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A meandering moose gathers no moss...He will simply eat it along the way.

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My most recent interest is in mead and wine making. In fact, I'm trying to make all of the wine for my upcoming wedding in May. It's rather easy, especially with the fine wine kits available; it just takes time, patience, and adherence to some pretty basic sanitary rules (as in, sterilize anything and everything that comes into contact with the wine).

U.S. law states that adults may brew up to 100 gallons of wine or beer, for their personal consumption, per year. I'm assuming that "brewing" means the point of active fermentation. Mead, for example, will take up to 18 months start to finish. Most of that time is spent sitting around, allowing the mead to age. The active fermentation only takes a week or two at best. 100 gallons works out to five hundred (500) 750 mL bottles of wine. I'm not even going to figure out how much all of that is going to weigh. I do believe that Congress was rather generous with this 100-gallon "limit".

Interestingly, there's no limitation on apple ciders...

My current plan is to brew a 3-gallon batch of mead every two to four weeks (i.e. 1 or 2 batches per month). I'm a little behind right now, since I've spent the last two weeks out here in Yuma. Not to worry, though. I've got the makings of two 3-gallon batches ready to go when I get back. Presently, I'm working on Melomels (fruit / honey wines), and am going to be doing some Metheglins (spice / honey wines).

There's not really a science behind this. It doesn't really matter whether or not you put the fruit into the primary fermentation, the secondary fermentation, or even after the secondary fermentation. The flavors may change a bit, as the secondary fermentation will consume much of the sugars that the fruits contain. I've done one batch of peaches in the primary fermentor; the next batch will be in the secondary.

My current line of reasoning is to sugar-starve the yeast (so they don't run up against their alcohol tolerance level) in the primary fermentation, then add the fruit in the secondary fermentation, using the sugar in the fruit to allow the alcohol level to go from about 10% to about 13-15% (the tolerance of the yeast). This way, the fermentation is slower, so not as much of the aromatics will be lost due to the high CO2 generation of the primary fermentation, and it won't be quite so sweet if the fruit is added post-secondary (i.e. after stabilization). We'll see what happens.

The real problem is going to be how I'm going to store hundreds of bottles of wine. Guess I'm going to have to make a temperature-stabilized aging cellar. This could get to be quite an exercise in logistics shortly. Stay tuned...

Update 30 January, 2004: I've got most of the wine made up for my upcoming wedding, so it's time to get back to making mead! Just as a point of note, I made 60 bottles of Australian Shiraz, 90 bottles of Australian Riverland Reserve, 60 bottles of Strawberry Merlot, and 300 little bottles (7 oz each) of Ice Wine-style Reisling. No, I didn't break the 100 gallon limit for 2003. Not by a long shot. On the other hand, I've now got 9 3-gallon carboys, 4 6-gallon carboys, 3 6.5 gallon primary fermenters, a 3.5 gallon primary, and a floor-stand bottle corker, not to mention a ton of accessories for this entire mess.

Update 16 February, 2004: I think it's time to make a little note on a hobby gone wild... or an obsession gone mad... or something. I just bought 120 pounds of honey. Yep. 120 pounds of the stuff. 60 pounds of clover honey, 60 pounds of orange blossom.

Update 08 March, 2004: Now wanting to start on a 6-gallon batch of Cranberry Melomel, we find that cranberries are, well, out of season. Easton has 5 different grocery chains (yes, a town of 12,000 has 5 different types of grocery stores. Don't ask me to explain, please): Acme, Super Fresh, Safeway, Food Lion, and Giant. I went, in that order, looking for fresh or frozen cranberries. Only at Giant did I find 1-lb bags of frozen cranberries. I need 9 lbs to make the 6 gallon batch. Note to self: Make Cranberry Melomel between October and January. Looking ahead a bit, Strawberry season is May/June timeframe.

Update 13 September, 2004: Having been somewhat remiss in keeping this updated, I'm going to do a major update and include all of the wine making for the wedding. This is going to take a few days, so please bear with me.

