Mead Lover's Digest #0461 Wed 21 February 1996


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



RE: Priming (John Mason)
Wyeast Sweet Mead (Charles Dewar)
mead competitions (Dan McConnell)
Mead Competition and Judging (Ken Schramm)
Varietal Mead, Honey % In Braggot (Fred Hardy)
Brown sugar and wine (Douglas Thomas)
Re: mead in beer bottles (was Re: 1996 CDO) (Charles Shirley)
The Spice of Life. (Russell Mast)
Sweet and sparkling. (Russell Mast)
Sulphite from corks (Kelly Jones Intel Portland Technology Development)
Paul Mozdziak's dry pyment (Olson)
braggots, orange blossom, varietal meads, etc. (Olson)


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Subject: RE: Priming
From: (John Mason)
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 08:23:09 -0700 (MST)

> I made a mead and then primed with about 1.5 oz of corn sugar per gallon.
> It is barely carbonated, much less than beer, even though I used more corn
> sugar than I do in beer. Can someone tell me how to carbonate?

I've been using 2.5 oz to 100 ml of water per gallon to prime my mead. I
have had no explosive problems with 12oz, Grolsch or champagne bottles. I
suspect that I could prime at a higher rate, but the prospect of glass
shards breaking the sound barrier is a prohibitive factor.

I also add the priming solution to each bottle individually, instead of
mixing it into the must before bottling. This may be a wasted step, but I'm
not kicking up sediment, and I'm confident that no bottle is over or under
primed. I use 10 cc per 12oz bottle.

Any feedback?


Subject: Wyeast Sweet Mead
From: (Charles Dewar)
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 14:01:00 GMT

In rec.crafts.brewing, a few folks reported poor results with Wyeast Sweet
Mead yeast. Since I am fermenting my first batch of mead with this yeast,
I am getting concerned. Has anyone used this yeast? What were your
results? My mead was made with 13# of Gaujillo honey, the yeast, yeast
nutrients, and acid blend.

* WR 1.33 # 690 * "We already *know* who your friends and family are."-AT&T

Subject: mead competitions
From: (Dan McConnell)
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 15:19:30 -0500

From: (brewmaster Mitch)

>The two big ones are the Mazer Cup and the Ambrosia Adventure, both of which
>just occurred recently.

Actually the Mazer Cup was held last May (and is comming up again soon),
the Ambrosia Adventure was much more recent. If you think that 9 months is
recent, you must be a meadmaker!

>The Mazer gets a lot of press in this forum, but I
>saw no mention this year of the Ambrosia Adventure until after the fact, in a
>post where someone mentioned judging in it.

I think that it is a simple matter of connectivity. Although I offered to
post the Ambrosia announcement for Suzanne, I didn't get the disk in time.
The Fifth Annual Mazer Cup will be announced in a few weeks.

>Is there any risk of sulphites leaching out of sulphited corks into your
>mead (assuming the bottles are laid down) ?

Probably, if you heavily sulfite and don't rinse the corks, but such heavy
handed treatment is not needed IMHO, just a little sulfite if it makes you
feel better. The last batch that I bottled was corked with dry corks-the
biggest I could find (1.75"x 9). Just punch 'em in, let the bottles sit
upright for day or so and then invert. I see nothing wrong with a little
sulfite added to a mead or wine at bottling, unless you are allergic.


Subject:  Mead Competition and Judging
From: Ken Schramm <>
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 15:25:21 -0500

There has been a whole lot of conjecture going on about what
competitions should and should not be doing, about what the
categories should be, and about how mead should be judged. This all
seems quite healthy, although I hear some people piping up with
radical "new" ideas these past few months that Dan McConnell and I
presented at the AHA National Conference two years ago. There were
several people in the audience at that presentation (like Byron Burch
and Bill Pfeiffer) who, I am confident, felt that we were delivering
old news. I also feel that whatever advice Messrs. Hall and Hardy
have offered has to be placed in the practical context of the
competitions that are actually being held, and that sometimes reality
does make quick work of high ideals.

