Monthly Archives: November 2013

Brewing Glossary

I had put together this hand-out for brewing classes I teach in the SCA.  I put it here now for your amusement.

Brewing Glossary

Lord Donndubán Ó Domhnaill (Donovan O’Donnell)

Ale is a beer that uses a type of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or “top-fermenting” yeast as opposed to a Lager (Saccharomyces uvarum) or “bottom-fermenting.”  During the late middle ages, the term was used to describe a malt beverage that was flavored with herbs other than hops.  It would otherwise be known as beer.  Beer is used to describe all malt beverages today.

Atenveldt Brewers Guild is the guild in the Kingdom of Atenveldt whose membership organizes brewing competitions and other events.   Gain rank by demonstrating your knowledge of the brewing arts.

Beer is the fermented product of grains such as barley and wheat.  Today the term is used to refer to any ale or lager.  During the late middle ages, the term was used to refer to a malt beverage that was flavored with hops instead of with other herbs.

Cyser is mead made with apples or apple juice.

Cool is a term that is used to describe anyone that remembers to enter brewing into kingdom or baronial arts and sciences competitions.

Distillation is the harvesting and concentration of alcohol from another source.  This is still illegal to do without licensing in the United States. is a place you can go to get step-by-step instructions on brewing your first beer or mead.

Fermentation is a metabolic process converting sugar to acids, gases and/or alcohol by yeast or bacteria.  In our case, it is the conversion of sugar by yeast into alcohol.

Gruit is an herbal mixture that was used before hops became popular.  Some herbs used included ground ivy, bog myrtle, carline thistle, yarrow, wild rosemary, heather, wormwood, sycamore sap, spruce, ginger, anise, cumin, laurel, marjoram, mint, sage, and acorns.

Hops is an herb used to help in the preservation and flavoring of beer.  The first recorded cultivation of hops was in a monastery in Bavaria 736 AD. The first documentation association of hops used in brewing is in 822 AD by Abbot Adalhard of a Benedictine monastery in Northern France.

Lager is a beer that uses a type of yeast called Saccharomyces uvarum, or “bottom-fermenting” yeast as opposed to a Ale (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) or “toop-fermenting.”  Lager brewing existed in Bavaria from the 1400s.

Malt is grain that has been allowed to germinate for a couple of days, thus releasing important proteins and sugars that are used to make beer.

Mead is a fermented product of honey and water.

Melomel is mead with added fruit.

Methoglyn is mead with added herbs.

Reinheitsgebot is the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 which stated that beer could only be made from barley, hops, and water.

Yeast are fungal organisms that consume sugar and release the bi-products of alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Different strains of yeast impart different flavors and contribute a lot to the differentiation of the styles of beer or wine being made.

Zymology is the study of zymurgy, the area of applied science related to fermentation.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in About Beer



There are a number of ways in which you may have reached this article, but it is likely you came first upon my articles on mead making first. There, I advised buying a gallon of apple cider and inheriting with it a free 1-gallon glass vessel for your mead making adventures. This is a good way to go. Find yourself some cider. Get 100% real apple cider, and go organic. Anytime you are making a fermented beverage, organic is best. I am not opposed to agricultural fungicides at all, but the yeast that is going to be working my mead for me might have a problem with it.

Cyser is simple a mead made with apple. A mead with any added fruit is called a melomel. Some popular concoctions such as this one has a special name. This one is a cyser.

If you have stumbled onto this article and haven’t yet made mead or any other alcoholic beverage you should first read Your First Mead, and probably Your Second Mead. The process is the same, only we are going to reduce the honey from 3 lbs. to 2 lbs., replace the water with cider, and loose the acid blend. Other than that, the process is the same. You may want to experiment however with a little bit of cinnamon.

  • 2 lbs honey
  • 3.5 quarts real, organic apple cider
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • Yeast – of the many yeast available, there are cider yeasts, wine yeasts, and ale yeasts that will do nicely. Pick your favorite.

Mix and heat to pasteurize. Cool. Add Yeast. Wait several weeks. Drink. You may also wish to carbonate. If you are familiar with the brewing of beer, the bottling process will be the same.

