mead on the packet. Where would we be if you could only get 'beer' yeast? So instead, think about the alcohol range you're aiming for, your ability to temp. control the yeast, it's YAN requirements (LOW-MED-HIGH) and the end result they produce. Yeast are the biggest influencer of flavour so don't skimp or choose one just because of the name.
Oxygen. Yeast love O2, but only at the start of fermentation. If you have access or are serious, we recommend dosing the yeast with High Purity grade O2 during the first few days of fermentation. Again we'll build on this later. However after the 1/3 sugar break, O2 needs to be minimised as much as possible ie: cut out completely.
Cleaning and sanitising. You're about to create the perfect environment for fungi to thrive (yeast is technically a fungi). Sure there's good fungi and beneficial fungi but you don't want to introduce them into your fermentation process. You want the yeast you've selected to dominate and not some funky old blue cheese fungus to ferment your mead so make sure you clean without scratching with something like PBW and hot water, allow to dry or follow recommendations from manufacturer, hot rinse and finally sanitise. Make sure you clean all of your equipment, the measuring jugs, spoons, ph meters and hydrometers etc after each use to avoid cross-contamination.
Tools. Hydrometer and pH meter for now. Sure people will tell you they've never measured either but we're professionals and want to be able to track and monitor our meads right?! A hydrometer helps to know when to add nutrients or when racking or bottle conditioning to know where the gravity is at. It's a standard tool that everyone should own. Also a pH meter, they're relatively cheap and assist in knowing the balance of acidity in your mead. For us where we're making sour meads, it's a vital piece of equipment. So if you're embarking on this to make sour meads then yeh, you'll need one in our opinion as a starting option to measure pH.
Record Keeping. It helps track the progress of your mead to understand if things are progressing as they should be. As well as making it easier to replicate or improve on your recipe should you attempt it a second time. It doesn't need to be fancy, hand written is more than fine. Things like dates observations were taken, ingredients used, measurements, maybe some sensory notes as a few ideas.
When we decide on a mead we take inspiration from nature as well as food flavours that are known to work. To truly make an Australian mead we focus on flavours that are endemic to Australia and use them in replacement of imported flavours. They don't always work the same as traditional flavours however the idea of experimenting should not be seen as a bad thing. Think international cuisine as well and expand your flavour knowledge; what some might normally think as unusual pairings might be a standard flavour combination in Asian or French or African dishes. An example would be mangos. Australians love a ripe juicy Bowen mango however Thai food revolves around green mangos. Now you know that, you can use mangoes to various effect. Want a ripe juicy mango flavour use ripe juicy mango's but want to create a mango flavour perhaps with some tartness, why not use some green mango's?
Once you're inspired you need to decide on an end goal. ABV %, dry, sweet, still or sparkling. How would you like to enjoy the mead; chilled, room temperature? Are you fruiting and if so do you want that fruit to be complex and the backbone of the mead or more 'fresh fruit forward' flavours? Primary or Secondary.
Don't ignore your honey and yeast selection. Taste the honey next to others; they will have a pronounced flavour difference reminding you of other flavours you might be able to combine into your mead. Now look at your yeast choices, which one looks like it will compliment the flavours you've found in you're chosen honey. What is its attenuation, temperature range and nutrient requirements? Make note.
Now source all your ingredients- we always ensure this part of our processes is Australian for a start and where possible straight from the farm gate or producer. However some fruits or spices just don't grow in the Illawarra so we'll source further into NSW or interstate but never imported. Get the best fruit and honey you can afford-it will 100% make a difference to your mead however we know it's not always cheap (we definitely know this!) so get what you can afford. Frozen fruit is fine; what we actually do after sourcing our fruit and preparing it (de-stemming, de-pipping, skin removal etc if required) is freeze the fruit prior to use. It allows the cellular structure of the fruit to break down and creates an easier conversion of flavour/sugars for your yeast.
Clean and sanitise everything. Have a nice clean work area, measuring jugs, stirrers etc all assembled, layed out and clean. Ensure your fermentor is clean and sanitised and if you can flushed/purged with CO2.
This is vitally important and worth dedicating a whole session just to why and how. So stay tuned until next update where we go into ensuring your yeast is as healthy as possible before being introduced to your must.