The fundamental problem with mead competitions is getting a workable
body of qualified judges. That may seem simple, but getting
commitments from a sufficient number of judges has its challenges at
any time of the year. Midwestern judges just don't know Mesquite
honey, and I don't know of it is reasonable to expect them to go
order a pound to find out what it's like. Some will; my hat's off to
'em. The same will be true for south westerners and Great Lakes mixed
fruit blossom honey. Likewise, I can't honestly say what a kumquat is
like, much less a fermented kumquat.. Dan and I went so far as to
take 21 different single floral source honey samples to our
presentation in Denver, and very few participants took the time to
smell them and familiarize themselves with the types. None of us
knew what a braggot should taste like when we started We just wanted
to represent what seemed like a distinctly different style which Gayre
described as " a hybrid liquor…a compound of mead and ale." We all
have to work on this as we get the chance, but each year someone hits
us with a new spice or honey or fruit, and in the final analysis I
think you have to just wade in and do the best you can.

I know that there will be some who will say "If you didn't know what
braggot was like, then why did you start the competition?" Well, to
us it seemed like a good way to learn. It seems to me that we are
all going to be better off if we get things moving and establish ways
to learn and opportunities to expand what appears to be a needed body
of knowledge and pool of qualified judges. Or, to put it another
way, we knew that we wished there was a good mead only competition,
and since no one else was doing anything about it, we did. We
weren't out to re-write the history of definitions of mead styles,
nor do we profess to be qualified to do that now. We sought to offer
an outlet for competition, some recognition for talented mead makers,
and really nice prizes for first, second and third places, which is
still and unusual occurrence for competitions of this sort.

Many of Mr. Hall's comments are right on the money, and we couldn't
agree more. We have directed judges each year to complete their
comments fully before beginning the discussion of a given entry. As
far as giving judges all the information you can, well, that seems
obvious. We have been providing the judges the information on the
honey source/fruit/spices to the extent that it is available for the
last three years. And I don't think we should make (and we haven't)
any judgment on which sources merit mentioning. While we're on the
subject, Clover honey is NOT a mild honey, but can be so strong as to
be overpowering or even offensive. The USDA says that the source
mentioned needs only be the primary source. Most of the honey sold as
clover honey is blended to bring down its overpowering character. My
local beekeepers here tell me that clover on its own is too powerful
for their tastes. Many of the floral source distinctions are
meaningful, but some are so nebulous as to be useless; the USDA cites
several "Wildflower" examples in their honey bulletin, and the
chemical assays are all over the map. Some would have been mild, and
others must have been as subtle as a club up side the head. Surely
there could be no recognizable standard for national competitions.
This information to the judges issue begs the question of providing
the judges with yeast strain, but then when do stop?

As far as categories are concerned, they need to be meaningful and
manageable. In the case of the Mazer Cup, we started with seven
categories and moved to eight due to practical reasons. The
"Traditional" category was questioned from both sides of the aisle
when the first winner had subtle complexity added to it through the
addition of what many would consider "non-traditional" ingredients.
While the argument in favor of purity was persuasive, so was the
argument that "traditional" meant just that, and that meads were
traditionally made with many subltle spices or flavorings
ingredients, but not really considered "spiced" or flavored. That
was the English way, and it also seems to be backed up on the
continent, as well. The Brits call Honey-only mead "Show" mead in
their competitions, and so we adopted this convention for the Mazer
Cup. It seems to have worked quite well. Both categories are well
represented, and the quality of entries seems to merit continuing
them both. Hippocras has not been well represented, and will likely
be replaced with a spiced melomel category.

