Mead Lover's Digest #0752 Mon 2 August 1999


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



mead judging ("Chuck Wettergreen")
Leo's bad batch (
AHA Mead Club-Only Competition (Paul Gatza)
Kegs for sale (Steve Drake)
Apple Mead not clearing. (
Mead tour through Brittany, France ("Wout Klingens")
Re: mead judging (Dick Dunn)


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Subject: mead judging
From: "Chuck Wettergreen" <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 10:49:42 -0500

In MLD #750 Anne Trowbridge <>
asked about judging mead:

> My personal feeling is that homebrewers judge meads like
> brewers (small wonder) and look for aggressive mead
> character like alcoholic strength and sweetness. In doing
> so, they miss some of the more delicate aspects that mead
> can impart.
I've entered my share of contests and even achieved occasional
success. I've also done my share of judging at AHA contests.
As with any beer/mead/cider contest, your results are only as
good as the experience of the judges. Generally I have
found that experienced mead judges are few and far between.

For example I just received my judging sheets from the AHA for
the 1999 NHC. I submitted a cyser that had taken a first in cyser
at the Mazer Cup not a month before. While it made it to the
second round of the NHC (and took a first in category in the
first round), the comments of the judges from the NHC final
round were uninformative and bore no relation to the mead that
I submitted.

Well, perhaps they chilled it (I've seen that happen *a lot* at
AHA contests), perhaps they mislabeled it, or perhaps the
judges were the novices that were left over when all the beer
judging slots were filled. Regardless, the results I got back
were not for the cyser *I* submitted. I mean, how does a
40 or 45 mead turn into a 24 mead in the space of a month?

Well, this is starting to sound like sour grapes, but it's not.
When I look at the comments from BJCP nationally-ranked
judges who I *know* have made mead themselves, and
compare them to the comments on the same mead by BJCP
recognized judges who I have never heard of, it is obvious to
me that the later has neither made nor tasted a mead before,
nor has any idea what it should taste like.

Geneva, IL

Subject: Leo's bad batch
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 12:08:59 EDT

Leo says:

<< First off, thank you for all the responses to my query about corks. All
naught as it turns out…

I hate how this stuff can look so enticing and end up tasting so not

enticing. It's not quite vinegar, but it's definitely not like wine.
Hopefully it'll clear out the nooks and crannies of my plumbing. >>

Never, ever toss a batch out without a fair shot at aging! Unless it truly
tastes of vinegar or of some other kind of infection, it may just be a late
With some more information on your recipe, methods, starting & ending
gravity, and a description of the flavors you encountered, you might be able
to get some good advice on this board. You might want to work with others on
that second batch. Is there a homebrewing club nearby? Or work with this
board on your plan.
As for all the fuss — mead making can be very little fuss, if you choose,
although it does require more patience than beer making. E-mail me for a
low-stress mead maker's method.
I wish you luck on batch 2 & hope you stay with the hobby.

Subject: AHA Mead Club-Only Competition
From: Paul Gatza <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 09:59:03 -0600

Dan asked about the info on the upcoming AHA Club-Only Mead Competition.
Ken Schramm and the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild has graciously volunteered
to host the event. There are many qualified mead judges in this area of
Michigan, with one credential being the organizing and judging of the
Mazer Cup Mead Competition each year. One entry is allowed per
AHA-registered club. Two bottles per entry. Corked bottles ok. The entry
fee is $5.

August 1999
It's a Mead, Mead, Mead, Mead World AHA Club-Only Competition
AHA Categories
25. Traditional Mead and Braggot,
26. Fruit and Vegetable Mead
27. Herb and Spice Mead, specify
Entries due 8/19/99
Ship to:
Ken Schramm/AABG
1545 McManus
Troy, MI 48084

Paul Gatza
American Homebrewers Association (303) 447-0816 x 122
736 Pearl Street (303) 447-2825 — FAX
PO Box 1679 — E-MAIL
Boulder, CO 80306-1679 — AOB INFO
U.S.A. — WEB

Subject: Kegs for sale
From: Steve Drake <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 18:32:36 -0400

Hi all,

I've been lurking for a long time but found something I thought I would
share. A company in West Sacramento, Calif. has hundreds of the five
gallon soda kegs that they are trying to auction off on ebay in groups of
500 kegs. The starting price is $4.60 each or $2300. Shipping all the way
to Maryland would be about $1400 or an additional $2.80 each for a total of
$7.40 each.

I had a deal worked out with a local shop to buy them and I would get a
finders fee of a couple free kegs but it fell through. I have talked with
the fellow selling them and he said that he would be willing to sell them
in smaller lots of 1-4 pallets (20-25 kegs/pallet) if someone was
interested. I got the idea that he wasn't interested in less then a pallet
but I could be wrong. Also, he may want a higher price for a smaller
quantity but it doesn't hurt to check it out.

