Mead Lover's Digest #0483 Thu 13 June 1996


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



Mazer Cup Entries (Ken Schramm)
Dandelion Mead (Dan McFeeley)
Rhododendron Honey (Bill Shirley)
More on Dandelion Mead (Dan McFeeley)
Re: Mead Lover's Digest #482, 4 June 1996 (Kirk Jones)
An experiment in Making Mead under stressful conditions… (
mead (Clint Guillory)
Oxidation… (Ardell Foster)
Slow fermentations and honey adulteration (Ken Schramm)
Purple loosestrip honey, cherries (Jacob Galley)
Moniack Castle (Mark Cassells)


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Subject:  Mazer Cup Entries
From: Ken Schramm <>
Date: Fri, 31 May 1996 10:10:12 -0400

This is just a reminder to anyone who is or knows someone who is
attending the National Homebrewers Conference in New Orleans. Dan
McConnell and Ken Schramm are attending and WILL BE ACCEPTING ENTRIES
THERE. Save yourself shipping and guarantee that your meads will be
treated with the loving UPRIGHT care they so richly deserve. Just
look us up at the hotel, and we'll make the appropriate arrangements.

Entry forms will be available at the conference, so just get them
meads there (and your entry fee of $6.00 per), and we'll take 'em
home like they were our kids sleeping in the back seat.

Subject: Dandelion Mead
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Tue, 4 Jun 1996 23:12:58 -0500 (CDT)

Bill Shirley asked if anyone had made a dandelion mead in the last
ML digest — I 've only made one batch in my limited experience in
mead making (about 4 or 5 different recipes total, all of them in
varying stages of aging or fermentation).

The recipe was pretty simple — 6 cups of flower petals added to a
standard honey must made with a light honey (I used clover honey).
Starting gravity was 1.11, and it finished out at .996. I used
Premier Cuvee for the yeast. It's not quite drinkable yet, but has a
nice hint of promise with floral & honey aromas in the nose.

I suppose I must have cut quite an odd figure in the middle of a
school playground on a saturday, sitting in the grass next to my old
'68 Volkswagen Beetle patiently snipping off yellow dandelion petals.
Women nervously told their children to stay away from the strange man
with the little scissors. Weekend joggers tried not to stare too

Maybe this was a fluke, but it finished out *fast*. I started it on
May 4, noted no signs of activity and pitched a starter on the 10th.
On the 18th of May I checked the gravity and it had quit. It began
clearing on the spot after I racked it to a glass bottle and after
racking once again, it hasn't thrown any more sediment. Another surprise
was a strong bitter taste at the first racking but was almost entirely
vanished by the time I racked it again (about a week later). This is
the only batch of dandelion mead I've made so I have nothing else to
compare with.

|*| + "The majority of the stupid is invincible and |*|
|*| Daniel McFeeley + stands for all time. The terror of their |*|
|*| Kankakee, Illinois + tyranny is alleviated, however, by their lack |*|
|*| + of consistency." Albert Einstein |*|
|*| + (standard disclaimer . . . sort of 😉 |*|

Subject: Rhododendron Honey
From: Bill Shirley <>
Date: Tue, 4 Jun 96 22:43:44 -0400

I ran across the following excerpt in a quite interesting book on botanical
history. (Botanically rhododendrons include azaleas.) The text is British
and was originally written in 1964.

