Mead recipe 
by Kalle the Runcarver

Mead seems to be brewed of almost anything. I have seen recipes with exotic ingredients like honey extract, demerara sugar (farinsugar), lemons, raisins, chemicals to stop the fermentation, chemicals to make the mead clear, and so on... I have not yet found a true mead, neither in a liquor shop nor museum. If you like to drink real mead, you have to brew your own.

In order to brew mead that is true to it's 
historical background, you need the following:

A brewing container:
25-30 liter. (6,6 - 7,9 US gallon)


25 - 30 liters of clean, fresh springwater. (6,6 - 7,9 US gallon). Water from taps in houses, especially in cities and towns, is often chlorinated - don't use that. It will hurt the flavors and can kill the yeast.

If the mead is to have health benefits, the honey should come from your local beekeeper. The honey contains important elements, minerals and pollen that your body requires to feel good and become strong. Mead can aid you in becoming a part of nature, in tune with all the elements in your area.
Local honey is probably good against both colds and allergies.

When you choose your honey, taste it and smell the scents like a wine expert; this will help you determine if it will be good for the mead. Ask the bee-keeper if he has any honey left from summer and autumn for you to compare with the new honey. Taste and scent is very different from one kind
of honey to the next, and entirely crucial for how your mead will taste (if it's without spices or fruit). This may seem unnecessary, but mead made with this kind of attention can be a strong competitor to nice wines.

You can try to use wild yeast, but it's risky and fails more often than it succeeds. To try to brew mead using wild yeast, mix 1 part of honey with 9 parts good water. Place the uncovered container outside for a day or two, then take it in and let it ferment. If you have good luck, it will smell good and be drinkable, and you can add the rest of the (sterilized) water and honey to bring it to the full brewing volume. If it is not drinkable or has any bad smell, throw it away and try again. It can take up to ten times or more before you succeed. 

When you succeed, and have your own wild yeast culture that brews well, keep it alive - put it in a cool place and feed it like a pet, with pure water (boiled first, then cooled and stirred to mix in some air), and a little honey. You can keep yeast for many years, with care.

A safer way is to cultivate a mead yeast culture from commercial wine or mead yeast. They may not brew equally well the first time, but they will be more certain to produce something you can drink the first time. These kinds of yeast also tend to get stronger with each re-use, if you save some back from each batch and feed it like the wild yeast; see above.

The best yeast will be gotten from someone who already brews mead. 
Most mead makers are very happy to share with new brewers.

Fruit & berry in the mead:
If you would like, you can put fruits or berries in the mead. This sort of mead was called "Melomel" in the Middle Ages. Putting some acid fruits and berries into a slow batch of mead can restart an "inert" or "stuck" fermentation. The acid lowers the pH value of the mead, and the yeast becomes more effective. The best pH value is 4,5 - 5,2. Fruits and berries also change the flavor of the mead, and may conceal the original taste of the honey you selected. Be careful, the taste of the fruit should compliment the flavor of the honey, not overwhelm it.

Slice apples, mash soft fruits or berries, and put them juices and all into the container. Use about half a kilogram (a pound or so) for every 4 liters (gallon) of mead. When you transfer to bottles or a nice air-tight keg or barrel, strain out the tasteless fruits and berries and throw them away.

You can spice your mead with the same herbs that are used in Scandinavian vodka. Be careful, you risk destroying your mead with too many herbs. Mead made with herbs has been named "Metheglin".

Some herbs can also give the mead different properties. For example, bog myrtle in the mead makes it a little bitter and keeps you awake; hops is also bitter, but may make you sleepy. 

The tastiest mead I have ever had was made with fresh cowberries; red in color and served icy-cold on a hot summer day. If you find the correct mix of fruits, berries and herbs, you will have your own special mead, unique and only you know exactly how it was brewed and seasoned. (Keep careful
notes of every detail as you brew! There is very little as frustrating as having a batch turn out PERFECTLY, and not being able to make it again!)

Mead is only as good as the honey and other ingredients 
that you use. Many brews have been destroyed unnecessarily 
by using bad honey, or honey from stores in little jars.

To make mead:
Mix 3,5 kg (about 8 pounds) honey with your 17 liter (about 4,5 US gallon) water in a large pot. DO NOT use an iron pot, the metal will give horrible flavors to the mead. Gently heat the honey to 30 - 40 degrees Celsius (about 145 - 150 degrees Fahrenheit). No warmer, or you will destroy the nice smells and flavors in the honey and destroy the minerals and pollen that your body requires to feel good and become strong. You only want to sterilize it gently, to kill off any wild yeast and bacteria. Mix in the rest of the (cold) water to make 25 or 30 liters in your brewing vessel or carboy, splashing a lot to mix in some oxygen. Heating a liquid drives out all of the dissolved gases; the yeast needs some air to get started. Let it cool down to room temperature (approx 23C. or 72F.), then put the yeast in and stir it up a lot, to put even more oxygen back into the mixture. Cover the container, and wait.