I thought I would post it here as there might be some friends or clubs that
could go together on buying a shipment. If anyone in Maryland, DC,
Virginia is interested, let me know.

Ebay auction site

His address is:
"Shantz, Craig" <>

Happy kegging to everyone,

Steve Drake

Steve Drake
NIH, NICHD, CBMB Phone 301.402-0360
Building 18T, room 101 Fax 301.402-0078
Bethesda, MD 20892

Subject: Apple Mead not clearing.
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 19:11:58 EDT

I am on my third batch of mead. My second batch turned out pretty well, it
was a blackberry/blueberry melomel using 3LB of Indiana Clover Honey to 1
gallon of distilled water. I racked it after 2 weeks then racked and bottled
it after about 3 weeks. It has been aging 3 months now. It has a nice sweet
taste with a hint of fruitiness, however, to me, it's like drinking hard
whiskey, What a punch! The first batch was an experiment all right, but it
wasn't all THAT bad.

Both of those batches were clearing up nicely after 2 weeks, and were like

crystal after 5 weeks. I am trying a half gallon batch I used about 16oz
motts all natural applesauce (to keep the preservatives out) and some spices.
I tossed in Red Star Flor Sherry yeast and it started up nicely. (I live in
FL and the temp is in the upper 80's / lower 90's this whole time) After
about 3 weeks the color has turned from dark caramal to light applesauce tan,
the fermentation has stopped completely and it is not clearing at all!
First of all why isn't this batch clearing up? I havent used any additives
in any of my mead's and prefer not to if at all possible, prefering the
'natural' route.
Second, is there any way to naturally keep the alcohol level down, or to make
it taste more like a wine and less like a shot?

Subject: Mead tour through Brittany, France
From: "Wout Klingens" <>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 18:09:29 +0200

Inspired by an article in Zymurgy in1996 we ( and decided to go on cider- and mead-tour through Brittany,
We went only 4 days (plus a day each driving to and from Holland) and
visited only 5 meaderies. All of the meaderies we visited welcomed us
effusively. The visiting quota is a bit thin because we also wanted to
sample the local food, which was excellent and finding your way in France
isn't an easy task if you aren't used to the way they use road signs. Most
often we only had a name and a town to go on and finding these meaderies was
a real trial.

We had a talk with a Mr. Barbe, by his own word the second biggest
mead-business in the region and tasted a great mead which won a gold metal
in 1997.
We talked to Mr. Mercier, who had bit of a fruit fly problem. Of course we
told him about our vinegar-soap trick and he was very grateful indeed.
We visited the meadery of Mr. Lancelot who has a state of the art
microbrewery and meadery operation. We talked briefly to the owner, but he
had very little time, so we had a tour conducted by a very young student of
one of the wine schools in France.
We talked to Mr. Gaultier, a very enthusiastic meadmaker, which let his
meadmaking sound a bit "mysterious". He was so enthusiastic, that we often
couldn't understand him at all.
And lastly we visited "Les Caves du Chouchen", a large operation which makes
6 different meads.

Mr. Paul Barbe, the 78 year-old son of the founder of the Barbe operation,
gracefully received us and had some stories to tell about the war, general
Patton, the famous "Resistance", how bad the American cigarettes were during
the war, as well as some mishap with his wife's hip. Just to get the picture
on the atmosphere our conversations went along. He later showed us a
picture of his gang of resistance fighters, sten guns and all! He does
still make mead, but his son is now head of the operation. At the end of
our discussion, he *gave* us each a small bottle of a 7 year-old mead…. Of
course we bought several 2-year-old bottles from their retail outlet in
town, run by his grandson.

The same day we tried to visit Mr. Mercier. But that day he was busy
preparing for the market the next day, so we were invited the next day at
18:00h. Later, when he found out that we were in France only for 4 days, he
kept apologizing to us for letting us down the day before. He has an
extremely professional beekeeping operation going on with 500 hives and we
had the impression that this is the main source of income. We had a very
pleasant conversation with he and his wife and he especially appreciated our
opinion on his mead, which was very good indeed with an excellent
sweetness-acid balance. He also *gave* us a bottle of his mead, of which he
is particularly proud, and a jar of his honey.

The Lancelot operation was in a stage where they were relocating or
rebuilding the meadery and brewery and was the most modern looking of all.
Where all of them were fermenting in old to very old stone barns or pole
barns, but Lancelot had a new building with clean tiles on the floor and a
showroom / tasting room. Lancelot carries only 1 kind of mead; the beer
operation seemed to be the main source of income.

The Gaultier operation was larger than it seemed, because we saw his meads
later on in a liquor store. We sampled his meads right from the storage
tanks. He has several meads that vary from demi-sec (which is quite sweet)
to doux.

