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What do these mead variants taste like?

BobbyValentine

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May 10, 2020
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Well, I know what the sweet mead you can buy in a National Trust gift shop tastes like, but...

What does dry mead taste like?

What does bochet taste like?

What does acerglyn taste like?

What does braggot taste like?

How do they compare to a common, sweet 14% gift shop mead?

Curious to make all of these interesting meads, but there is no where to buy them in the UK and I have no clue what I would be shooting for. In fact I'm making an oaked acerglyn right now (my first ever brew! recipe in link) and while I've been combing the website for tips, frankly I have no clue what a 'good' acerglyn is even supposed to taste like. The search function on this site is tricky, and most posts I can find re flavour are when a mead doesn't taste good. Any descriptions would be great, but if being super formal with the appearance/aroma/flavor/mouthfeel format, please try and remember how insane and esoteric 'earthy' sounded before you ever drank wine.
 

bernardsmith

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HI BobbyValentine and welcome. I am not sure that your question has any good answers any more than the answer to the question what does bread taste like? What about rye bread or wholewheat? What about sour dough bread? What about bread made at 100 hydration vs a dough made at 60%? What about a dough allowed to ferment 3 days in the fridge vs a bread made from start to finish in 3 hours?

The best answer to your question, in my opinion, is to make the most naked simple kinds of meads that you are curious about. Don't add adjuncts but for example, if you are interested in making an acerglyn, make one gallon using say 2 lbs of honey and 1 lb of maple syrup, and make a second gallon using 2 lbs of honey and 2 lbs of maple syrup and a third gallon using 2 lbs of honey and half a pound of maple syrup and perhaps a fourth gallon using only maple syrup and a fifth gallon using only honey. Each one will taste very different even if you used the same yeast. Find one you REALLY prefer and use that to make identical batches using different yeasts and each will taste very different. And you can do the same with bochets (caramelized honey) or braggots (honeyed beers or malted meads).
A dry wildflower mead will taste very different from a dry heather honey mead and that will taste different from a dry meadowfoam mead.. but a dry clover honey mead at 6% ABV will taste different from a dry clover mead at 12%. (the latter has a double the amount of clover honey in the same volume)...

The simple answer to your question is that every mead should have flavor notes of the flowers the bees used for their honey. Sometimes those notes are front and center and sometimes they are more off to the side. Some honeys can hold the stage on their own and some honeys are vehicles for other flavors (think: stars and supporting roles),
 
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Ty520

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 19, 2020
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I always assumed mead was far more popular in the UK than the US, and was widely available. i assumed wrong, i guess!

I agree with Bernard that the variables are far too numerous to easily answer your question. Also, everyone tastes things differently

However, I will try my best...

1. as for a dry: if all things considered are the same (same honey, same water content, same temperatures, same yeasts, etc etc etc) at its most basic, this is just defined by how much residual sugar remains, but will also be largely affected by how high the alcohol content is. a dry will be more acidic, more crisp. If you have a big alcoholic beverage store in your city, try having them find you a bottle of dry and semisweet reislings from the same vintner and same vintage then have yourself a little tasting and write down the adjectives that come to mind. (PS: always start with the dry first). i think this will give you a general idea of how a dry and sweet mead will differ.

2. a bochet will vary in taste depending on how long it has been cooked. Early, it will take on a caramel-y flavor, then move into more toffee or treacle flavor, and then into a dark coffee or really dark chocolate flavor. personally, I like mine on the lighter caramel-y end - once you get too dark, i think it gets a bit bitter - like the charred part on a emarshmallow over a campfire, or a really strong porter or stout beer...that bitterness that makes your tongue curl a bit. one thing to note when doing a bochet is that the heat will pretty much remove any of the delicate nuances you pick up from the honey variety, so don't splurge on a fancy honey if you go this route.

3. acerglyn is tricky. unlike honey, you'll lose any sense of the flavor of the maple in the final product UNLESS you just add extra syrup after it's done fermenting (most commercial products do this), but in my opinion, back-sweetening is cheating - if you're going to backsweeten, you may as well just buy vodka and syrup and mix them up and call it a day.

4. there are too many variables to describe a braggot. In the US, at least, people make braggots based on every style of beer, so it all depends on what style of beer you're incorporating. That being said, though, i think it is fairly agreed upon that a braggot should highlight the malt and honey equally. On that note, It is my opinion, and i would argue most peoples' opinion, that a braggot should not be very hoppy either - think boddingtons or newcastle.
 