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Recipes


Your Second Mead

Your second mead is same as the first, except I am going to expand your shopping list a little bit and give you a few more options that we didn’t cover the first time around. There are a lot of things going on. If you haven’t yet started down the mead-making road, you should read that article first. If you have a handle on it, we can tackle a little bit more.

Shopping List

  • Hydrometer – This is a device that will help you measure the specific gravity of your must, thus allowing us to get an idea of how much sugar we are working with and ultimately, how much alcohol you have produced. Get this from your homebrew store.
  • Graduated Cylinder – Buy this from your homebrew store at the same time you get your hydrometer. It will hold the fluid you will be testing it with.
  • Yeast – Any yeast will do, but this time around, take a look at some of the dry yeasts as options. Champagne yeast will give you a dry, high alcohol content. Medium white wine yeasts will fall somewhere between the Champagne yeast and the sweet mead yeast we used on the first batch.
  • Bottles – Grab a case of those self-sealing bottles and replacement rubber stoppers from the homebrew store.
  • Bottling Bucket – This is a bucket with a hole at the bottom and a spigot.
  • Bottling Valve – Buy this from your homebrew store. Cut a couple of inches from your racking tube to attach this to the spigot of your bottling bucket. When you insert this valve into your bottle and it reaches the bottom, it will trigger and allow the mead to flow smoothly in to fill the bottle.

The instructions will be the same as the first mead except for a few additional steps.

  1. Take copious notes. Write everything down. Don’t just record the ingredients. Record temperatures, measurements, and your thoughts as you tasted the samples. The more you write down, the more you will be able to learn from your mistakes and reproduce your successes.
  2. Instead of bringing your mead to a full boil, you may want to hold it at 165 degrees F for about five minutes and cool it back down from there.   Our purpose is to pasteurize the must to keep contaminants at bay.  We do not have to bring it to a full boil to do this.  In fact, not bringing it to a full boil will better preserve some of the volatile aromatics of the honey.
  3. If you have chosen to use a dry yeast, you will want to hydrate it. Add the dry yeast to half a cup of water and allow it to sit for a half an hour before adding it to your must. Again, make sure everything is sanitized and clean. You can also add a small amount of sugar (1 teaspoon) to ‘proof’ your yeast. If the yeast is alive and well, the yeast will foam. If it does nothing, it is dead and will not work for you as you had hoped. Go buy another yeast packet.
  4. Once you have cooled your must the first time, insert a sanitized measuring cup into your must to grab about a half a cup to fill up the graduated cylinder. Use the hydrometer to get a reading. It will probably look something like 1.100. This is called your Starting Gravity (SG). Write it down. It will also have a corresponding potential alcohol reading. For a specific gravity of 1.1, this will be about 13.4%. Be sure also to check the temperature and adjust accordingly. Your hydrometer is adjusted for 60 degrees, so if you are taking a reading at 70 degrees, you will need to add something like .001.
  5. After your first fermentation of a few weeks and the bubbling activity has reached a still point, you will rack your must. As you do this, capture another sample to take another reading. Depending on the yeast you use, it could range anywhere from 0.980 to 1.200. This is called your Finishing Gravity (FG). For medium wine yeast, expect it to be something like 1.012. Write that down, as well as the corresponding alcohol by volume (ABV). Let’s say it is 1.4%. By subtracting this from your first reading, you will get your final ABV. In this example it would be 12%. Whew. That is some potent stuff. Drink responsibly.
  6. In your first mead, I glossed over racking and bottling but there is something here you need to also be aware of. Once there is alcohol, oxygen will no longer be your friend. The alcohol will oxidize and taste very bad. To minimize the risk of this, we avoid as much splashing as we can. This is why we use the racking tube and the bottling bucket instead of the funnel for these stages of the process.

Hopefully this gives you a more rounded understanding of mead making. From here, you are likely to want to experiment with different varietal honeys, different strains of yeast, and a variety of herbs, species, and fruits. There is much to explore and many years of fun ahead of you. Enjoy the journey. I hope to taste your wares one day.

