Mead Lover's Digest #0457 Mon 5 February 1996


Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor



RE: Historical styles (Mark Taratoot)
Braggots, catagories, Who is John Galt? (Steven Rezsutek)
Re: Braggot (includes Digby recipe) (Steve E. Mercer)
Addendum — Braggots, catagories, Who is John Galt? (Steven Rezsutek)
Re: A treatise on mead judging (Spencer W Thomas)
Varietal and Misc. Comments (Russell Mast)
Yeast varieties for mead (
Newbie Questions ("If we don't look backwards, how can society go forward?")


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Subject: RE: Historical styles
From: Mark Taratoot <taratoot@PEAK.ORG>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 11:21:19 -0800 (PST)

In Mead Lovers Digest #455 (30 January, 1996), Fred Hardy discusses
historicalstyles. He describes why cyser is not a mead, since it was made
"for centuries" as a type of cider. Likewise, that pyment is not a mead,
that it was originally a "…dry wine with honey added when it was served.
Other spices might also have been added to suit the tastes of the Middle

I wonder how far back we are willing to go to define a true "style." If
we are really going WAY back, then there should be no metheglyn, melomel,
pyment, hippocras, or any other style than traditional mead. This would
simply be a bunch of honey with some water added. No herbs, no fruit, no
spices, no hops, no yeast. It would spontaneously ferment with whatever
wild yeasts or bacteria happened to be in the vessel. It may have been
consumed shortly after fermentation was underway, since it likely would be
quite foul as fermentation was completed with what we think of today as
"undesirable" organisms. It would be far different from anything we call
"mead" today.

Since history (even recent history) is somewhat sketchy depending on who
you ask, there needs to be room for the evolution of style. And who has
personally TASTED a 15th (or even a 17th) century mead?

Rant mode off!

Subject: Braggots, catagories, Who is John Galt? 
From: Steven Rezsutek <>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 14:57:06 -0500

Fellow mead makers and lovers,

Re the debate on Braggot, hops, catagories, judges, guidelines, etc:

The problem (at least with Braggot) isn't what it Was-or-Was-Not, nor is
it what it Is-Or-Is-Not. The problem is simpler and broader than that.
It is, IMHO a case of the Model not fitting Reality. With that in mind,
and in an effort to shed some light from left field, I have just put
put together my own proposal for breaking up meads into catagories.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from the discussion on this list, it seems
safe to say that when it comes to mead we really have no hard and fast
rules about what they were, and at the same time we are seeking to find
out what they *are* or, at the least, *can be*. If that's the case,
why not start with a clean slate?

With that, I present my terribly-rough draft ideas for mead catagories:

I. Simple

Composed of honey, water and other adjuncts [ingredients which provide
substantive volume to the beverage in addition to defining flavor
characteristics]. E.g. Cider, malt (extract), ginger (if you use enough
of it :), fruit, berries.

The catagory can be broken down further by type of adjunct:

Ia. [True] Mead (honey and water only)
Ib. Melomel (honey, water and fruit)
Ic. Braggot (honey, water and malt)
Id. ???

Combinations of the above are certainly possible (e.g. a prickley pear

II. Spiced

As above, but with *significant* (i.e. *defining*) flavor
contributions coming from ingredients which do not make up a
substantial percentage of the physical volume of the beverage.
E.g. Cloves, ginger (depending on quantity), hops, cinnamon,
mint, etc.

The breakdown is as above;

IIa. Metheglyn (honey, water, and herbs/spices)
IIb. Spiced Melomel (Melomel and herbs/spices)
IIc. Spiced Braggot (Braggot and herbs/spices)
IId. ???


There is a modifier, which can be applied to *any* of the above.
This removes the disparity of having "Show" only for Ia in the
current system. I think better names would be needed, but for
the moment, I'll use:

1) Pure — contains only the ingredients listed, w/o use of
chemical additives such as acid blend, or "conditioners".

It might be a good idea though, to allow chemical
addition to the degree necessary to *correct* abnormally
deficient fruit. By this I do *not* mean that it is
adjusted to come in like wine grapes, but rather like
whatever it (strawberries, etc.) would be on average.

2) Made — we're getting into country wine territory here…
[almost] anything goes.

I didn't restrict "nutrients" in the above since I don't think
they should be restricted, unless there is a distinction made
between refined nutrients and things like yeast ghosts. (Sounds
like more cans-o-worms). I can't believe that noone ever though
to slag in a couple quarts of cooked, spent yeast-gunk until the
20th century.