Garden Shrubs and Their Histories
Alice M. Coats
p 165

When Phillips made R. ponticum the emblem of "the dangers that lurk about
the imperial purple," he was thinking of the old story of the poisonous
properties attributed to rhododendron honey. The remnants of the vanquished
army of Cyrus, led by Xenophon, beat a fighting retreat from the plains of
Babylon to the shores of the Black Sea, and arrived in 40 B.C. in the
neighborhood of Trebizond. After a victorious encounter with the Colchians
they halted at a deserted village, where the honey they robbed from the local
beehives (had the bees, too, deserted?) produced alarming symptoms of
vomiting, purging, delirium and coma. Fortunately the Colchians did not
counter attach, and in a day or two all the victims recovered. Pliny thought
that the source of this honey was the poisonous Oleander, and Tournefort,
guided by local opinion in the region, that it was delivered from R.
ponticum; but later travelers attributed it to R. luteum (Azalea pontica)
also common in the neighborhood, whose honey had been proven to have
deleterious effects if taken in quantity. Anthony Hove, who traveled in
south Russia and Asiatic Turkey in 1796, said that by the River Dnieper this
azalea was known as "the stupefying shrub," and on the Dniester was "regarded
by the common people as intoxicating, and used in the cure of various
diseases." He tells of a Tartar farmer who lived entirely on the profits of
azalea-honey, sold in Constantinople and Trebizond for medical use. Cases of
poisoning are said to occur regularly in the Caucases, at the season when
new comb honey is taken, and are sometimes fatal to children; a few mild
cases have occurred in England. The poisonous property in the nectar can be
dissipated by heating, and usually vanishes as the honey ages and ripens; the
trouble arises from the use of fresh comb-honey containing open uncapped
cells. Some rhododendrons are very rich in nectar, which they secrete by the

I had never heard of such a thing before, and in retrospect it is odd –
there being such a large number of azaleas in the south with prolific blooms.

I was wondering also if this could be yet another influence in the treating
of honey with heat?

Has anyone heard of this problem (of toxic honey) before? Are there other
plants known to cause this?

  • bill

Bill Shirley <>

Subject: More on Dandelion Mead
From: Dan McFeeley <>
Date: Wed, 5 Jun 1996 17:53:20 -0500 (CDT)

Here are two Dandelion Mead recipes from _The Mead Letters_ (published
by the American Mead Association) that I happened to come across today.

(contributer's name not listed — may have been Pamela Spence)

(1 gallon recipe)

2 Quarts dandelion flowers
3 lb.s honey
1 lemon (1 tsp. citric acid blend)
1 orange
handful raisins (1 tsp. yeast nutrient)
1 Tbsp. strong tea (1/4 tsp. tannin)
Champagne yeast

Gather the flowers on a warm sunny day when the flowers are open.
Pick off the petals and discard the green calyx and stem. Wash well
to remove any insects. Place in large bowl and pour a gallon of boiling
water over the flowers and stir. Let cool overnight. Prepare a yeast
starter in a small amount of apple juice.

Strain the petals out of the water and discard them. Combine the honey
and flower water and put into the primary fermenter (htis traditional
recipe does not call for it, but you may want to sterilize the must with
the addition of sodium metabisulphite – let stand for an additional 24

Add in juice of the orange and peel of the lemon (citric blend), tea
(tannin) and raisins (yeast nutrient). Mix together well and pitch the
yeast. Cover loosly and skim froth daily until the primary fermentation
completes (usually in a week or less). Rack into a secondary fermenter
(glass), top up with good water and add an air lock. Rack off the
sediment every four weeks or so until clear and fermentation is complete.

_The Mead Letters_, Spring 1991, no. 5

DANDELION MEAD (contributed by Susanne Price)

8 qt.s dandelion flowers, no stems
6 2/3 lb. orange blossom or clover honey
3 oranges, 3 lemons
1 lb. raisins, 1 lb. pitted prunes
2 gallons water
10 g. bread yeast (if using wine yeast, add 4 lb.s honey)

makes 3 gallons

Pick the dandelions, (chemical free areas are best) and wash under
cold running water. Put these in a 12 quart crock or non-metal,
wide mouth container. Boil the water and pour over the flowers.
Cover and let stand 3 days, stirring a few times per day. After 3 days,
strain the flowers and pour liquid into brewpot. Add the juice of the
lemons and oranges. Add honey. Chop up the prunes and raisins and
add these too. Then bring the mixture to 160 degrees and hold for
20 minutes. When cooled to 85 degrees, pour into sanitized fermenters.
Hydrate yeast and add.