08 August, 2003: Batch 1: "Dry Mead"
17 August, 2003: Batch 2: "Peach Melomel"
24 August, 2003: "Ice Wine Style Reisling" (wine)
29 August, 2003: "Australian Shiraz" (wine)
14 September, 2003: "Strawberry Merlot" (wine)
03 October, 2003: "Bare Bones Mead"
08 October, 2003: "Australian Riverland Reserve" (wine)
09 October, 2003: "Australian Shiraz" (wine)
12 October, 2003: "Ice Wine Style Reisling" (wine)
19 October, 2003: "Ice Wine Style Reisling" (wine)
22 October, 2003: "Apple Cyser"
26 October, 2003: "Ice Wine Style Reisling" (wine)
26 October, 2003: "Apple Cyser, again"
09 November, 2003: "Australian Riverland Reserve" (wine)
11 January, 2004: "Australian Riverland Reserve" (wine)
15 January, 2004: "Strawberry Merlot" (wine)
07 March, 2004: "Cranberry Melomel"
17 March, 2004: "Blueberry Melomel"
27 March, 2004: "Mixmaster"
11 July, 2004: "Dry Mead"
12 July, 2004: "Peach-Apricot Chardonnay" (wine)
22 July, 2004: "Blueberry Melomel, Clover Honey"
22 July, 2004: "Blueberry Melomel, Orange Blossom Honey"
22 July, 2004: "Red Raspberry Melomel, Clover Honey"
22 July, 2004: "Purple Raspberry Melomel, Orange Blossom Honey"

13 September: Web site update. I didn't quite realize how much stuff I'd done in the past year.........Like I said above, a hobby gone wild.


Batch 3 & 4: Melomel Batch Size: 3 Gallons each Estimated Yield: 15 Bottles, 750 mL each

"Bare Bones" Mead:

I'm trying something different with the fruit. I'm doing a 6-gallon batch in the primary fermenter, then when the S.G. gets down to about 1030 (10% alcohol), I'm going to split it into two 3-gallon batches. The fruit will be added during the secondary ferment.

One of them will have 4 1/2 lbs of cranberries (along with 3 cups sugar).

The other one I'm not quite sure right now what to do with.

Yeast: Lalvin K1V 1116

I didn't heat this one, nor did I sulfite the must. Simply mix the honey and water, skim most of the foam. Let the pectic enzyme worry about the dissolved protiens.

This yeast isn't as "hot" as the Montrachet, and shouldn't lose as much aroma due to CO2 bubbling. It's also supposed to have a lighter nose.

I also did NOT add any acid to the mix; this can always be added later, just before bottling. The mix, before I added the yeast, certainly smells more like honey.

03 October, 2003: Starting Gravity: 1110. Estimated alcohol content: 14%

06 October, 2003: S.G. 1100

08 October, 2003: S.G. 1086. The aroma is much more favorable than the Montrachet brews. It's also cooler in the house now, and I think that definitely has an effect on the fermentation rate.

19 / 20 October, 2003: SG 1030. Added 4 1/2 lbs Cranberries (at $1.99 / 12 oz, Yikes!) to 3 gallons of it. Added spices (Vanilla beans, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice) to the other 3 gallons (Fall Spice Metheglin).

14 Jan 2004: Added sorbate and campden tablets to both.

27 Jan 2004: Added isinglass to the cranberries to help clear. Fall Spice Metheglin is a little cloudy, but I'm not sure what I can do about it without getting too drastic.

04 Feb 2004: The Cranberry Melomel is an undisputable success. It is running about 1020 SG, and everyone likes it a lot. The Metheglin is a bit hot on the spices, and needs to be sugared to about 1018 SG in order to be a little more respectable. As Neb put it, "Without the extra sugar in it, the spices kind of come up to you and say 'HI THERE'".

I'm contemplating how to do a 6-gallon batch of the Cranberry. Looks like we need a starting gravity of about 1130 or so, which will require about 22-24 lbs of honey. The main difficulty is that the fruit is going to take up quite a bit of volume in the primary, so maybe I'll stick with two 3-gallon batches.


Batch 5: Cyser, spiced Batch Size: 3 Gallons

Estimated Yield: 15 Bottles, 750 mL

Spiced Cyser (Apple / Mead):

Did you know most apple ciders you buy in the grocery stores have sorbate preservative in them? Did you know that they won't ferment? Don't ask.

As it turns out, Safeway brand cider doesn't have any preservatives.

Apple Cider seems to have a S.G. of 1048, or about 6% alcohol yield, which explains why hard ciders all seem to have 5-6% ABV.

Naturally, this begs the addition of honey...

I'm using D-47 yeast, which is supposed to tolerate only about 14-16% ABV. Hopefully, this will give me about 2-4% residual sugar to keep it sweet.

26 October, 2003: Starting Gravity: 1135. Estimated max alcohol content: 18%

03 November, 2003: S.G. 1028. Added Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves. This is gonna be a Spiced Cyser!

10 January, 2004: S.G. 1002. This one I allowd to ferment to completion. The SG is much lower than I expected. This stuff really packs a punch! Maybe I'll keep better track next time and stop the ferment a bit earlier on. Added campden tablets; and sorbate. Acid tests to 0.8%. Added isinglass and 3/4 tsp tannin to try to clear, as it's very cloudy. Maybe I'll heat the cider next time as it seems to help congeal the dissolved / suspended stuff. Very nice flavor, though.