Just because the remains of a particularly vile clan of hill giants lie broken beneath your feet, it doesn’t mean that your day of LARPing has to end. Once the war is won, it’s time crowd around the fire and share a cup of mead with your victorious (and over 21) brethren!
If you’re unfamiliar with the stuff, mead is the oldest known alcoholic beverage known to human kind. Everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Grover Cleveland had their favorite recipe. It’s delicious and super easy to make. And and I’m gonna teach you how to make your first gallon of it right now because this is a DIY post!
Pro tip: You can make more than a single gallon, just multiply the following ingredients by the number of gallons you want to make.
Mead is basically just a mixture of honey, water, yeast, and time. You can even vary the type of mead you make by altering ratio of honey to water in your brew. Check out the list below to see what sort you’d like to make first:
Pounds of honey per gallon of water:
• Dry mead (like a dry white wine): 3 lbs
• Medium mead (kinda like a pinot grigio): 3.75 lbs
• Sweet mead (think port): 4.5 lbs
Next, you’ll want to select a yeast strain. Yeast is not only the creature responsible for creating the alcohol in your mead, it can also impart some of the flavor. A great first-time yeast is Lalvin 71b-1122, a beefy wine yeast capable of cranking out meads as strong as 14 percent alcohol (28 proof).
As for the water, get the bottled stuff. You don’t want any random organisms setting up shop in your mead and creating bad flavors.
Pro tip: Add in some fruit, like oranges, raisins, or cranberries. It’ll give your yeast extra nutrients while also imparting flavor and color.
Equipment you’ll need:
1 large pot—big enough to hold your honey and some of your water
1 small bowl—this is for activating your yeast
1 thermometer—you need to be able to read temperatures between 80º and 170º F
2 1-gallon carboys—these should be either glass or food grade plastic.
1 airlock—allows air to escape your mead jug without letting it back in
1 stirring spoon—a mixer or whisk works too
1 stopper—the thing that attaches your airlock to your jug
1 siphon—a turkey baster works, but an auto-siphon is better
1 shot of high-proof alcohol—this is not for you, it’s to fill your airlock with
8 16oz swing-top bottles—why deal with bottle caps?
Got all that? Great. Now sterilize the ever-loving crap out of everything listed above. This is far and away the most important step in any homebrewing project. If you don’t properly sanitize, your mead could come out tasting like raw sewage. A good DIY way to do this is to add 1.5 teaspoons of chlorine bleach to 5 gallons of water and soak everything in the mixture for at least 90 minutes. Then rinse it, making sure the bleach smell is totally gone.
Step 1: Pour your honey and one third of your water into your pot. This forms your “must”.
Pro tip: Warming the honey a bit first will help it pour easier. This is also when you should add your fruits if you’re going that route.
Step 2: Heat the must to between 160º and 170º F for 15 minutes. This pasteurizes the mead, killing any impurities.
Step 3: Pour your must into your first 1-gallon jug and then add water up to the 1 gallon line, leaving a little space for air at the top. Reduce temperature to below 80º F (Otherwise, you’ll kill your yeast).
Pro tip: Leave your water in the fridge overnight to help the cooling process.
Step 4: While your must is cooling, activate your yeast. Take your bowl, warm 2 oz of water to 105º-110º F, add a dash of honey, and then pour in your yeast. Once this is done, cover the bowl with a paper towel and put it somewhere dark for 15 minutes. If you did it right, your yeast should resemble a root beer float afterward.
Step 5: Add the yeast to your must. Stir for 15 minutes. Stir like the wind! This aerates your mead and gives the yeast the oxygen it needs to start working.
Step 6: Affix your stopper and airlock, filling the airlock to its fill line with the shot of booze. Keep it secret, keep it safe… in a cool, dark place for a month.
Step 7: Siphon your mead to your secondary jug. There will be dead yeast gunk at the bottom of the jug. Leave it behind. It’s made of zombies. Repeat step 6, this time letting your mead age for 3 months.
Pro tip: leave your fruit behind at this stage too. Its job is done.
Step 8: Siphon the mead again, this time into your swing-top bottles. Leave zombie yeast to its fate once more. This is the final step. For best results, give your mead another couple of months to age in the bottles.
Pro tip: Your mead’s flavor can change for up to 2 years after you bottle it. If it’s too sweet now, it might not be in a couple months.
That’s it! If all went well, you’re officially now a real-life “mazer” (mead-maker). There are tons of fantastic mead recipes out there. Some take less time, some take more, but they’re all equally delicious. Got mead suggestions or questions? Leave them in the comments!