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November 30, 2009

Making mead

LissaMead.jpgOf all the holiday events (and somehow this seems like a holiday event) you can think of, I bet one of them isn't making mead. When Lissa first told me about it, I asked her for a guest post on the subject. But actually it seems to involve more getting together with friends and eating good food than producing a fermented beverage. I like that. Here's Lissa. EL

Ah, fall, when the weather gets cooler, the rain more annoying and a middle-aged woman's thoughts turn to making mead. ...

Not drinking it, mind you. I'm sure it tastes great (many of my friends love it), but I drank my lifetime share and more back in the '80s. That doesn't stop me from the annual mead brewing with my friends, though.

We all show up with local honey, food to share and months' accumulation of stories, jokes and arguments. The dogs and cats get petted, the kids get played with, the chickens get fed. We don't stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. anymore, but we still stay up later than we would on other nights.

K, who has been brewing mead since slightly after the Vikings stopped thinking it was a food group, supervises us. He decides if we are making a traditional mead, a bragget, a cyser, a melomel or some other type of fermented honey product. He makes it all look easy, and I just do what he tells me to do. We even made a milk mead last year.

But, first, we have to eat! There are always bags of chips around, although fewer than when we were younger. I usually show up with bread and several kilos of cheese from Prima's. There is bound to be a pot of soup on the stove (homemade, of course).  Homemade cookies, fruit and other goodies appear on the counter and the table as people arrive. We'll nosh on all of this until dinner time.

This year, we made a bragget. This involved using roasted malt, regular malt, roasted wheat, yeast (of course – you have to have the wee yeasties around!) and several herbs including meadowsweet (bonus etymology – this actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon that translates as “sweet mead”), bog myrtle and heather.

K describes the bragget as being a cross between ale and mead, and being very, very traditional in Viking times. Apparently the Vikings made mead by cleaning out the pantry into the brewing vat.

So, there is pouring and grinding and stirring and heating and all kinds of stuff going on in the background of the important stuff, which is, of course, eating, drinking beer, talking and keeping the kids from tormenting the cats.

After hours of this, it is time for what is rightly called a feast. We all chip in to finish the mashed potatoes, gravy, roast pork and green bean casserole. Cheese, bread, fruit and cookies hover around the edges of the feast, sneaking on to slowly emptying plates.

Clean up is also a group affair, rewarded by getting out last year's mead and bottling it to take home. Of course, it must be tasted, so the drinking horns appear, get filled and get passed around. Fortunately, no one starts singing. One time, the only song I could remember was a rugby song about human-animal interactions. It was not a hit.

We're old enough now that some of us start to fall asleep before the kids crash. We're stubborn enough that we're not going to bed before the kids, no matter how much mead we drink or how long the drive was. But, eventually, the kids crash, the conversation lags, we agree to disagree on how much weight we can give Snorri Sturluson's views on Loki or Obama's on health care.

The next morning, we wake up earlier than we used to, pack up our stuff and our bottles of mead, say our goodbyes and hit the road. K is left with a carboy or two of mead that he'll baby along, so that next year, we'll all have something to bottle, to drink and to brag about.

Next year, in Delaware.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:08 PM | | Comments (16)


Loved reading about Mead making. I used to get together with some friends in May and drink Mead, I didn't know it was made in the Fall. Some of my friends moved to Delaware....

It is made any time, Tweety Cat. My gang just gets together in the fall for this every year.

i went to my first mead "brew" just a couple weeks ago when the wootown brewers group held their annual one. was pretty much as described...

everyone brought some homemade food/beer/mead and we brewed new mead from various sources of honey

i found it interesting that it makes a big difference where the honey is from, as the pollen is from various sources (flowers, blueberrys, etc), thus giving the resulting honey different taste profiles

anyways, it is much simpler than brewing beer and was a lot of fun, as well as a great excuse to head up to the county in the fall

Great post, Lissa. Now I know (some) of the details behind those bottles.

oh...i also learned that mead alsohas something to do with the term "honey moon"


"In many parts of Europe it was traditional to supply a newly married couple with enough mead for a month, ensuring happiness and fertility. From this practice we get honeymoon or, as the French say, lune de miel."

Oddly enough, I just released my Atomic Bumblebrew mead this weekend.

1 year in the making, with 12 lbs of killer bee honey and 50 atomic fireballs.

Saw the recipe, had to try. So far it's gotten raves from everyone who has tried it.

I think I may try to go a bit more Nordic next batch.

Thanks for sharing Lissa. Sounds like a wonderful experience for you and your friends!

Lissa, you really should write. You can really spin a tale and have people (me anyway) nodding along as we read!

Who knew Delaware was such a Mecca for making mead?

Hal should get credit for proofreading and general encouragement.

They tell me the type of honey makes a huge difference. Then again, look at how much honey can vary.

Quite a few years ago when a Russian grocer was in the now Lynn Bricks location in Reisterstown, I was able to try quite a variety of honey. It is true, there is much taste variety apparently depending on what the beees dine on.

I hear there is even a Coke honey, where the bees are given coke to eat(drink).

hmmm. captcha: madhouse 33

Lissa--loved it! Thanks for sharing. Hope you will guest post again soon.

Sounds like a merry time was had by all!

Love your stories, Lissa!

Alice fuzzy??

Lissa ... loved the story. I noted carefully the line about bottling last year's batch to take home this year. Where brewing beer takes days to weeks of fermentation, mead and its variations take months to years to fully ferment. My brother still prefers to brew meade than beer for competitions.

Great story Lissa! Sounds like y'all had alot of fun.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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