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in How-To Brew


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Your First Mead

A gallon of wineMaking mead is fun, rewarding, and down-right delicious. The Mesopotamians loved it, the Vikings loved it, and we love it today. It isn’t that difficult, either. I made these instructions below as simple as I can for you to make your very first mead, but you will also need to review the basics of sanitation before you begin. After making your first mead, you can explore options to improve the process. Have fun and let me know how it turns out!

Shopping List

  • 2 one-gallon glass jugs – Buy a couple of gallons of real apple cider and get a free jug to ferment your beverage in. If you need something to do with the apple juice, try making a cyser.
  • 1 bung & fermentation lock – If you can, take that jug into the brewing store and ask them to help you put a stopper in it. Tell them you are going to make some mead and you need that stopper and a fermentation lock.
  • 3 lbs. honey – Buy this from your local brewing store or a bee keeper. Buy in bulk. You do not want to pay the full retail prices that you would have to pay in a grocery store. You also want to be wary of cheap honey at your bulk grocery warehouses. Get the best ingredients you can. If you are going to spend the time, make it the best it can be. You may also have to purchase a bucket to put it in that you can use again for your next trip to the store.
  • 3 quarts of water – I like to buy filtered water. You may get by with using tap water, but filtered water is not that expensive and will help ensure quality.
  • 1 Funnel – This can easily be found at the brewing store or anywhere you can get basic cooking utensils.
  • Two-gallon pot – You may already have this.
  • Yeast Nutrient – You can pick this up from your brewing supply shop. For this recipe, you will need only 1 teaspoon.
  • Acid Blend – Pick this up at the brewing store. You will want to add 1 teaspoon to this recipe.
  • Sanitizer – There are a variety of sanitizers you can get from your homebrewing store.
  • Thermometer – You will also find this at the homebrewing store.
  • Sweet Mead Yeast – Ask for it at the local brewing store. There are a variety of other liquid wine yeasts you could use. Any one of them would probably make good mead. If you are insistent upon using a dry yeast, then read ahead to making your second mead.
  • Small Racking Tube and hose – This will be used to siphon mead from one container to another – a process we call racking. Be sure to tell the person at the homebrew store that you will be making only one gallon at a time and that you only need a small one of these.

Now that you have all of your equipment and ingredients laid out before you, turn on the burner, warm your water and dissolve the honey into it. Stir it in with the yeast nutrient and the acid blend and bring it to a boil. The mixture you are creating now is called must. It is just what we call wine before it becomes wine. The next step will be to cool it down to room temperature.

Fill your sink with ice water and set the pot you have been using into it. This will cool the must rapidly. The sooner we reach our desired temperature and add the yeast, the better. It is important, however, that we do not add the yeast until it is at least below 80 degrees F. Anything higher will start to kill the yeast, and that won’t do us any good. It is also important to note that anything that touches the yeast must first be sanitized. Be careful with wet hands not to drip into your pot and also keep everything away that could contaminate your otherwise perfect concoction.

Once your must has come down to at least 80 degrees F, transfer it to your sanitized glass jug. Plug it as best you can and shake it well. For this part of the process, you want oxygen in the must. It will allow those little yeasties to reproduce and create a happy healthy colony in your mead to be. Add your yeast. Fill your fermentation sanitized lock with sanitation fluid or vodka and set it in a cool dark place.

After about 24 hours, you should see the bubbles come up frequently as the yeast releases carbon dioxide. This is just a part of the process of creating alcohol. Let it sit until the bubbling stops. This may take a couple of months, so be patient. Once it reaches a stand-still, sanitize the second glass jug and the racking tube, and move the mead from one vessel to the other. There will be some sediment on the bottom of the first jug. This is the spent yeast. Do your best to leave it in the first vessel and discard it. Let the mead sit in that second vessel until you just can’t stand it anymore. It will be at its best after it has aged for 1-2 years, but I will applaud you if you can wait that long. Then, bottle or share with your friends.

I hope that gives you a good overview and enough to get started. Dive right in or skip to your second mead for a few more tips and tricks to further your journey. Also, check out this simple cyser recipe for something to do with that apple juice. You will also find great reading in Brewing Mead: Wassail! that will give you many more options to explore.

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in How-To Brew


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