From now on, oxygen must not be allowed to make contact with the brew, but you must let the carbon dioxide gas out. A "fermentation lock" can be purchased from a local brewing supply store, or the Internet, or you can use a piece of small plastic tubing and a pan or jar of water to make a "blow-off" to let the gas out. The idea is to put one end of the tube into a hole in the cork that closes the top of the carboy, and the other end under the water in the jar. As carbon dioxide gas builds up in the carboy, bubbles will be forced out of the tube, but air cannot get back into the carboy.

If you wish to put fruit or herbs in your mead, wait until the brew has become strong. Otherwise, there is a risk that wild yeast or bacteria from the air will take over your yeast and spoil your mead. It is a good idea to boil the fruits and herbs or spices in a little water before you mix it with the brew, to kill bacteria and yeasts that might be on them.

Since herbs are all different, please look in books about herbs to see which parts are supposed to be used, and whether they have to be dried or otherwise prepared before you use them. BE VERY CAREFUL that you know what you are doing, since some herbs can be poisonous, or cause serious illness if improperly used. Herbs might be natural, but they can also be very strong.

You can tie up your fruits or spices and herbs in a clean, white cloth bag (linen or cotton), or just a square piece of cloth tied up with string. Make it nice and loose, so the liquid can flow around the fruits or herbs. This will make it easier to get the spent stuff out when you bottle, and will help keep the mead clearer, too.

After you stop up the container with your fermentation lock or "blow-off" tube, wait for bubbles. You should start seeing bubbles of carbon dioxide gas coming out of the lock or tube in a day or two, sometimes more, sometimes in just a few hours. If nothing happens after three or four days, you can stir the brew a couple of times in order to wake it up, but make sure to sterilize all your stirring spoons before you put them in. Never shake the container; the pressure of any carbon dioxide gas inside can rise very quickly, and may result in a small explosion. 

Mead brews slowly - have patience.
If you're in a hurry, make beer instead.

Usually after 3-8 weeks, the fermenting should end. Be careful, though, it sometimes takes 20 weeks or more, especially if you have weak yeast or lots of spices in the brew. You will notice that no bubbles, or a very few, are coming out of the lock or blow-off. Your mead will have a strength of
approx 4-5 % alcohol. If you like your mead stronger, put in additional 3 kg (6 or 7 pounds) honey and let it go again, until it stops. 

When you are pleased with your mead and it has finished fermenting, it's time to put the container in a cold place for 5 to 10 days. The yeast has now stopped in a natural way, and the sediment will fall to the bottom. Now it's time to put the mead into an air-tight keg or small barrel, or into strong bottles. Use clean wine bottles, or champagne bottles, and cork them up well. 

Let the mead rest at least four weeks before you drink it and start to make poetry... Enjoy!

Mead is MUCH stronger than it tastes!!
 It's deceitful by nature, so be careful.

Storing the mead:
The first three to six months, your mead might be a little muddy, but it's very wholesome and healthy since it's a concentrate of honey, spring water, yeast, and alcohol. But mead that is a little stronger is excellent to store in airtight vessels (bottles or if you are very lucky, wooden kegs). Mead matured in underground cellars tastes best after five or more years. The mead becomes very clear, has a little different character, and the last remaining yeast flavors are gone.

Ripe mead is not as wholesome as new-laid mead and can become dry in taste. You can renew it with a little new honey and fresh yeast, but many people like dry beverages.

To brew more mead:
When you bottle your mead, save a little of the stuff that has fallen to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Mix it with purified (boiled) springwater and just a little honey, and store it in a cold place in a
bottle. You now have a live yeast culture that you can keep until the next brew. Feed your yeast like a pet with a little new honey every fourth month; it will keep the yeast alert and healthy and ready to make mead for you. You can without hesitation give away some of your pets to friends, it's guaranteed to help them make good mead, and gives you a way to get some back if something should go wrong and your culture dies or gets spoiled.

Good luck !
/ Kalle the Rune stone carver

PS: If many people are brewing mead, we can have a taste 
competition each year here at Adelsö! The correct environment 
exists already and a worthy challenge prize can be arranged.

Wouldn't it be great if you won a magnificent meadhorn with silver
mountings to keep for a year, with all the winner's names carved 
with runic letters? Wouldn't you like that?

Thanks to Wes Will, also Known As Eoin Caimbeul for help with the English text.

Kalle Runristare
(Kalle the runecarver)
Harbacken 4211
178 92 ADELSÖ
Phone: +46 8 560 511 11
Mobile: +46 70 776 48 22

Uppdaterad 30 juni, 2007 av Kalle Runristare All rights reserved, ©