In addressing the issue of melomels/cysers/pyments, the question of
meaningful and manageable is important. There may be some merit to
reorganizing the categories. We have had by far the most entries in
melomel year after year. Had we added cyser and pyment to the
melomel category, however, we would have had 60 entries in that
category alone. Cyser and Pyment have continuously drawn enough
entries to warrant separating them out as their own categories.
Additionally, the separation of those styles into categories allows
judges to be assigned to areas of expertise or preference. I really
don't think that we need a raspberry category. We only had 4 solely
raspberry melomels this year, and seven if you count those where they
were one of multiple fruits in a blend. A logical category might be
"Brambles" with eleven entries. We have considered categories or
subcategories for Berries, Stone fruits (cherries, peaches,
apricots), and other fruits (citrus, tropical, and other pomes). As
for braggot; there has been much ado about a category which last year
amassed a whopping five entries, three of which earned places and
mazers. Try though we might, we just couldn't find a good bottle of
commercial 15th century braggot to use as a calibrator. The problem
of judge familiarity remains, and we must still count on judges to
expand their knowledge as much as possible, and to use their best
judgment in unfamiliar territory.

I don't think that we should step into the area of reorganizing a
competition and its categories after the entry deadline has past. If
I tell someone that there are going to be eight categories, and that I
am going to award three prizes to the three best award-caliber entries
in those categories, then that's exactly what I'm going to do.

I do think, however, that we need to come to the realization that
mead is honey wine, in the same sense that Bordeaux is grape wine and
fruit wine is fruit wine. We take a fermentable sugar, dilute it with
water, ferment it with (mostly wine) yeast, and age the snot out of
it. We judge it based on the divisions of dry, medium and sweet, of
sparkling or still, and want it to have appropriate acid balance. It
sounds like wine to me. Yes, the honey and its fermentation will
create a unique tableau of flavors and aromas, but that fermentation
usually took place with wine yeast, and accordingly there will be
wine characteristics there. I grant that using the term "wine" will
evoke predilections about mead's nature to the uninformed, but that
shouldn't be us.

Where temperature is concerned, I don't know if 55 – 60? is right for
all meads. I don't think 42-45? is too cold for a dry show mead, and
some dark pyments and blackberry melomels would do well to be served
at room temp. Dan and I have discussed letting the mead maker
dictate the serving temp. I do think that, where the darker meads
are concerned, meads needs to be treated like wine; airing is
appropriate, and almost all meads deserve the chance to be assessed
after a few minutes on the table to evolve into what they really want
to be.

The compulsive obsession with balance is beginning to get to me. I
am coming to the conclusion that if anyone goes out on a limb these
days, they will get strafed in competition. Should all good or
competition winning meads be balanced? It makes one wonder if IPA or
cabernet or Islay Scotch would have ever been developed if we all had
to walk down the middle of the road. The point is that things need
not be perfectly balanced to be outstanding. Sometimes we, as
judges, have to lose our inhibitions and say "Man, this tastes
GREAT." I think we owe it to the Mead makers to reward that effort
with recognition. If we have as one of our goals (and I for one
certainly do) the promotion of mead into the commercial arena, then
we must recognize that a prize in our competitions may serve as a
means of gaining credibility when seeking investment capital, and
also that if the meads, however unbalanced, really tickle our fancy,
then they will have a greater chance at commercial viability and

Thanks to Dick Dunn for providing a very reasonable and enlightened
perspective on many of these issues. I hope that in the future, I
will spend more time trying to make and judge good mead, and less
time prattling on about it.

Subject: Varietal Mead, Honey % In Braggot
From: Fred Hardy <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 09:12:54 -0500 (EST)

There have been several posts relating to what defines a varietal mead
(Tupelo, Gallberry, Mesquite, Alfalfa, etc.). A similar discussion has
attempted to set percentages of honey versus malt in braggot.

A suggestion on the mead was to follow the wine guidelines of 75% of the
total content must be of a specific variety of grape for it to be called
a varietal. Mead could be the same, but substitute variety of honey for
variety of grape.

The Mazer Cup people imply in their braggot guidelines that at leats 50%
of fermentables should be honey in braggot.

The wine guideline has little to do with actual content as determined by
flavor or variety characteristics. It is a statute requirement pushed
through by vinters to protect what they believe is a marketing edge. A
varietal generally commands a higher price than a blended wine of unknown
heritage. The mead issue is quite different.

