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Archive for May, 2013

Bruce & Vanda Clark (1950s)

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Being Mother’s Day I thought a nice photograph of old mum from back in the day would be a nice gesture. This is a scanned photograph that I expect was made by my father’s mother Elvie Ruth Bonner (1901-1986) some time in the early 1950s. My parents married in 1953 so it might even be shortly after they were married.

Bruce and Vanda

Imagine if we lived in a world (again) without photographs. We’re so used to stopping time and capturing space on a two-dimensional object that it’s hard for the modern us to really understand the pre-photography existence of society. A normalcy where nobody, except the rich who hired painters, knew the face of their forebears. And only memory was at hand to remember the faces of our family across the excruciatingly slow amble of decades.

Images are now a ubiquitous part of everything we do and everywhere we travel. Images have saturated our lives and impressed our imaginations and motivations into a contortion unlike any time in human history. We’re the Gods of time and space – right now I have several instances of family history spanning half a century in my coat pocket.

So I still find this collection of old photographs passed down from my grandmother to be totally fascinating. In the way Rebecca Solnit’s book River of Shadows: Edweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West was a hard-to-put-down read on this very subject.

Why not mead in Flint Glass Bottles?

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

It’s interesting to see a local move toward selling mead in flint glass bottles. Interesting because we’ve also been interested in flint glass bottles over the last two years. But it’s not where we’re headed anymore and the explanation comes as three important reasons.

The first reason is flint glass is expensive per unit, especially as the decision to buy them would be purely driven by marketing. This drives profit per unit down and cost per unit up at a significant percentage that’s difficult to justify. The underlying marketing rationale is that pretty equates to expensive equates to a perception of premium quality. But because flint glass is expensive then overall profits drop or prices have to be higher (unless quantity sold is significantly increased). Flint glass for mead is almost faux-prestige and there are no free lunches in business.

The cost of flint glass in whiskey is more understandable. Whiskey is a prestige product with premium pricing and a wider market experience.

The second reason we’re no longer interested in flint glass is the cost per unit of shipping. A simple 500ml basquaise is just over 1KG when filled with mead. This may be neither here nor there to some sellers but the extra cost to bottle in flint glass potentially adds to shipping costs. Or, at least, this would hold true were we to ever ship further than the local market – say, mainland Australia, China, the United States or India. It’s a think big question about long term goals.

But our third reason is the true killer of flint glass in marketing mead products. Or any clear glass. And most, if not all, Tasmanian mead is marketed in clear glass bottles. That marketing theory is for mead to look pretty and inspire shallow knowledge purchases.

Unfortunately mead, like beer, spoils in sunlight. Mead has the best attributes of the vampire – it can last 1000+ years in the bottle if stored in a dark cool environment. But sit mead in clear glass on your windowsill or on a sunny loungeroom coffee table and it can acquire off flavours and changed colour. Mead and light are not best friends.

So marketing mead in clear glass is underpinned by the idea that it’s great for the seller. Pretty equates to selling. But it’s not always that great for the purchaser. When the product is taken home and left on a cabinet simply because it’s pretty there is no guarantee that light won’t negatively affect flavour and colour.

That’s the rationale behind our decision. If we can get off the ground, and it’s a long way from ever happening (and then some), we’re not going to be bottling into flint glass.

Add expense per unit to shipping costs and a potential of less quality at the time of consumption. Dark bottles and cans are our future. We won’t always be on the same road as everybody else and that’s fine. It’s always a good day for mead.

Influence of Pollen Addition to Mead

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

One of the benefits of still being enrolled at University is ongoing free access to their academic journal subscriptions. The following paper is interesting: Roldán, A., van Muiswinkel, G.C.J., Lasanta, C., Palacios, V. and Caro, I. 2011. Influence of pollen addition on mead elaboration: Physiochemical and sensory characteristics, Food Chemistry, 126, pp. 574-582.

However, if you want an academic run-through of this paper, Becca Yeaman’s blog post Enhancing the sweet nectar: The effect of pollen addition on fermentation and sensory characteristics of mead walks through the paper in understandable language.

Becca Yeaman has a Bachelors degree in Biology from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont and a Masters degree in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia. Her masters thesis was titled “Ecological and Evolutionary Shifts in Pollen Chemistry and Their Implications for Pollinators”. Certainly an authority worth consulting on pollen.

If you can, by chance, read the full paper by Roldán, A. et al. you’ll find a depth of information. But I guess academic papers are now about access vs cost. Let’s not get started about free access to science versus paid subscription.

Basically, the researchers wanted to find out whether pollen addition to the must affected the yeast fermentation, look, mouth feel, taste, and aroma. Whether pollen addition would make for a better mead.

My only real question mark about their methodology is my understanding that mead fermentation above 20-21 Celcius results in fusel alcohol taste. The experimenters fermented at 25 Celcius.

That being said, they found that pollen addition improved the characteristics of mead, it’s rate of fermentation, taste and aroma, mouth feel, alcohol content and colour. They suggest, from this study, a dose of 30 g/hl of pollen at an industrial level.

Which leaves me with a couple of (possibly naive) questions:

  1. Is it possible that pollen reduced the fusel alcohol taste? I’d like to see the experiment repeated at, say, 18 Celcius as a completely cold process.
  2. Has any further academic research into pollen use in mead production been undertaken since 2011?
  3. Have any of you mead makers experimented in your professional practice with pollen addition to commercial mead?

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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