_The Mead Letters_ (no date on it)

Some comments (yes, I researched this 🙂 . . . in Susanne's article, she
says that any dandelion wine recipe can be converted to a mead by using
the ratio of 1 lb. of honey for every .75 lb.s of sugar. Most of these
recipes seem pretty old, handed down through generations, and rely on citrus
fruit and raisins to provide acid, tannin and nutrient. Patty Vargas
comments that any fruit pulp provides needed nutrients and acid, but most
old-time country wine makers added citrus fruit to wine recipes because they
affected the flavor the least (_Country Wines_, 1992). Vargas is hesitant
to use citrus in dandelion wine, and says that the wine has such a delicate
flavor that it is best to use an acid blend to avoid too much citrus taste.

The best time to gather flowers is in late April through early May,
when they are first coming into bloom. Apparently in England, St. George's
day on April 23 is a traditional day for gathering dandelions to make
into wine. Areas by highways where there is a lot of exhaust contaminent,
or places where there may have been insecticide spraying should be avoided.
Recipes either call for a certain amount of flower heads or flower petals,
but everyone agrees that stems and green portions of the plant need to be
separated, else a bitter taste from the sap is introduced into the wine.
Recommended times for steeping the flowers before starting the wine seems
to be either 24 hours or 3 days, as in the two above recipes.

Too bad all the flowers in the area have been mowed over by now — all
this makes me want to start another batch. 🙂


Dan McFeeley

Subject: Re: Mead Lover's Digest #482, 4 June 1996
From: (Kirk Jones)
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 08:05:33 -0400

>From: Nick Dechman <>
>Date: Mon, 3 Jun 1996 08:42:39 -0400
> Although I must admit to being tired of the honey adulteration
>discourse, I have yet a few questions. Perhaps I have become paranoid after
>hearing about high fructose corn syrup or molasses in honey, but I picked up
>some honey the other day which meets some of the descriptions of adulterated
>honey – it is extremely dark and tastes of molasses. This honey was purchased
>from a local homebrew store, and the bulk container I poured it from had the
>name of a local beekeeper. My question is, should I and how should I follow
>this up. I do not know whom to report honey adulteration to – or if there is
>even a local authority in Boston, or if anyone around here will care. Boston
>is notorious for poor quality products and services, so this may be just status
>quo. Any information you have would be helpful
>- -Nick Dechman


I'm new to the digest, but immediately picked up the honey adulteration
thread and felt compelled to post.

I've been doing the bee thing for years and have yet to find anything that
even was suspicious of being cut with syrup. I know exactly what 55%
fructose corn syrup tastes like(what taste? flavor).

We use fructose to feed to the bees after a long winter like this last one.
They run low on honey stores and will die without some feed. The feed is
converted into harvest hands(bees), and very little if any at all is left
in the hive. All this feeding takes place *before* the honey flow even
begins. When the nectar is plentiful in July(northern Michigan), we put
extra boxes on the hives to collect the honey. When bees have fresh nectar
to gather, they are not the least bit interested in corn syrup.

I have read a reliable report in the "Speedy Bee" newspaper of a southern
"shakey jake" operation that did adulterate honey and pack it in jars for
tourists. The name was Pilgrim Honey Co. and they have been prosecuted for
their shenanigans.

As for the molasses adulteration, I can say that I see no point. It isn't
exactly cheap, and the flavor is very recognizable.

Overall, I would like to comment on honey and the many different flavors,
each determined by the floral source. There are as many flavors as
different flowers that bees will visit. Every individual will have their
own favorites. Some are very light bodied and some heavy. Some light and
some dark. Some strong and some very mild.

So all you mead makers, get out there and try some different kinds in your
meads and on the table.

By the way, is anyone using bee pollen as a yeast nutrient? I've had good
results. All natural, and probably authentic!

