Worth Celebrating

My son recently got engaged. They have set the wedding date for next August. To celebrate, he brewed a modified version of the wonderful Hübsch Märzen (as an Oktoberfest) and got to try out his new copper wort chiller. Me, I brewed this morning a batch of mead which we will use as the toast at his wedding.

I generally brew 5 gallons, or 2 if I am experimenting with a spice, fruit, or process. This was the opposite end of the spectrum, making enough mead for 150 people to share as we wish the newlyweds well. 12 gallons. Undoubtedly the most expensive batch I have ever brewed. It will be about 8% abv, and will be fermented on blackberries in the secondary, then bottled (sparkling) in champagne bottles and aged for 8 months or so. I am really under pressure here, though, because if this doesn’t come out right, there is no back-up plan…

To brew it, I brought 9 gallons of water to a boil (in 2 separate kettles) and added, almost evenly divided, 20 lbs. of local honey. I stirred it in well (it wanted to settle on the bottom and scorch…) and added a tablespoon each of winemaker’s acid blend and yeast nutrient (to each kettle). Bringing the two pots back to boiling, I set the timer for 45 minutes and went about some other chores. When the timer rang, I was in the middle of something and let it boil another 5 minutes or so before beginning to chill it. When both kettles were down to 80°F, I blended them in two 6.5-gallon plastic primary buckets and added about a half-gallon of cold water to each, making up almost 6 gallons in each. One measured 1080, the other 1075. They will be blended again at bottling time.

I pitched a starter that was a blend of a cider yeast (White Labs WLP 775) and  a “Super High Gravity” yeast (WLP099). I want this to ferment out pretty dry, as the fruit will add back some sweetness, as well as a light blush coloring.

The timing should be: primary fermentation about three weeks, aging on fruit (2.5 lbs. hand-picked blackberries in each carboy) in the secondary about three more, and then another four in a tertiary stage to clarify. Blending and bottling will follow, with 1-1/2 cups of corn sugar added for carbonation. The bottles (champagne-style) will be aged in the cellar until August (although somewhere along the line I suppose I will have to try some to make sure it’s drinkable)…

Between now and bottling day (January?) I need to round up about 75 champagne bottles…

Update: On Saturday August 13, more than 150 guests toasted the new bride and groom with a glass of this mead. The logistics of pouring 150-plus 4-oz. samples were handled admirably by the caterer and her staff, and I got to explain to the crowd just what mead is, how it’s made and why it’s significant and appropriate for a wedding toast. I received almost as many congratulating comments on the mead itself as I did on the fact that my son was now married, so I guess everybody liked it!

5 Replies to “Worth Celebrating”

  1. I was going to offer to help design the label, but it makes more sense for your awesomely talented artist groom-to-be son to do it!

    Congrats to you, Eve, Erik and Jo!

  2. I just happened upon this recipe and was wondering how it came out. I have a wedding next September and had a similar idea of using mead so I’ve been trying to find a good recipe that will be ready in a year. This one caught my eye as it looks delicious and it is berry picking season around here. Cheers!

    1. We have tasted a couple of bottles and were very pleased – the wedding is this weekend so we will get the opinions of 175 more people soon! I’ll keep you posted…

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