And finally we had the chance to taste 5 of the six meads of Les Caves du
Chouchen. We didn't get to taste the sparkling one; they wouldn't obviously
have an open bottle just for tasting.

Except for the last one, all meads had a similar character due to bit of
buckwheat honey they all use besides wildflower. Apparently this honey makes
it a typical Brittany product.
They all use some kind of wine yeast. Except for Lancelot they either age on
barrel or they ferment on it, which give their mead a lovely complexity.
They use old second hand barrels, and M. Gaultier said his barrels had held
a very famous French wine that sold for a lot of money. None of the visited
meadmakers used airlocks on their barrel; they used a piece of cloth with a
bung on top of it.

Except for Mercier and Gaultier, they don't age their meads. As soon as it
is done, they bottle it and sell.

Gaultier lets his meads age for 2-6 years, Mercier ages his for 2 years.
These two do bulk aging in the cask and don't use any filter or clearing
The others use bentonite and filters.
Some of the use sulfite, some don't.
Some use raisins and / or citrus zest in their mead, most don't.
Some use nutrients.
Mercier was the only one who added tartaric acid as far as we know.
Nobody was particularly careful about fermentation temperatures. Mercier had
extreme high fermentation temperatures, leaving his barrels in the sun under
a roof, though most fermented in cool room environments.
Nobody was concerned about autolysis.
Most of them started with a SG around 1.120.
The bottles were all corked and some of them had wires like champagne
bottles (but not champagne corks) "just in case", which makes them
sometimes a tiny bit sparkling. All bottles we saw had some sediment in
them, even the filtered ones.
Honey production in Brittany isn't enough to fulfill the needs of all
meadmakers. Therefore most of them import their honeys from elsewhere, like
Mexico and China. Particularly the "agribusiness" is partly "to blame".
Gaultier complained that the seed companies are breeding buckwheat for grain
production, which results in decreased buckwheat flower nectar.

Mead in Brittany is called Chouchen or Chouchenn.

All meads we had were very agreeable indeed. We only found one very dry mead
in "Les Caves" with a huge honey nose, but most of them are sweet, FG 1.030
and up.
All bars and restaurants serve mead. Though they don't always put it on the
menu, but if you ask for it, it is usually served.
All supermarkets sell mead. The large ones even up to 6 different meads and
brands. All liquor stores sell mead.

We estimate the number of meaderies just in Brittany to 100, maybe even

Now touring through France is said to be difficult because of the lack of
friendliness of the French. We found it to be just the opposite. We had
nothing more than a name and a town they live in and in one case a nice man
(who obviously has something to drink at noon) got in his car and showed us
where it was. A simple "excusez moi, monsieur" at the gate of a garden was
enough to get a nice conversation going about what we were doing in France.
Obviously it is necessary to speak some French. Most people do understand
English a bit, but they can't speak it, though most of them tried. Chuck had
some flashcards ready in French of who we were, why were we there. That idea
performed miracles.

Also the way you present yourself seemed to help. Taking along a photocopy
of the Zymurgy article and presenting it as "the leading homebrew magazine
in the US" (which basically isn't a lie of course) helped, especially, when
the meadmakers saw their names in it, even the big ones. Some of them made a
photocopy, Mercier asked for one. We'll send it to him. All meadmakers were
*extremely* flattered by our visit.
We had a great time!

Chuck and Wout.

Subject: Re: mead judging
From: (Dick Dunn)
Date: 30 Jul 99 17:31:40 MDT (Fri)

> Anne Trowbridge wrote:
[about judging meads]
> > Most equate "honey flavor & character" with sweetness –
> > basically, UNFERMENTED honey flavor and aroma.
> How can "honey flavor" be anything other than the flavor of honey??
> I dissociate the flavor of honey from the sweetness of honey. Sweetness is
> merely one of the four basic tastes detected by the tounge…

Alan, I think you're missing Anne's point, because it's a very common
problem in dealing with mead. People have trouble thinking of what honey
really tastes like beneath the sweetness. Asking someone to describe or
recognize the taste of "honey without the sweetness" is like asking to
describe "lemon without the tartness". Yes, sweetness is just one of the 4
basic tastes…but in honey it's maybe 95% of the taste!

Judges really need to be trained by tasting a lot of meads (under the tute-
lage of one who knows good mead from bad and can describe or point out the
faults in a bad mead), before they get the hang of identifying the honey
character in a dry mead.

The problem doesn't just show up in judging, by the way. It's also an
issue when we get an unusual honey and we're trying to decide whether it
will make a good mead. We often have trouble tasting the honey and "think-
ing away" the sweetness to understand what's going to remain. Too often
a meadmaker has started with an unusual, flavorful honey that's absolutely
yummy raw but turns into a vile concoction once the sweetness of the honey
is gone and the other flavors stand on their own.

Dick Dunn Hygiene, Colorado USA

End of Mead Lover's Digest #752