Orange Blossom Traditional Mead

Last Saturday, I got my first ever batch of mead under way.  I’ve always been intrigued by mead.  In the marketplace, it’s not really all that common.  There’s a local meadery where I live called Misty Mountain Meadworks.  The proprietor is also a member of our homebrew club, Shenandoah Valley Homebrewers Guild (yes, he also home brews beer!). He did a presentation at one of our meetings and brought samples for all of us to try.   After my first sip, I was hooked.  I have to try to make this!

Mead is a very simplistic beverage.  After all, it’s just honey, water and yeast.  When you start to do some reading on the subject, it can get pretty intimidating.  Mead fermentations can seem to take forever with honey’s complex sugars.  As long as you give the yeast the tools that it needs (nutrients), they will do their job.  I’m in no rush whatsoever, as I am viewing this as my long term project.

15 pounds of Orange Blossom Honey

I purchased my honey from Dutch Gold Honey in Lancaster, PA.  The price wasn’t bad ($60 shipping included), and I got my shipment pretty quick since I’m only a couple states away in Virginia.  For this traditional mead, I used 15 pounds of Orange Blossom Honey, and 4 gallons of filtered water. For the yeast nutrients, I used 2 tsp of yeast nutrient and 1 tsp of yeast energizer. The yeast that I used was Lalvin 71b-1122.  The whole process of getting it into the bucket was simple, it just involved a lot of stirring! I used the no-heat method, as I wanted to preserve as much of the aroma of the honey as possible.  I did have the help of a cordless drill and a wine degassing wand to make the job a little easier. 🙂  For the nutrient and energizer, I measured them out and weighed it on a scale.  I divided the combo into four additions.  I added the first addition to the must before pitching the yeast, and then another addition each day after stirring for the other three additions.

Rehydrated Lalvin 71b-1122 yeast

After all this stirring in the bucket I took a gravity reading with the hydrometer, and it came out to 1.103.  This is officially the highest gravity thing that I have ever made! It should come out to about 13% alcohol by volume. I’m going to let it sit in the bucket for about a month before I start to take gravity readings to see how it is progressing.

Gravity reading of the must

Until next time, happy brewing and mead making!

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that I am reading my hydrometer incorrectly.  The SG is actually 1.112. I don’t usually brew/make anything that has this high of a starting gravity!

Vienna Lager

Another successful brew day is in the books! Yesterday, I brewed another lager and I decided on the recipe for a Vienna Lager from my copy of Brewing Classic Styles.  It was my second time doing a 90 minute boil, so I decided to up my total water by about a gallon since I was about a half to three quarters of a gallon short on my volume into the fermenting bucket on my last lager.

Yesterday was warm, but not too hot.  The weather forecast was calling for a chance of showers all afternoon, but I decided to press my luck and brew anyway! My friend Jim came over to hang out while I brewed and his good luck kept the rain away.  As soon as he left, it poured! 🙂

All in all, it was a very successful brew day.  I didn’t come up short in my final volume going into the fermenting bucket, and my brewhouse efficiency was 66%.  I used to be obsessed with my efficiency, but with my system I seem to be consistent in the mid 60’s.  After all, the most important part is that the final product tastes good right? 🙂

The wort is chilling in my fridge down to the pitching temp of 50 degrees.  I will be pitching the yeast tonight!

Here’s the Vienna Lager recipe that I brewed.  Happy brewing everyone!

BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: North Of The Border Vienna
Brewer: Karmabrew
Asst Brewer: 
Style: Vienna Lager
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0) 

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.25 gal 
Boil Size: 8.35 gal
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG
Estimated Color: 11.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 26.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66.80 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU 
5.00 lb Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 43.37 % 
3.40 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 29.49 % 
3.00 lb Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 26.02 % 
0.13 lb Carafa II (412.0 SRM) Grain 1.13 % 
1.50 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %] (60 min)Hops 21.6 IBU 
1.00 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %] (10 min)Hops 5.2 IBU 
1 Pkgs Southern German Lager (White Labs #WLP838)Yeast-Lager 

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11.53 lb
Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Step Time Name Description Step Temp 
60 min Mash In Add 17.30 qt of water at 161.7 F 152.0 F 

Bohemian Pilsner

My first brew of the year, a Bohemian Pilsner is almost done! It’s in the fridge lagering away at a cool 38 degrees.  I have to say that I used to be so intimidated by the idea of brewing a lager. It just seemed so complicated to me.

For my first real brew of the year I decided to jump in head first and brew a pilsner (recipe from Brewing Classic Styles). Since lagers are fermented colder than ales, your yeast cell count has to be massive to minimize the lag in the start of fermentation. I ended up stepping my yeast starter three times.

Using my own water (with the water treatments) instead of going out and buying spring water on brew day was so nice (less expensive and of course less of a chore)! I mashed the grains at 150F for 75 minutes, sparged and started the boil. The only thing new that I’ve never done before is boil the wort for 90 minutes. I fell about a gallon short in my final volume which wasn’t that big of a deal to me.  Next time, I’ll know to up the total water needed by a gallon or two!

I cooled the finished wort overnight to the recommended pitching temp of 50F. That next morning I pitched the yeast and headed off to work! The next 24-36 hours I waited nervously for fermentation to begin, and sure enough it did! I let the fermentation go for about 3 full days at 50F and then I ramped up the temperature to 68F to do the diacetyl rest.  The diacetyl rest is needed so that the yeast can clean up after themselves and get rid of the butter/butterscotch flavors that is considered a flaw in lagers. After that, I tested the final gravity and it was done fermenting! I racked it to an empty keg, pressurized it, and now it’s lagering away for about four weeks.

Pictures of the final product will come later when I tap the keg!

Anadama Bread

I was in the mood to bake some bread this weekend, so I opened up our copy of the book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The first recipe listed was for a bread called Anadama which I have never had before.  This is a style of bread that comes from New England. The ingredients of this bread include cornmeal, flour, molasses, yeast, water and a little butter.

The night before, I made a soaker which is made up of a cup of cornmeal and a cup of water. I mixed it up, covered it up with plastic wrap and set it out on the kitchen counter overnight.

Today, when I was ready to make the dough I made the next component which is called the sponge. To make the sponge, you mix the soaker, two cups of flour, a cup of lukewarm water and yeast. Then you let the sponge ferment for an hour. After that, you mix in the molasses, remaining flour and 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter. The rest of the process is just like making regular bread.

Here’s the dough after the initial rise:

Ready to go in the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

After it cooled for an hour, I had a slice (or two). It’s a very tasty loaf of bread! It seems a little more dense than your regular white bread and it’s got a tightly packed crumb. I think I will be making this bread again!