Mead Lover's Digest #0466 Sat 9 March 1996
Mead Lover's Digest #0466 Sat 9 March 1996
Forum for Discussion of Mead Making and Consuming
Dick Dunn, Digest Janitor
Varietal Honey Library (Dan McConnell)
Varietal mead / competition (Steven Rezsutek)
Varietal Meads (WNSHELTON@aol.com)
Re: bottles (Spencer W Thomas)
Last word (?) on "Varietal" (Russell Mast)
Re: Last word (?) on "Varietal" (Steven Rezsutek)
Wormwood Metheglyn? (Gary Booker)
Competitions / Points to Ponder (Joyce Miller)
bottling mead (Tracy Thomason)
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Subject: Varietal Honey Library
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dan McConnell)
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 10:08:42 -0500
Ken Schramm writes about varietal honey…
>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.
This last point was most unfortunate. WE learned a lot from sniffing and
tasting over the period that we had these honeys in our possession. There
were some very nice, very different sources. The REALLY unfortunate thing
is that we made mead with a blend of all of these honeys and have
consequently lost the library.
The recent discussion about varietal honey has prompted Ken and I to commit
to reestablishing the library. Our target is >50 floral sources. This
means that our local (Mazer Cup) judges will be encouraged (no, coerced!)
to taste, smell and look at these honeys on a regular basis to hone their
varietal honey identification skills. I suppose that small samples of the
library could be shared with others of similar commitment that are involved
in large mead competitions.
Subject: Varietal mead / competition
From: Steven Rezsutek <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 09:58:17 -0500
> There has been discussion about award winning meads that
> where not made with the varietal honey that they were purported to have been.
> I think that if this is true that it is quite unfortunate.
I believe that came from one of my posts, and it was a hypothetical
situation — to the best of my knowledge it hasn't happened, but then
again I'm not "in the thick of things" as far as competitions go, so
that knowledge is definately limited. Perhaps I should say that I
certainly hope it is just hypothetical.
> I have however
> observed a similar thing to happen when judging homebrews at contests. For
> example, someones totally infected beer wins a best of show as a berlinner
> weiss ( this really happened ).
> BTW, I have made a great many meads with orange blossom honey. And I would be
> very suprised I ( as a mead judge ) could not tell it from some other honey.
I never had a doubt that truly skilled and experienced persons would be
able to catch the difference. My concern is/was for the persons who may
not have the same extent of experience and are going by a guideline —
"floral/citrusy nose, check; slight tang, check; yadda, yadda, check"
- — you get the drift.
Russell & I have moved our discussion off-line, BTW. Seems that all
we've really been arguing about is the definition of "varietal".
Subject: Varietal Meads
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 1996 22:11:31 -0500
A little update on some experiments with meads made with differing varieties
of meads. I brewed 1 gallon batches of buckwheat, wildflower (from the
Freshfields store in No. VA), apple blossum, and mesquite, and orange blossum
meads. These meads were still meads made with from 3 to 4 lbs of honey per
batch. They were all fermented with Champagne yeast.
I really wish I had made 5 gallon batches. I also wish I could resist
sampling them so soon. In all cases, I tried a bottle approximately 2 weeks
after bottling (which was at complete fermentation- approx 4 weeks). Only
the orange blossum and mesquite were really drinkable at this stage. The
buckwheat was agony. Time has made all of them much better. The buckwheat
and the wildflower have shown the most improvement, though they both have
some objectionable flavors.
If I can resist temptation, I'll let everyone know in a year how they all
aged. I think the buckwheat and the apple blossum could be excellent in a
Subject: Re: bottles
From: Spencer W Thomas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 1996 10:24:04 -0500
> Micah and others complain about bottle rules.
So send your mead to the Mazer Cup competition. We'll take any
bottles. I took home some really cute 7oz bottles from the last one.