An orange blossom honey mead should showcase the flavor characteristics
of orange blossom honey, regardless of what is actually in it. Remember,
orange blossom honey itself is not likely to be made only from orange
blossom nectar. Bees are not that finicky, just lazy. If the closest
nectar source is orange blossoms, they will go to them a very high
proportion of the time, but not always. The result is if the honey
exhibits the orange blossom characteristics, it is orange blossom honey.
Those characteristics should carry through to the mead.

As for braggot, remember that judges do not see the recipe sheet, and are
ignorant of the actual composition of the beverage.

The Mazer Cup guidelines for braggot are probably a pretty good rule of
thumb for a beverage made from malt and honey that exhibits the
characteristics of a mead. If a judge finds that the beverage is too
beer-like for braggot, then the judge is right, regardless of the malt to
honey ratio.

The discussion of how much of what is needed to make a (substitute your
beverage of choice) will always have a bit of truth and a bit of opinion.
The true test, IMO, is does it have the taste, aroma, etc.,
characteristics of what it is supposed to be? If it does, it is. Then we
can get on to how well it was made and how well it typifies a (whatever).

Cheers, Fred

We must invent the future, else it will | <Fred Hardy>
happen to us and we will not like it. |
[Stafford Beer, "Platform for Change"] | email:

Subject: Brown sugar and wine
From: Douglas Thomas <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 07:58:14 -0800 (PST)

I know that this is supposed to be a place for mead makers to talk, but I
have found no other good discussion group on wine making. I am currently
in the process of making a strawberry dessert wine. It was started with
just the strawberries and 12 oz of molasses, and champagne yeast, for 2
1/2 gallons. I plan to feed it 8 more pounds of sugar over 2 weeks. My
question is, how would brown sugar effect the taste of this, as compared
to white sugar? The small amout of molasses only adds some depth to the
wine (I have used it twice before and liked the results).
Would brown sugar make it too bitter or would it give it a madierized
taste? I am looking for something with a dark sherry/madiera taste and
am hoping the brown sugar would do it. All suggestions appreciated.


Subject: Re: mead in beer bottles (was Re: 1996 CDO)
From: Charles Shirley <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 11:45:52 -0500

From: (brewmaster Mitch)

> Dave Moore laments (and who can blame him ?):
> > I think that I will no longer enter mead in a BEER & "Other" contest.
> I guess it depends on the competition. Some of them take care to ensure that
> the meads will be reviewed by judges familiar with meads. I'm sure that the
> March Mashfest (CO) is such an event.

I agree, you shouldn't avoid all mixed events, wholesale.
I know The Dixie Cup (in Houston, in the Fall) always has
very knowledgeable judges, though only a few mead categories.

  • bill

Bill Shirley <>

Subject: The Spice of Life.
From: Russell Mast <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 13:51:36 -0600

> Subject: catagorizing beverages
> From:

> Maybe it would help to have some specific percentages of how much sugar comes
> from each source to catagorise.

I think that would be counter-productive. Again, I'm all for "guidelines"
on recipes, but I think that the -taste- is what should be judged. The
product, not the process.

> It's difficult to asses what is the "primary" and what is the adjunct.

I think whatever has the dominant flavor is the primary, regardless of the
proportion. I think that a beer with 20% of the fermentables from buckwheat
honey will have a lot more flavor from the honey than one with 20% from
clover honey. (At the same time, it may have a body more like a beer, and
body is also part of the "product", so it's open to argument – which should
be based on the contents of the bottle, not the recipe sheet.)

> From: Steven Rezsutek <>
> Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 11:07:04 -0500

> Not to belabor this admittedly small point too much, but…

I think it's part of a larger issue that's worth the bandwidth.

> The problem is that there is not, nor can there be so far as I can tell,
> a taste standard for something that fits the technical definition of
> what is a wildflower honey. [Sarcasm mode — The alternative would be
> for this unique honey to have it's own varietal designaton, which should
> get me plenty of firsts in my catagory :-)]

I think one of us misunderstands Fred Hardy's suggestion about having a
seperate category for "varietal" meads. I think he's talking about ONE
category for ALL varietals. Not one for each. Maybe I'm wrong.

