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Archive for June, 2013

Slow Food, Slow Photography, Slow Booze

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Three core values that we share at Morgan’s Barn Mead are an appreciation for slow food, slow photography and slow booze.

Slow food is a core value that we express when shopping for local produce. Our honey is sourced from two local apiaries and apple juice comes from local orchards. We can’t do much about spices because Tasmania is a World away from the global spice trade. And we don’t spend money at the fast food joints – we cook meals with basic healthy local ingredients… we buy Tasmanian wherever our nutritional ingredients are accessible.

Slow photography is a core value the mazer expresses in the love of shooting black and white film. This core value is entwined with the other two with each feeding the other. Slow photography is about appreciating the quality and process of shooting analogue film. Product photographs will nearly always be shot as digital… but pretty much everything else shot around here will be on 35mm cameras, 120 medium format or something remarkably similar. We process our film negatives and scan them into a computer, but our darkroom lacks only the renovation. We have the enlargers and other equipment ready to roll (hopefully by Christmas).

Slow booze is a core value we express through the fermentation (and consumption) of mead products. Current focus is on non-commercial production of cyser and an apple and cinnamon melomel. We’ve got a short mead fermenting right now – raspberry cyser – we expect to bottle chilled and carbonated at around 6% ABV. If that works out we’ll push into that direction with the product over the next year.

There is nothing quite like embracing the slow lane – It’ll Shine When it Shines.

There are no Rules in Mead Club

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The historic marketing truth is mead hasn’t had the same social exposure in recent generations as wine, spirits, cider and beer. Mead is often perceived in society as faux-wine; or, worse – as home made plonk. However, this is a misconception being put right in recent years.

Mead is the oldest fermented beverage with traces being found as early as 9,000 years ago in China. It’s made with fermented honey (and other inputs) and there are traditional meads to explore as you travel the world through Africa, Asia, the Middle East, across Europe and Russia. Mead is mentioned in the Hindu’s Rigveda, it was consumed by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Vikings. It’s called iQhilika by indigenous South Africans and medd by the Welsh. And Aristotle recorded a mead recipe in 350 B.C.

Mead isn’t just one thing. Depending on the traditional mead recipe it can be anywhere from crystal clear to cloudy. Modern mead recipes are constantly being re-invented and ancient mead recipes are being resurrected.

While mead is made with honey it isn’t necessarily sweet. The spectrum, depending on how much honey is used and how far it is allowed to ferment, can run from extremely dry to extremely sweet. The type and amount of honey, the strength of the mead & finished qualities sit in the hands of the mead maker (the mazer).

A good short mead (for immediate consumption) doesn’t need to age and comes in at around 6% ABV, a standard mead runs at about the same as wine strength at 10-14% ABV and a sack mead can run as high as 18-22% ABV. Standard and sack meads only get better with age.

The components of the mead offer another classification set. Melomels contain fruit. Metheglins contain spices. Cyser is made with apple juice. Pyment uses grapes. Rhodomel uses rose petals or rose hips. The list of distinctions is longer than my willingness to run through them. What it should give you is the idea that mead is unlike wine – mead can taste like anything the mazer can imagine for you.

Finally, there are a few other terms worth noting. A Braggot is a mead made by fermenting honey in a dark ale or stout; a bochet is a mead where the honey is cooked down until puffs of black smoke emanate from the bubbles; the lees of a mead (what’s left behind after racking) can be put through a still to create brandy mead; and there is a method of freezing and removing the water content to produce honey jack (illegal for good reason). People are also working hard to resurrect hybrid recipes from the distant past.

What I really like about mead is the versatility: in a wine glass, a shot glass, a tankard, as a cocktail mixer or even as a carbonated cider-like short mead. Warmed, room temperature or chilled. However I damn please, thank you.

I like that mead can be whatever we want it to be. I can’t even tell you how to drink your mead – and I’m always asked. All I can do is hand you 9,000 years of globalised human culture in a bottle or glass. If you remember just one thing about mead from today it’s there are no rules in mead club!

We don’t want to be a Tribute Band

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

One of the challenges we’re finding with mead is that people equate it with wine and the grape paradigm. It’s partly why we were trying to avoid using wine bottles (and we’re still hunting for something a little different). There are certainly enough meaderies involved in wine-like business models; we’re hoping to pursue a niche outside that experience.

In this context, a recent quote from an article – How I Created Sharp’s Quadrupel Ale, 10% – might find it’s way onto our wallspace:

As a brewer, you are never going to make better beer by brewing the same beer as everyone else. By making a clone of your favourite beer, you are doing the brewing world’s equivalent of forming a tribute band. Stuart Howe

Those words also apply to mead. But not just in the style of mead; also, in the way mead is viewed, experienced and promoted. And we really don’t want to be a tribute band for Tasmanian wineries. Or other meaderies.

Our motto is There are no rules in Mead Club.

Yes, we absorb market ideas from all over the World and in a tiny sense we sometimes test those ideas out on a small scale. And we spend a lot of time considering how those ideas got to market against prevailing norms. Hopefully some of those ideas may even diverge in our hands over time. Maybe not.

All we know is, if we eventually do get our ducks in a row for licensing and commercial production, this story has to be written in our own hand. It can’t be dictated by others trying to constrain us to their perspective.

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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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