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BobbyValentine

NewBee
Registered Member
May 10, 2020
6
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Cornwall UK
Thanks for your replies, seems the answer I was looking for was I've just got to set about making it and experimenting to find out for myself (when all I really want to do is skip ahead the best, most interesting mead!). @Ty520 I have come across quite a few posts saying maple flavour is lost in the ferment. How would one hold onto that flavour without 'cheating' by backsweetining? And (not that I mean to undermine the whole process), but if I were to buy vodka, sweeten it with a bit of honey and maple syrup, would that be a comparable drink to an acerglyn which has had the blood sweat and tears put into it?
 

Ty520

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 19, 2020
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Thanks for your replies, seems the answer I was looking for was I've just got to set about making it and experimenting to find out for myself (when all I really want to do is skip ahead the best, most interesting mead!). @Ty520 I have come across quite a few posts saying maple flavour is lost in the ferment. How would one hold onto that flavour without 'cheating' by backsweetining? And (not that I mean to undermine the whole process), but if I were to buy vodka, sweeten it with a bit of honey and maple syrup, would that be a comparable drink to an acerglyn which has had the blood sweat and tears put into it?
Not sure - I've been trying to hunt for an answer to that myself. Some people swear that their product retains maple flavor. I abandoned the idea when most people told me it wouldn't' taste like maple, but keep hunting for a way to make it work without backsweetening

However, i think i am just going to bight the bullet and give it a go so i know for myself once and for all.
 
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Squatchy

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Nov 3, 2014
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Not sure - I've been trying to hunt for an answer to that myself. Some people swear that their product retains maple flavor. I abandoned the idea when most people told me it wouldn't' taste like maple, but keep hunting for a way to make it work without backsweetening

However, i think i am just going to bight the bullet and give it a go so i know for myself once and for all.
It won't retain the flavor. And what about backsweetening is cheating? I bet 99% of all meads are backsweetened
 

Ty520

NewBee
Registered Member
Feb 19, 2020
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It won't retain the flavor. And what about backsweetening is cheating? I bet 99% of all meads are backsweetened
I don't see why anyone would bother going through all that trouble to just pour in raw product in the end. as i said, you may as well just mix honey and a neutral spirit and save yourself months of effort. and as you criticized in another post, how is adding extra honey any more legit than adding any other adjunct? in fact, i'd say adding raw honey is worse than any other adjunct because it is almost entirely intended to correct a mistake

After all, No respectable wine vintner adds raw grape juice to their wine - that kind of stuff ends up as two-buck chuck on the bottom shelf. the most reputable vintners and wines embrace the unique nuances of that season and that run - it is what sets them apart - why should any other alcohol be any different?

When I think back at the best wines I've drunk, i recall all the distinct subtleties from that vintage down to the unique weather of that year that makes it special and unique.
 

Foothiller

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Take the word of these experienced mead makers that maple syrup does lose its flavor through fermentation — that’s my experience too. But I would try bernardsmith’s approach early in these replies, to see the effect of the additions. In doing this, be aware that many experienced meadmakers do a lot of 1 gallon batches to do these comparisons, instead of jumping straight to big expensive batches that you might not like. As for finishing additions, be aware that making mead has some significant differences from making wine. Most of all, enjoy the journey of your experiences, as you explore things that you can’t buy and end up with your own creations.
 

Squatchy

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Nov 3, 2014
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I don't see why anyone would bother going through all that trouble to just pour in raw product in the end. as i said, you may as well just mix honey and a neutral spirit and save yourself months of effort. and as you criticized in another post, how is adding extra honey any more legit than adding any other adjunct? in fact, i'd say adding raw honey is worse than any other adjunct because it is almost entirely intended to correct a mistake

After all, No respectable wine vintner adds raw grape juice to their wine - that kind of stuff ends up as two-buck chuck on the bottom shelf. the most reputable vintners and wines embrace the unique nuances of that season and that run - it is what sets them apart - why should any other alcohol be any different?

When I think back at the best wines I've drunk, i recall all the distinct subtleties from that vintage down to the unique weather of that year that makes it special and unique.

Well, you can criticize me all you want Ty. That's fine. I just won't bother wasting your time anymore since you know so much more than I do. Just a word to the wise. You might want to spend a little time when you're new somewhere. That way you won't look so foolish talking down to people you have no idea who you are talking to. It's obvious from your comments you don't know anything about making mead. And it's also obvious you don't know anything about me either
 