> There is a parallel in the wine world that we could, if not follow, then
> perhaps borrow or leanr from. A "varietal" wine, at least in the US,
> must consist of at least 75% of the [grape] variety from which it
> derives it's name (it used to be a much lower percentage).
> We could do the same, substituting "known sole source" honeys for grape
> vareties, perhaps relaxing or removing the percentage limit. The
> "requirement" would be that it expresses the variety of [known sole?
> source] honey for which it is named.

I don't know enough about wine judging, but I'm under the impression that
the proportion of "varietal" entries is much higher than in recent mead

Still, I can see the cause for having to name a single variety of honey and
having the mead's taste (and body, color, and clairty) reflect that variety.

> > Essentially, I'm of the opinion that regardless of what categories you deci
> > to use, they should be defined by the taste…..

> I think what you seem to be driving at here is perhaps better described
> with the label 'Distictive'.

No, I think that the "varietal" category should express something specific
about the variety of honey used. I'm undecided about whether it needs to
be one variety or a combo, but defining categories by taste is a seperate
issue from how to define the "target taste" of the "varietal" category.

> I agree totally with what you say here, but then why have a class for
> "varietal" honeys, which is, by definition, based on the recipe, at all?

I strongly disagree. Obviously, the recipe will have something to do with
the flavor. But, if the idea of the varietal category is to showcase the
TASTE of the specific honey. The reason to have the category is that each
variety of honey has it's own unique taste which can be a major point of

> As I stated above, I belive the word being sought for is "distinctive",
> but this is rather redundant, since who would want to make a catagory
> for "bland"? 🙂

I think you're missing the point entirely. You can have a highly distinctive
mead that has very little specific taste of a specific variety of honey. You
could also, feasibly, have a varietal mead which is rather boring, but, yeah,
that's definately xxx variety of honey in there.

  • -R

Subject: Sweet and sparkling.
From: Russell Mast <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 1996 13:54:40 -0600

The question of how to make a sweet, sparkling mead comes up every so often
in MLD, and I noticed in Cider Digest (which Dick Dunn also maintains) a post
about doing that with Cider. I thought someone here might find it useful.
I'm definately going to try it eventually. I'm not sure if the times involved
with cider would be the same with meads.

  • —– Begin Included Message —–

Subject: sweet, carbonated cider
From: John B Gilmour <>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 1996 13:21:34 -0500 (EST)

I have made several batches of sweet, carbonated cider. The problem, of
course, is how to kill of the yeast in the bottle. The first time I made
it, I bottled and capped the cider and left it to ferment overnight. The
next day I boiled the bottles in large kettles. About a third of them
exploded spectacularly. Since then I have learned two things. First,
sweet cider does not have to ferment long in the bottle. A little
carbonation is plenty, and reduces the probability of the bottle
exploding. A couple of hours is enough. Second, immersing the bottles
in water straight from the hot water heater will suffice to kill the
yeast. I set the water heater to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, put the bottles
in a fermenting bucket and filled it with water, and that killed the
yeast very dead. It does not even take long — less than an hour. As
soon as they are dead, the yeast drop out of suspension quickly and form
a sludge on the bottom. The cider fully clears over another week or so.

  • —– End Included Message —–

Subject: Sulphite from corks 
From: Kelly Jones Intel Portland Technology Development <

Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 16:24:06 -0800

Mitch asked (twice?) about sulphite leaching from corks. My memory of the
original posting is dim, but since no one else answered this, I'll address
(what I think were) the questions:

1) To my knowledge, corks are not sold pre-sulphited. You have no worry about
sulphite leaching unless you soak the cork yourself.

2) corks are generally prepared for insertion by soaking in a strong sulphite
solution. Yes, a little bit of sulphite would end up in your bottle, but
probably only a few ppm (much less than the 50-100ppm levels normally used in

3) Corks can also be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes to
sanitize/soften the corks before insertion, if you're absolutely adamant about
not using sulphite.

