Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mead Free or Die – The Path to Here

( The precursor to Cherry/Currant mead. You'll get it farther down. )

In late 2010 I went to the Moonlight Meadery Open House at their current (new then, thus the OH) location and tasted an impressive lineup of meads. I posted the visit in a Local Sips column, and based on the positive experience and plans for new connections I described in the post (BFD, brewing, mead-making and getting to know Michael Fairbrother are my fun times!) it was clear then that my visit left an impression.

In the year and a half since that posting Moonlight Meadery has seen an explosion of growth and fans, a Moonlight Nation if you will. The Nation is really a nation too. The Moonlight team have been on the road to conferences, publicity stops and breweries/meaderies all over this country. I’ve also written about them a few times, a festival tasting, a visit and a tribute toKurt’s Apple Pie. The great lineup of quality products coupled with active participation in clubs and events at both the regional and national level has garnered Michael, Bernice and the whole crew at Moonlight very lots of well-deserved attention.

I was also inspired to make mead again from that visit. I made a blackberry spiced one in 2006 or 2007 which I vaguely recall; but nothing really stuck from the experience. I have since made eight different styles to gain more experience, including the very popular Orange/Vanilla, Cherry/Currant, Cinnamon Cyser, Blueberry Hydromel, Pecan Pie and Hopped Braggot; all of which have gone to the bottle and taste like decent first attempts. I’ve also got batches of Dandelion/Oolong/Meyer Lemon and a plain sack-strength (high ABV) mead that are still in the carboy. The experiences have been rewarding, educational  and not without aspects which make for great growth opportunities!

The Cherry/Currant mead is in the spotlight for the rest of this post. During my first visit I tasted the Moonlight Meadery Desire which is made with cherry and black currant. Just in case you missed the above paragraph, this would be where the inspiration for my own came from and if you are thinking ahead you might be wondering what is going to happen next? How about I taste them side by side? Sidenote: I do not have a preference for my own and for those who know me, you know I can be very pragmatic about my own creations so this is a fair comparison and the drink that tastes the best is going to get the nod.

Moonlight Meadery Desire
Pours reddish brown with plenty of black currant influence. The black current funkiness leads the way in the nose, but having made a blockbuster all black currant dessert wine a few years back, this is a good thing by me. Slightly viscous with intense fruit flavors, a racing stripe of acidity and a long hard-candy finish, this mead really is spectacular.

Ancient Fire Cherry/Currant
Pours cherry red. Mild nose with mostly wildflower honey notes. Light flavors with a slight hint of cherry soda before it fades. Plenty of acidity to balance the minimal residual sugar. Drinks cleanly if not at all inspired.

Moonlight wins hands down. If I were going to do a cherry/currant mead again, and I will, I would most certainly double up on the fruit and amp up the honey as well. More of everything and leave a little of the sugar to balance out the fruit. Back to the cherry soda aspect, I could use this mead in a cocktail, maybe with some Cheerwine and homemade cherry-infused vodka, which will really pump up the cherry flavor present in the mead!

This is the first part in a series on my 2012 mead-making projects and the quest to develop recipes for delicious flavored-infused fermented honey beverages. In the next part I will review how I am making a large batch of straight mead that will have a number of different herbs or spices steeped in it. I will also share the return to my Orange/Vanilla mead (the picture above) and the plan to take it up to 11.



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