It's coming up in May. I looked at the AHA's online calendar and
didn't see it, but it was in the calendar published in the most recent
=Spencer Thomas in Ann Arbor, MI (email@example.com)
Subject: Last word (?) on "Varietal"
From: Russell Mast <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 13:11:04 -0600
Okay, Steve Rezsutek and I have had a bit of a misunderstanding about the
idea of a varietal category. I wrote an outrageously long reply to his
last post, decided, at the last minute to send it privately instead of
publicly, and haven't heard back from him since. So, here's a brief summary,
and this should be the last anyone hears from me on the issue. Ever.
I think Steve was (unintentionally) misunderstanding me, and therefore
portrayed me as a fool that I'm not. (Rather than the fool that I really
am.) This is what led to the egregious length of the posts.
I believe, and I -think- Steve agrees with me, that a beverage category should
be defined on taste alone, and not the recipe. I think that a varietal
category -is- called for, because I think there -is- a distinctive taste to
each variety, which can be the "target taste" or "comparison taste" or what
ever you want to call the "taste which defines the category on taste alone."
So, an entry in a varietal category should showcase the taste of that variety
of honey, and this is theoretically (but not in practice) independent of the
Steve mentioned the example of some strange beverage whereby one could take
honey and caramelize it and spice it and otherwise do strange things and make
it taste like malt, like the perfect braggot, and then it wins in the braggot
category. Steve asks : Is that braggot? Well, yes, at least for the purposes
of a competetion. If it tastes like a braggot and looks like a braggot and has
the mouthfeel of a braggot, it's a braggot.
I see nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with making "Bordeaux from a Sloe".
I think it's impossible and will not try, but if you make it, I'll drink it.
I doubt that anyone could make something to fool a truly educated palate from
weird crap, but I've been wrong before.
All of this is independent, in my mind, from another, perhaps more important
issue, the logistics of training judges to be able to accurately and
effectively judge a "varietal" category. Unless a given varietal had so
many entries that it got a seperate sub-category for that competetion, a judge
could be asked "Is mead A better at expressing Tupelo character than mead B
is at expressing Sourwood honey character?" That's a hard one. Maybe the
whole issue is moot in the light of the logistics issue.
All judging rules should be guidelines. The final product, not the process to
obtain it, should be all that matters for prizes.
Tom Messenger <email@example.com> wrote saying :
> I am not a contest enthusiast….
> Judge yourself harshly…
I think there's a point at which it's no longer worth the time and trouble
to find and correct a fault in a beverage. Yes, we should always try to
make the next batch better than the last one, but when I've got something
really good, I prefer to dwell on the goodness of the beverage before me
than to dwell on the faults. YMLMV. (Your Mead-loving May Vary.)
Subject: Re: Last word (?) on "Varietal"
From: Steven Rezsutek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 16:36:16 -0500
Russell Mast writes:
> Okay, Steve Rezsutek and I have had a bit of a misunderstanding about the
> idea of a varietal category. I wrote an outrageously long reply to his
> last post, decided, at the last minute to send it privately instead of
> publicly, and haven't heard back from him since.
Actually, I was working up a reply yesterday, but I decided to check on
something first, and then didn't take a lunch today. Next thing I know,
the new issue is out, and I get the message I'm replying to here.
> I believe, and I -think- Steve agrees with me, that a beverage category shoul
> be defined on taste alone, and not the recipe. I think that a varietal
> category -is- called for, because I think there -is- a distinctive taste to
> each variety, which can be the "target taste" or "comparison taste" or what
> ever you want to call the "taste which defines the category on taste alone."
> So, an entry in a varietal category should showcase the taste of that variety
> of honey, and this is theoretically (but not in practice) independent of the
Essentially, yes, I'm pretty much in agreement with this. I came to the
realization that the crux of our argument was over the precise meaning
of "varietal" more than anyting of great substance, and while I might be
tempted to beat that poor ol' horse one more time (kidding :), it really
isn't of much value to do so at this time.
My personal feeling at this point, is that, and as you said a bit
further down, the logistics issues will do more to make or break the
case of whether to have such a catagory, so we may as well let any
further debate fall along those lines.
Subject: Wormwood Metheglyn?
