Pamela Spence, author of "Mad About Mead" and former director of the American Mead Association (association no longer active), give us an interesting interview with Dr. James Tew, a long-time beekeeper, as he discusses the application of winemaking techniques to making mead.


 by Pamela J. Spence (reprinted from the AMA Newsletter, Summer 1996 with permission)

The state of Ohio has been the site of a long overdue reunion between the beekeeping and  winemaking industries. Ohio State University horticulturist and enologist, Dr. james Gallander, contacted Commercial Beekeeping Coordinator, Dr. James Tew about setting up a Meak Making Project at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Tew obtained honey from six nectar sources for the project-gallberry, mint, mixed  wildflower, clover, nettle and goldenrod.

{quote_top}Although Gallander professed limited experience in making Mead, he said the basic principles  of winemaking can be  applied in making  Mead. "In making wine, the first basic prerequisite is in the selection of the grape variety. Similarly, the quality of the honey used will directly relate to the quality of the Mead."

The primary difference between making grape wine and making honey wine is that Mead often requires the addition of a nitrogen source. "Some of the honey sources fermented well naturally and others did not. When we added a nitrogen source, we did not have a problem," he said.

Honey was diluted with water to 20-22° Brix and the mixture was fermented to dryness. "There was no sweetness left," said Gallander, "We added honey back to sweeten the wine — to about 3.4° Brix."

{quote_middle}In approximate measurements, he said that three pounds (US) of honey to a gallon of water will produce a dry Mead and four pounds of honey to the gallon will produce a sweeter Mead. Gallander expects the drier Mead to appeal to American tastes.

"American tastes tend to the light, delicate, fruity, flowery wines. European Mead is often aged in wood, producing a more complex Mead. But I don't know that the American consumer would appreciate that complexity."

A dry, light wine such as he produced in the labratory, should be marketable within three to six months, Gallander said. "The wine should probably not improve with age, unless it were put into oak barrels."

The Mead made from gallberry honey was rated highest by the OARDC staff. Mint and mixed wildflower were the next preferred, while the clover and goldenrod were rated unpleasant.

Dr. Gallander conducted Mead making workshops as several beekeeping conferences this past spring, while Dr. Tew addressed the Ohio Wine Producers at their short course in February.

Speaking about the availability of honey for Mead Making, Tew found his early morning audience enthusiastic and expressed surprise that so many of the winemakers were also beekeepers.

"I thought I'd be able to get up here and tell you all kinds of lies about beekeeping," he joked, "but I see too many faces I recognize from the beekeeping world. It isn't often that these two industries have an opportunity to cross paths," said Tew, "but I'm glad to see that we are a happy mix already."