Of 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.