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Mead vs Mead on Fermentation Avenue

Before anybody fillets our backsides for this post just remember it’s our opinion. You’re perfectly entitled to enjoy something we’d spit on the ground or swallow with polite grimaces. If you’re looking for a wine-wince then great. But we’ve got other obsessions with mead and the tongue is our compass.

And, to be honest, one of the resounding issues with educating the market about mead in the modern context is anybody can pretty much put anything made with honey into a shiny bottle and sell it at the market labeled “mead” or “honey wine”. Good mead. Bad mead. And that confuses the market for mead as first tasters draw assumptions based on their exposure. In the long run, I’m not sure people flogging bad or mediocre mead are doing the mead category a great service. It just makes educating that market a little more difficult.

A bad mead often tastes like fusel alcohol. Boozy to the throat and nostrils. And you may or may not like that boozy taste in alcoholic drinks, but to us it’s not good mead. Fusel alcohol is the mark of a mistake – ambient temperatures above 22 Celcius during fermentation.

A bad mead can also inhabit a flavour spectrum from sulpher through to an unnatural bitter. These flavours usually relate to poor nitrogen or low PH through the fermentation process. Unhealthy yeast makes for unhealthy tastes and aromas.

Infected mead caused through low hygiene practices can also be an issue. If it smells like a toilet then you probably have shit in your glass. Re-read the label, perhaps it’s just an exotic recipe. Judgement call on that one.

However, we do embrace a certain latitude of wild yeast contribution to add complexity to our melomels and cysers. The result can be a risk worth embracing. So don’t mix wild yeast up in your head with a bad sanitation regime. Some people appear to get that confused.

And then there’s plain old not-so-memorable disappointing mead. One of life’s never-ending tragedies in the glass.

Sometimes we taste a mead and it’s like somebody handed over a bottle of watered down raw honey. Lacking character and soul. It disappoints because mead has such a profound potential to play exotic notes, while that particular mazer has chosen to play a single safe key with the honey. Some people love simple notes. We don’t. So it’s a matter of personal taste.

Another contentious issue is whether a cloudy mead can be a good mead. And we’re from the school of it depends on the cloudy mead. There are plenty of examples where traditional cloudy meads are a cultural landmark and one can hardly fault the recipe or taste of a nation. The cloudiness of spice is good. The cloudiness of sediment from the dead yeast inside a fermentation tank is not good. Crystal clear mead is nice, but it’s not the final criteria.

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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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