Portland, OR

Subject: Paul Mozdziak's dry pyment
From: (Olson)
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 18:29:10 MST

Paul, 1.005 sounds like a nice dry pymnet. Less than that could be on
the harsh side with a weak honey character. Personally, I would aim
for a gravity a bit higher than 1.005, but that would be to my taste.

I've had good luck with potassium sorbate when I have racked my meads
off any yeast sediment and then added the potassium sorbate. That way
there is less yeast to kill off.

As a former resident of "Mad City", I wish you luck.


| Gordon L. Olson | U.S. Postal Service: |
| e-mail: | 1632 Camino Uva |
| phone: 505-662-0705 | Los Alamos, NM 87545 USA |

Subject: braggots, orange blossom, varietal meads, etc.
From: (Olson)
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 96 18:28:59 MST

Tom Nickel in MLD#460 writes:

>Well, I just entered a bracket in the Ambrosia Adventure and got told that
>it was way too beer-like. Everyone liked it and rated it well, but said it
>did not exemplify the style. I used 70% honey and 30% malt along with
>hops. I don't understand why hops eliminate bracket as a style of mead. I
>agree with Russ that bracket and honey beer are two totally different
>beverages and that should be kept in mind by the judges. A beer is a malt
>beverage regardless of hop usage and bracket is a honey beverage that uses
>malt weather or not you are using a spice, such as hops. IMHO.

I was at the Ambrosia Adventure, but did not judge the braggot/bracket
category because I had an entry. I would guess that your braggot was
judged to be "too beer-like" because you used too neutral of a honey.
Depending on the malt you used, it can easily dominate the aroma and
flavor. I try to use some orange blossom or strong wild flower honey
in my braggots in order to assure a definite honey character.

I agree with you 100% that hops should be allowed in braggots. The AA
and Mazer Cup competitions don't say anything on the subject, so hops
are allowed.

My braggot entry at the AA was "Russian Imperial Mead". I made a black
stout that fermented for a week with an ale yeast. Then I added honey
and a wine yeast. This was not an attempt to make any kind of historical
style, it was just something that sounded good to me. I used the normal
amount of hops for a stout. Since the totals were 12.2 pounds of honey
and 10 pounds of grains (not 100% fermentable), I consider it to be a
mead rather than a speciality beer. I made sure that two of the four
different kinds of honey that I used were strongly flavored and aromatic.
The result was a strong honey character side by side with the roasted
grains. Unfortunately, the AA judges were thrown off by the coffee that
I added to the boil when making the stout part. The coffee, to me, adds
an interesting complexity. To the judges, it made it weird. I should have
enterred this mead in the "Stranger Than Life" category at the AA.

I've enterred a very clean orange blossom mead into two different
competitions and have been disappointed with the judges comments.
In neither competition did they recognize the "orange blossom" honey.
In one competition the judges must have discussed it because they all
said that it was yeasty. In the other competition, they said that it
must be contaminated. We need to educate our judges! Unfortunately,
the variety of meads available for training judges is not broad enough.

If I had been allowed to specify a "varietal" honey, the above problem
may or may not have been bypassed. If they had no experience with
orange blossom honey, it wouldn't make any difference.

In my current mead I have blended six different honeys. My goal is to
have a complex honey character in a still sack mead. I want it to be
BIG! But it will not be dominated by one honey, so it is not "varietal."
Does that mean I must classify it as "generic"? My intent is that it
will NOT taste generic. So I have mixed feelings about "variety" of
honey as a means of classifying meads in a competition.

In some way we need to categorize meads in competitions so that
sufficient information is given to the judges and so that the meads
are judged fairly. I haven't seen a perfect method yet, we need
to remain open to trying different methods.

I agree with the discussion and uncertainties expressed by Steven Rezsutek.

Sorry for this long post,

Gordon Olson

End of Mead Lover's Digest #461