Of course, there are numerous problems with this approach.

The situation of multiple crossings, for example, could be a big can of
worms. How to class a Braggot (Ic.) with fruit flavors (Ib) and spices
(IIb and IIc)? [I made one of these last year]. I'd say that if the
spices weren't the defining characteristic, it would be in class I, but
that still leaves a choice to be made.

There's also the issue of what is a "substantial" percentage of a beverage?
"One percent"? "It depends"? I haven't thought that out yet…

OK. That's what I came up with in a few minutes. I don't claim it's
even workable, let alone without a lot of holes, but it should at
least provide food for discussion.



Subject: Re: Braggot (includes Digby recipe)
From: (Steve E. Mercer)
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 96 13:57:45 CST

>From "The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby…"
<begin quote>
Five Bushels of Malt will make two Hogsheads.
The first running makes one very good Hogshead,
but not very strong ; the second is very weak. To
this proportion boil a quarter of a Pound of Hops
in all the water that is to make the two Hogshads ;
that is, two Ounces to each hogshead. You put
your water to the Malt in the Ordinary way. Boil
it well, when you come to work it with yest, take
very good Beer-yest, not Ale-yest.

To make Bragot, He takes the first running of

such Ale, and boils a less proportion of Honey in it,
then when He makes His ordinary Meath ; but
dubble or triple as much spice and herbs. As for
Example to twenty Gallons of the Strong-wort, he
puts eight or ten pound, (according as your taste
liketh more or less honey) of honey ; But at least
triple as much herbs, and triple as much spice as
would serve such a quantity of small Mead as He
made Me (For to a stronger Mead you put a greater
proportion of Herbs and Spice, then to a small ; by
reason that you must keep it a longer time before
you drink it ; and the length of time mellows and
tames the taste of the herbs and spice). And when
it is tunned in the vessel (after working with the
barm) you hang in it a bag with bruised spices (rather
more than you boiled in it) which is to hang in the
barrel all the while you draw it.

He makes also Mead with the second weak run-

ning of the Ale ; and to this He useth the same pro-
portions of honey, herbs and spice, as for his small
Mead of pure water ; and useth the same manner
of boiling, working with yest, and other Circum-
stances, as in the making of that.
<end quote>

Mr. Webb here has a recipe for ale, in which he makes
one hogshead of very good first running ale and one
hogshead of very weak second running ale.

Five bushels of malted barley weighs about 160 pounds.
Malted barley is about 80 percent fermentable sugar.
Assuming complete starch conversion and complete
extraction, there would be about 128 pounds of
fermentable sugar used to make the ale. Most of the
sugar is extracted into the first hosghead of ale,
while the remainder goes into the second. By making
a "wild ass guess", I will estimate that 75 percent
of the fermentable sugar is extracted in the first
running and the remaining 25 percent in the second
This means that the first running has 96 pounds of sugar
in one hogshead (64 gallons) of water, or 1.5 pounds per
gallon. This should lead to a specific gravity of
1 + (.039 * 1.5) = 1.0585 . If this is fermented down
to a final gravity of 1.0000 (water), this would yield
an alcohol level of (1.0585 – 1.0000) * 135 = 7.9 percent

The second running would have 32 pounds of sugar in 64
gallons of water, or .5 pounds per gallon.
Specific gravity = 1 + (.039 * .5) = 1.0195 .
Final alcohol = (1.0195 – 1.0000) * 135 = 2.6 percent.

Each hogshead has two ounces of hops, or 1/32 ounce per
gallon, not very much by today's standards.

>From the same wort that is used to make the Ale, Mr.
Webb also makes bragot. In the example given he takes
20 gallons of the first running wort (containing 30 pounds
of sugar from the malt) and adds 10 pounds of honey.
Honey is about 80 percent sugar by weight, so this adds
another 8 pounds of sugar to the wort. 38 pounds of
sugar to 20 gallons water is 1.9 pounds per gallon.
Specific gravity = 1 + (.039 * 1.9) = 1.0741 .
Final alcohol = (1.0741 – 1.0000) * 135 = 10 percent.

Here we see a historical example of Braggot being made
with about 79 percent malt and about 21 percent honey.