From: Gary Booker <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 96 16:29:00 PST
In the last digest Tom Nickel wrote:
> Wormwood works well in beer if you use NO bittering hops whatsoever and
> soak it in a secondary fermentor–the bitterness is still strong.
Interesting. . . I would like to give this a try. What sort of quantities do
you use for a five gallon batch, and how long do you leave it in there? Have
you tried making a tincture (by soaking the herb in vodka for 2 weeks, then
filtering), and adding a precise amount at the end of the ferment. Anybody
else had success using this herb?
Subject: Competitions / Points to Ponder
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joyce Miller)
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 14:35:23 -0500
>Please ignore the following: rant mode on. I am not a contest enthusiast.
>The above is part of the reason why. In their inability to judge properly,
>judges fall back on bullshit like "was it bottled properly?". Just who the
>heck are you making mead for? You or some clown who hasn't got a friggin
>clue? It's fun to collect ribbons of course and better brewers probably
>collect more ribbons than inferior brewers but when all is said and done,
>you are the sole arbiter of your brews. If you like it, then it's good enough.
Last weekend I judged the mead category at the Battle of the Brews in Troy,
NY. It was pretty interesting. For one, they didn't care how the entries
were bottled. For another, the two judges I worked with were reasonable
and experienced, and were sensible people. I discovered a few things.
1) Judging meads is a lot like judging Best of Show, but where no one
tells you what styles each of the beers is supposed to be. The reason I
say this is that you can be contemplating a very nice clean, summery
melomel one moment, and a fruited sherry the next. The first mead would
get points off for oxidation, but in the second, oxidation is _de rigeur_.
Of course, the entry info says *nothing* about it being sherry-like, but
the judge has to assume so, because of the balance of flavors. What I'm
saying is that one mead's flaw is another mead's flavor.
2) Because of this, judges must be *really* know what they're doing. If a
beer judge has trouble picking out the subtle off-flavors and identifying
them in beer, they definitely have no business judging mead. Most of the
off-flavors show up more strongly in mead, and a judge really has to be
able to identify them and know how they got there in order to write
anything remotely useful on the scoresheet.
3) I am becoming convinced that the concept of categories must be
readdressed. Except for the big mead-only competitions (Mazer Cup,
Ambrosia Adventure, and the like), most competitions don't have enough
entries to really justify anything more than "traditional" vs. "not." What
be more useful would be entry sheets that have more information on what the
brewer was trying to achieve (well, it would be useful only if the info got
to the judges). After all, part of doing well in competitions is not just
being a good brewer, but also being a good judge (and therefore knowing
what to enter).
Oh, by the way, the two cider entries were collapsed in with the 13 meads.
The winner? A nearly-perfect cider. But wait, before you jump all over
me, I should point out that we did the right thing, because that cider went
on to win Best of Show. The meads were also mostly excellent. It was a
very tough call.
>For example, someones totally infected beer wins a best of show as a berlinner
>weiss ( this really happened ).
But… Berliner Weiss *is* totally infected. So are the very best
lambics… As I said, part of doing well in competitions is not just being
a good brewer, but also being a good judge.
>I too have seen this bottle down grading place place in AHA sanctioned
>competitions. In fact as a judge I have been on panels where we were told
>to evaluate the entry ( mead ) and score it but that it could not win as
>is was disqualified for being in a clear bottle. I have also see meads
>being disqualifed for being corked.
Yea, well, most of us who have been around even a *little* while have
realized that the AHA is run by a pack of posers who not only don't know
much of anything about making beer, but also have no clue about running a
big organization. Great scam they've got going, though. Next best thing
to an alternative religion. (very slight sarcasm there — ask me about what
happened to my second-place Mazer Cup metheglin that I was stupid enough to
enter in the AHA nationals).
- — Joyce
Subject: bottling mead
From: email@example.com (Tracy Thomason)
Date: Fri, 08 Mar 96 20:44:54 GMT
I'm about to bottle a blueberry melomel. I want to bottle some still and
some sparkling. Can anyone tell me how much sugar (or honey) to
prime a 12oz bottle with so I can prime them individually?
End of Mead Lover's Digest #466