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BobbyValentine

NewBee
Registered Member
May 10, 2020
6
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1
Cornwall UK
Take the word of these experienced mead makers that maple syrup does lose its flavor through fermentation — that’s my experience too. But I would try bernardsmith’s approach early in these replies, to see the effect of the additions. In doing this, be aware that many experienced meadmakers do a lot of 1 gallon batches to do these comparisons, instead of jumping straight to big expensive batches that you might not like. As for finishing additions, be aware that making mead has some significant differences from making wine. Most of all, enjoy the journey of your experiences, as you explore things that you can’t buy and end up with your own creations.
I am regretting not picking up mead making a few years ago in order to get a better feel for things with 5L demijohns. I got engaged recently and we've gotten excited about the idea of providing at least half the alcohol with what we've made, hence why we've jumped straight into a larger batch. I just pray that if we try and carefully stick to proven recipes we wont balls it up. We'll have plenty of time to learn mead making the proper way after we're married. Thanks again for the replies
 

bernardsmith

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But just as in real cooking , it's not the recipe that is important. It's the quality of the ingredients AND your skill in using them. Ten mead makers can all use the same ingredients to make a mead using exactly the same recipe and some will be too awful to drink while others will be medal winners at prestigious competitions. You might want to start small (single gallons) and start with trad. meads (honey, water, nutrient and yeast) and if you can make a mead that is flawless when it is naked (there are no fruits or herbs or spices to hide behind and mask all kinds of faults) then you know that you can make a mead. It's not quite as easy as making toast but it is a bit like baking sourdough bread with a high hydration dough. There are lots of opportunities to make serious flaws that make the finished bread more sad than satisfying...
 

EricHartman

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My worst mead yet came from a recipe that in bernards or squatchys hands would have made an amazing mead. I had to dump ingredients and prey; whereas, with their flavoring experience, they could have massaged the ingredients to their correct placement. We all seem to climb the same rungs on the learning ladder and that initial excitement is difficult to temper. People here are giving you good advice.

Also read the BJCP mead judging manual and specifically the section on balance and faults. It will help you understand why mead is backsweetened, step sweetened, or heavily sweetened on the front end (risk of excessive osmotic pressure with pissed off yeast doing this last option though). Given how well most professionally developed yeasts tolerate ethanol, if you want a mead less than 14-16% abv, you will have no choice but to stabilize and backsweeten. Sugars are used to flavor balance the normal, non fault level, alcohol, tannin, and acid side of the balance equation.

Honey out of a jar may be cloying but once the sugars are fermented its flavors are quite delicate and subtle. They are easily overpowered by the normal levels of ethanol, tannin, and acids produced during fermentation. A well balanced, completely dry, traditional mead is almost as rare as a unicorn... certainly outside of my abilities. Mead is no more a wine than beer is. Wine making experience and wine knowledge will definitely help, but expertise in that area does not make one an immediate expert in the area of mead making.
 
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bernardsmith

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Here's the thing - and I do not claim to have any superior expertise but
1. Recipes are meaningless. Principles and methods are everything. If you know what you are doing and why you do what you do (wine or mead making is not magic or ritual) AND you have good ingredients then you will make a good mead. If you follow a recipe but you really don't know why you are doing what you are apparently being asked to do then you are as likely to make a good mead as a 5 year old child.
2. Making great wine from wine grapes is one thing, Making wine from fruit or honey or flowers is not the same thing. You invariably have to back sweeten country wines (or meads) to bring out the flavors that are covered by the ethanol. Grapes grown for wine - have been grown for wine for hundreds and hundreds of years. Those grapes have an incredible amount of tannins, acids, flavors and sugars but even those grapes because every harvest has been grown with different amounts of rain, of hours of sun, of nutrients in the soil, with different reasons why the harvest was today and not tomorrow or yesterday are going to need tweaking... so you think the gods have blessed bees with some special ability to make perfect mead making honey with whatever floral source they have - whether it be soy bean flowers, or clover or a batch of sunflowers, or raspberry bushes. In other words, mead making is a partnership between you and your honey.
 
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bernardsmith

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Ty520, I don't know that you are wrong in that no wine maker will chuck in some grapes or pressed juice from grapes just like that to add something to his or her wine... but every wine maker I am familiar with if they want or need to back sweeten their wines will add sugars dissolved in water (AKA syrup) whether that syrup has been flavored with juice, concentrated juice, or has not been flavored at all (because enough flavor is already in the wine it is just not forward enough). Many wine kits are sold with "flavor packs" to be added before bottling and where back sweetening is permitted by local law commercial wine makers are likely to add more sugar before bottling. It is quite fascinating I have to say that Americans all talk "dry wine" but they buy semi sweet and sweet wine. AND the lower the pH of a wine the less your perception of its sweetness.
 

rb2112br

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Mar 27, 2018
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It is quite fascinating I have to say that Americans all talk "dry wine" but they buy semi sweet and sweet wine. AND the lower the pH of a wine the less your perception of its sweetness.
Well, this is one American that you will not hear talk about dry wine, unless it's to say that I'm not a fan of the dry stuff. I prefer the semi-sweet wine and meads, but not crazy about the really sweet stuff, although I think in most cases, I would drink the sweet stuff before dry. There have been exceptions though.