This historical Braggot also contains hops, but at only
1/32 ounce per gallon, the amount is not very significant.
Especially when compared to the amounts of herbs and spices
that are added. In the above recipe, a reference is made
to herbs and spices used in mead. In Digby's book, there
are at least three recipes for mead made by Mr. Webb which
use herbs and spices.

For one hogshead:
2 ounces of hopps boiled for 1/2 hour
Herbs (total 1 handful)
1/2 handful of rosemary-tops, thyme, sweet-marjoram, minth
1/2 handful of sweet-bryar-leaves
2 ounces sliced ginger, 1 ounce bruised cinamon

For one hogshead:
1/2 pound hopps
2 good handfuls of herbs
6 ounces spice of all sorts

For 43 gallons
slight handful of hopps boiled for 1/4 hour
rose-mary, Thyme, winter-savory, sweet-marjorm,
sweet-briar-leaves, parsley-roots, eglantine
3 ounces ginger, 1.5 ounces cinnamon, 5 nutmegs

One thing to notice is that Digby does not include
the hops as part of the herbs and spices. This
leads me to suspect that when he says to triple
the herbs and spices, he does not intend for the
hops to be tripled as well. I also suspect that
he does not intend that the amount of hops from
the mead recipes should be used for the braggot
recipe, but rather the amount from the ale recipe
should be used.

So for the 20 gallon historical Braggot recipe, the
total 5/8 ounces of hops would likely be overpowered
by the 1-2 handfuls of herbs and the 3-6 ounces of
spices (quantities tripled then scaled for 20 gallons).

In my opinion, the "at least 50 percent honey" guideline
for braggots does not match at least one example of
Braggot brewed in England in the mid-1600's.
Also, it can be seen that hops were used in Ales,
Braggots, and Meads of that time period.

I would be in favor of splitting the braggot category
into Traditional and "modern" divisions.

Steve Mercer

Subject: Addendum -- Braggots, catagories, Who is John Galt?
From: Steven Rezsutek <>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 16:00:45 -0500

It just now hit me after rereading some of the messages in this thread,
that I've omitted some important modifiers, which probably should exist:



I think they are largely self explanatory

Sorry for both the omission, and spouting off the cuff without proofing.
That's what I get for trying to dash off a message over a cup of coffee,
instead of spending some serious time trying to compose it. OTOH, if I
did that, chances are it might not have ever been sent. 😉



Subject: Re: A treatise on mead judging
From: Spencer W Thomas <>
Date: Thu, 01 Feb 1996 09:32:53 -0500

>>>>> "MLH" == Michael L. Hall

MLH> 1. Traditional Mead – A mead made primarily from honey, water
MLH> and yeast. Honey should be expressed in aroma and
MLH> flavor. Additives of any type are allowed at
MLH> sub-threshold levels (spice or fruit character is
MLH> considered a flaw). The mead should have a neutral
MLH> acidity-sweetness-tannin balance.

Can we start a discussion about the appropriateness of tannin in mead?
I contend that tannin occurs naturally only in fruit-based meads (and
those spiced with tea and other leaves or twigs). I don't think that
it is required in a traditional (or "show") mead.

Just as mead is not beer, neither is it wine. Sure, if you're

coming from a wine-tasting background, you'll fault a mead for lack of
a tannic "backbone". Just as those coming from a beer-tasting
background will find meads lacking hop bitterness to be "out of
balance." I say, we should drop all our preconceived notions and
approach mead as what it is – a fermented, honey-based beverage.
Honey does not naturally contain tannin, so why should mead?

Pardon me while I don my asbestos suit. 🙂

=Spencer Thomas in Ann Arbor, MI (

Subject: Varietal and Misc. Comments
From: Russell Mast <>
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996 12:40:44 -0600

> Subject: A Treatise on Mead Judging
> From: (Michael L. Hall)

> A fourth and final problem that I have noticed in mead judging is similar to
> the "bigger is better" problem in beer judging. I have judged many meads which
> were light, delicate and wonderful that were dismissed by other judges because
> they weren't extreme enough.

I think that this problem is endemic to any competetion where many things are
judged in a given sitting, or even a given day. You experience the perceptual
phenomenon of acclimation, where you're tastebuds (and gustatory areas in your
brain) get "tired" and can't perceive the subtleties as well. Most of these
delicate meads won't taste too good after tasting such a wide variety of things.
They might be good with water crackers and mild cheese, but drinking them with
a garlicky pizza, they'll taste like water. It's the same effect, essentially.