Yours truly,

Sleeping Bear Apiaries/Kirk Jones
BeeDazzled Candleworks/Sharon Jones


Subject: An experiment in Making Mead under stressful conditions... 
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 20:52:12 -0500

In November 1973, I was stationed aboard the USS FORRESTAL
(nicknamed "FID"); we were anchored out in the harbour of
Athens, Greece. I went to mid-rats (the midnight meal for
shift workers) one night and made a peanut butter and honey
sandwich. I dipped some honey from a large tray. Then, I sat
down to read the copy of Scientific American that I'd received
that day. The Amateur Scientist column was about something
called "MEAD".

As I was eating my peanut butter and honey sandwich, I realized
how easy it would be to make MEAD. I would need the honey (tray
on the messdeck), yeast (have my mother mail me some or talk the
bread cook into giving me some dough with live yeast), a fermentation
container (buy a drink or some such in a glass container ashore or
one of the sugar jars in the division coffee mess) and a place to
let the honey ferment (easy to find on a very large ship if you look
or I could have told my Chief Petty Officer that I was making "sun tea".).

That was the last night the cooks put honey out! (I guess I wasn't
the only person who read Scientific American!)

I propose an experiment.

What kind of recipes could all of you devise given the constraints
of just using honey, dry yeast or a ball of bread dough, no instruments
and fermentation containers which have to hide the fact that you're
making an alcoholic beverage. US Naval vessels don't permit alcohol
on their ships but (probably) nearly all US Naval personnel are
ignorant of MEAD.

Happy brewing, Mike (the-one-curious)

Subject: mead
From: Clint Guillory <!!cguil>
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 1996 23:13:03 -0500

I found your email address in the Mead Lovers Digest in Compuserve's Wine
Forum. I have a question. One of the best things I've ever tasted was
something the folks at Wynkoop Brewery in Denver,CO, made that they called
"boysenberry mead". Apparantly they experiment with various fruits (this
month it was strawberry-apple mead). Unfortunately just about everything
made at the Wynkoop Microbrewery is brewed for consumption there and is not
bottled. Not living in Denver, I was wondering if anyone brewed fruit "mead"
(or even a sweet beer) that I could purchase. (I don't know what you mean by
"mead" in your digest, but the mead that Wynkoop brewed was more of a sweet
beer and not a wine.) Any help would be appreciated.

Clint Guillory

Subject: Oxidation...
From: Ardell Foster <>
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 19:50:21 -0700 (PDT)

Hello All:

I am new at brewing mead and have not found a clear answer on what
oxidation is.

Could someone kindly take a moment to explain it to me and how to
determine if ones brew has been effected by it?


S.C.A. Member /Senjan Uppington Smythe
Barony of Altavia,
Kingdom of Caid.

Subject:  Slow  fermentations and honey adulteration
From: Ken Schramm <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 16:48:06 -0400

The thread on the digest lately with respect to slow fermentation
describes a common problem for mead makers. Morse and Steinkraus did
a lot of work on this (actuually twenty years ago or more) and found
that the low pH of honey (generally around 3.9) combined with the
initial acidification of the must during the early stages of
fermentation tended to crash the pH and throw the yeast into a bit of
a funk, and slow the whole thing down to a crawl. They theorized and
pretty much showed that if you keep the pH around 4 or higher, and
provide adequate nitrogen to nourish the yeasts during the early
ferment, your fermentations can occur just about as quickly as a high
gravity beer or wine.

Dan McConnell and I have confirmed the gist of their writings. With
good yeast nutrient and energizer addition (2 tsp each for five
gallons) and by controlling the pH with carbonate (CaCO3 or Potassium
Bicarbonate) additions, you can ferment a mead to almost total
completion in about two weeks. Morse and Steinkraus further
postulated that the "young mead" phenolic/medicinal aroma and flavor
, and much of the higher alcohol content, were the result of those
excrutiatingly long fermentations. I tend to think that they were
right, and that the quicker fermented meads are cleaner and less
funky, but without legitimate analysis, these are simply subjective

There is one simple way to keep things going strong for mead
fermentatrions, and that is to leave the acid additions until
bottling, or at least secondary fermentation. It seems that the last
thing you would want to do is to take a low pH must and crash it even
further with acid blends. Let that wait.

