Last year we helped out on a Mead Making Course at Mantel Farm, just down the road from us in Catsfield, East Sussex.
Mead isn’t really a drink which could be considered mainstream. But it has been growing in popularity again in recent times. Game of Thrones is said to be partly why people are turning once again to this ancient tipple.
*whispers* Well I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. But part of the reason I wanted to keep bees originally was so that I could make Mead with honey from our own hives. Having spoken to a few beekeepers about this, seemingly I am not alone!
Steve Gibson aka The Mead Guy was running the course. We supplied all the equipment, and I went along for the ride. I was already familiar with Mantel Farm as we buy our chicken supplies from there, plus I’d attended a Bee Keeping Course in the very same training room.
Steve spoke about the history and principles of mead-making.
What is Mead?
Mead is an ancient alcoholic drink made from honey. In effect, Mead is honey wine. It is most likely the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world. And it was probably stumbled upon by accident by some lucky person a very long time ago.
Once we’d covered a bit of the history of Mead then the participants jumped right in and started making their own, with Steve’s knowledgeable guidance.
As they were chopping their fruit, Steve continued sharing his knowledge of this ancient tradition. The importance of sterilising all your equipment so that no bad bacteria gets into it and spoils the brew. How very many recipes there are for making mead, and how we were starting with a simple one today.
Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead Recipe (also known as JAO) is a mead recipe you’ll find all over the internet. It was originally posted by Joe Mattioli on a website called Got Mead many years ago and went viral. And it’s the recipe we used that day.
Sourcing Local Honey to Make Mead
Steve also talked about the importance of using good honey, ideally local honey.
If you have your own bees, you are of course in the perfect position!
And if you’re doing a course at Mantel Farm, they sell honey from their own hives and from local beekeepers too.
But if you’re unable to get quality local honey and need to source it, you could contact your local branch of the British Beekeeping Association who should be able to point you in the direction of a beekeeper near you.
If you get stuck (geddit?) you could always buy British Honey on Amazon and get it delivered to your door.
The participants got to take their demijohn of mead home with them, with clear instructions on what to do next once fermentation had finished. Most of the meads had started to ferment before the participants left the course. Again the speed at which fermentation starts varies a lot, depending on what you’re using and the conditions you’re working in. The temperature is particularly important. Too cold: fermentation won’t start. Too hot: you could kill the yeast.
Equipment Needed to Make Mead
We supplied the mead starter kits for the course, which we also sell in our Almost Off Grid Shop. We don’t sell the kit online with a demijohn because that makes posting the kit a bit of a drama. The risk being that your beautiful glass demijohn could be smashed en route. So we supply a food-grade fermenting bucket with a lid instead, and we fit a hole and grommet for you to pop an airlock into. You can make mead quite happily in a bucket rather than a demijohn, or in a plastic demijohn if you want, so that you are able to watch your mead’s progress.
All the equipment in the starter kit can be re-used, it’s a small one-time investment. And the bucket is suitable for a 6 bottle wine kit too, which could be your next adventure!
If you want to use a glass demijohn instead of a bucket, it’s worth asking around. You might be surprised to discover how many people have an old glass demijohn kicking around in their garage or loft.
The participants made their mead. Then we did some tasting of Meads that Steve had made, and my mead too. The taste varies wildly depending on the recipe, ingredients and honey you use. That’s the beauty of mead-making. Obviously we could only have a very small amount because everyone was driving, but it was lovely nonetheless!
Steve runs mead making courses at Beekeeping Meetings and Conferences, and at a variety of venues around the country. You’ll find him on Instagram.
Almost Off Grid – our webshop where you can buy Mead Starter Kits, Mead Yeast and all manner of other home brew goodies.
Got Mead – a website about mead making, drinking mead, finding mead and mead in general.
Got Mead Forums – the internet’s biggest Mead community where people share their recipes.
Mantel Farm – a family run garden farming business in East Sussex where Steve runs courses.
The British Beekeeping Association – supporting the nation’s Beekeepers and Honey Bees.
Steve Gibson – Teacher of Mead Making on Instagram.
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