Other than that, I agree with the analysis of problems set forth in the
preamble. However, I'm not sure that having so many categories is the
right way to go with it. Perhaps.

The risk, in my opinion, is that people will begin to take these categories
too seriously when meading, and rather than making something that they or
Dan McConnell thinks is "really cool", they'll make something that could
win a competetion, or fit into a category well. Although the final blame for
that rests with the individual, for taking competetions more seriously than
their own drinking pleasure, I wonder if having more restrictive styles
doesn't encourage this on the part of individuals. I think a serious attempt
was made to allow for freestylers, and that's good. (I always make mead for
me first and others second, and I think that's the way to go with it.)

Two nits to pick. First, I think hops (or wine tastes) in mead is great and
should be acceptable, as long as the honey flavors predominate.

> 1. Traditional Mead – A mead made primarily from honey, water and yeast.
> ….
> a. Standard Traditional Mead – uses clover or wildflower honey.
> b. Varietal Honey Traditional Mead – is made from honey from a particular
> flower source (clover and wildflower honey are not acceptable in this
> category). The brewer must name the varietal honey. Examples include
> … alfalfa, tupelo, etc. The mead should
> showcase the distinctive taste of the particular varietal honey.

I used to have easy access to lots of Alfalfa honey and, not a knock against
it, it's an extremely neutral tasting honey. (At least the samples I've had
are.) I've also noticed great variations in honey labelled "clover" from
area to area and brand to brand. Some are stronger and darker than others.
(To say nothing of 'dark wildflower' versus 'light wildflower' and obvious
regional variations in them.)

The meads I've made with Alfalfa don't say "alfalfa" when you drink them, they
just say "honey". Also, one mead I made with clover (from Nashville) really
shouted "clover honey" when I'd drink it, but one I made (from Chicago area
clover honey) simply said "honey".

Obviously, if I enter them into a contest, I decide what category to pick.
I think that perhaps the distinction between these should be loosened a bit
to primarily say that "1a" has a "general honey" character, where "1b"
showcases the distinctive taste of the particular varietal, and not cut out
clover and wildflower.

Also, in the varietal judging, I think a lot of differences will come from an
individual judges preference in varietal honeys. I know some people that love
Buckwheat honey and mead made from it, and others who really dislike it.
(But -everyone- loves Tupelo. And everyone but my cousin Coby hates
Eucalytpus mead.)

I love the name "maltomel". Reminds me of that malt-o-meal commercial where
the little kid's all bundled up to go out and play and it's real cold, and
he comes back in right away and says "I think I need more malt-o-meal".

Make mead. And remember, competetions are mostly for fun and constructive
criticism. If you make the best mead ever and some smelly old judge doesn't
like it, well, that's their loss, not yours.

  • -R

Subject: Yeast varieties for mead
Date: Sun, 4 Feb 1996 20:57:06 -0500

I am attempting to ferment a Cyser-mead with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. Has
anyone had any experience with this combination?

Subject: Newbie Questions
From: "If we don't look backwards, how can society go forward?" <ucjm3@sunyit.ed

Date: Sun, 4 Feb 1996 22:42:26 -0500 (EST)

Being brand-new to the Mead world (only about a week of serious study
after a 3 year stint in the beer world) I have a few questions that I
hope the list might be able to answer. I have the book "Making Mead" by
Acton and Duncan. I liked it because of the smaller batches. Any better
book suggestions or other sources of info? Anyways, they make mention of
Red Grape concentrate in their recipe for Raspberry Melomel, is this a
wine concentrate or just red grape juice? The book is obviously written
by two british wine fellows, but I know nothing about wine and even less
about british culture, I hope that someone knows which I should use.

Another item that I was curious about is where a good place to get a 3 or
5 gallon oak cask would be? I saw in the archives mention of being able
to remove wax from the inside of the barrel so that doesn't worry me. Any
ideas where I should look for a good barrel at a good price? I can get
all the used bourbon barrels I want for $15 each but I don't forsee
making 50 gallons anytime soon. Thanks in advance.

| Colin McConnell | Suny Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome |
| 129 Residential Dr. | Student of Computer Engineering Technology |
| Utica, NY 13502 | KB2RRW @ 145.45 |
* Contrary to popular belief, opinions are NOT like brains… *
* Everyone has an opinion *

End of Mead Lover's Digest #457