If you have the ability to check your must pH, you might want to give
that a shot, and then try boosting it up over 4.0 with carbonate if it
is too low. Make sure it's food grade, and take it in small
increments. The unused portions of the solids will precipitate out

As for adulterated honey, molasses seems pretty expensive as an
adulterant. HFCS is the most common perpetrator. If the honey you
mentioned was labeled with the name of a local beekeeper, it was
probably just from buckwheat ot some other dark floral source.

>I have become paranoid after hearing about high fructose corn syrup
or molasses in honey, but I picked up some honey the other day which
meets some of the descriptions of adulterated honey – it is extremely
dark and tastes of molasses. This honey was purchased from a local
homebrew store, and the bulk container I poured it from had the name
of a local beekeeper.<

If you want to find good honey with very little effort, call a local
orchard and ask for the name and number of his/her pollenator.

yours brewly,

Subject: Purple loosestrip honey, cherries
From: (Jacob Galley)
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 16:44:23 -0500

On my trip to Door Peninsula, Wisconsin, a couple weeks ago, I picked up five
pounds of "purple loosestrip honey", thinking that it would make a nifty mead.
Does anyone have any experience fermenting this type of honey? It's rather
dark, in appearance and flavor. I think I'll make a 5-gallon batch with this
and 5 lbs of something light, like clover or alfalfa honey, and champagne yeast
so that the varietal flavor isn't confounded with any prominent yeast character.
(I tend to think of champagne yeast as neutral, but only because it's what I
always use.) Does anyone out there has a better idea on what to make with this
purple loosestrip honey?

What's a purple loosestrip, anyway?

And while it's on my mind: I when I was up there in cherry country, I was
surprised that I couldn't find any cherry blossom honey. Is there some reason
for this? Bees don't like cherry trees for some reason?

And one more thing: Has anyone ever used dried cherries in a brew or a mead?
I'm a little concerned about sulphites. The label on the ones I picked up in
Door County said that 1 lb dried is equivalent to 8 lbs fresh. Wow! Well, it's
too late anyway, because we ate them all out of the bag. I'll have to send away
for some. (I have the mail order address at home, if anyone wants it. All I
remember is that 5 lbs of dried cherries cost about $40.)


Subject: Moniack Castle
From: Mark Cassells <GORDONTR@ENH.NIST.GOV>
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 20:42:45 -0400 (EDT)

What lucky timing on my part to be catching up on old posts just
before a trip to Scotland. When I saw the mention of the Moniack
Castle Mead, that became a fixed point on the schedule.
The winery started out as the extension of the lady's hobby, and the
first year sold only a few hundred bottles. Last year, they sold over
half a million, and each one is still labeled by hand.
They sell various wines and liquors, and some of the most wonderful
mead I have ever tasted. There is a very floral bouquet to me, with
the suggestion of a spice or two as well, my pallet is not yet that
refined. I did find that they use heather honey, ferment for 2 months,
and age for a year. I came back with 24 pounds of heather honey, I'll
post later how that turns out.
Another mead I had over there that was quite good was Lindfarne, made in
England on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne in <<should be ^^^^^ Lindisfarne>>
Northumberland. That mead was slightly sweet, unspiced, traditional mead.

When I came home I found a local winery that produces a mead that is
drinkable. They must have changed something in the past few years, as
it used to be quite foul, IMHO. That winery is Berrywine Plantations,
in Maryland. The also produce a Tej, but I haven't had it yet.

Sorry for the long post, but I sure did appreciate the tip to visit
Moniack while near Inverness and Loch Ness.


Gordon Cassells

End of Mead Lover's Digest #483