Pamela and I entered 4 brewing contests this fall with the various braggots we brewed this summer. The Summer of Braggots! Braggots are a historical brew and a blend of beer and mead. It's actually pretty undiscovered country in that there aren't a lot of recipes around and very little agreement on how they are made.
We are using what I believe to be the oldest method of a double ferment. An all grain beer is brewed and fermented to completion with a beer yeast. So the alcohol by volume (ABV) is about 5 to 7%. 12 to 13 pounds of honey is added to the beer and a wine yeast is pitched and allowed to ferment to completion. The resulting braggot is around 14 to 16% ABV and way more complex than just a mead or just a beer.
There are distinct overtones of both, but it's also a different drink in and of itself.
So we did all sorts of wacky stuff with these various braggots. Used hops in that were more than 7 years old, I dropped a pan lid and plate in another (I was trying to sink the hops that were floating on the top and well, it didn't work.), ran out of room in the brewing bucket so had to split the batch and then decided to add yet more honey and stuff and see what happened. It's been Mr. Toad's Wild Ride with these things.
We (the 2 Old Broads (our brewing partnership name)) have: Equinox Braggot (brewed on March 21 we used a smoked beer as the base, added a bit of molasses, and tinkered quite a bit with the original recipe); and the twins - the batch that got split. One is Hops of Wisdom, hopped and dry hopped with the 7 year old hops. When we bottled this we added a bit of another active mead to try a method of carbonation called krausening. And finally, Old Ale Braggot, the smaller of the twins. This one we added a bit more honey and a bit more umph with some additional grains infused and added.
To date out of 3 of the various contest we have entered these 3 brews in we have won 6 medals. It's been really inconsistent what has won. 3 down and 1 to go.
Valhalla, an all mead contest in CA, the Old Ale Braggot took first, the Equinox took 2nd, and the Hops of Wisdom took 3rd (we swept the category!). At the Colorado State Fair the Equinox took 1st (in a field of 1, but our scores were actually in the winning region). At the Queen of Beer contest the Equinox won the mead category, and the Old Ale took 3rd. The twins are entered in another competition this weekend so it will be interesting to see what happens there!
I am musing what to send to the International Mead Festival. I won't send anything that is too young and hot. I got good scores last year, but all of my meads were very young and got counted down for being alcohol hot.
The plum mead has been racked off the fruit and settled and racked again. (To rack is to transfer/siphon from one container to another. Brewing like any other thing has it's own jargon.) It's still sort of cloudy, that might be the pectin from the plums. That fruit seems to have so much pectin. It's not resolved in it's flavor yet. It's hot (alcohol hot, not pepper hot) and fruity. The various clear fruit flavors it had while it was in initial fermentation have blended. It is a test of will for me to not tweak with this mead. I usually do, and I wanted to try just brewing it and leaving it alone.
The Yule Mead was the result of my big mouth. Imagine my surprise as I found myself offering it for the SCA Yule Party the end of November. So I have been doing everything I can to hurry this mead along without stressing the yeast. It's doing really well so far. A blend of lots different juices, it should be done just fine. I may decide to kill or filter out the yeast before they are actually "done" at 14% ABV. We'll see how it goes. It's only been working a couple of days. I'll make that decision next weekend.
I always feel sort of sad when the initial fermentation is over. After that, there is a couple of rackings and a lot of time while the flavors mellow and the magic that aging happens. But not a lot of need for interaction. I enjoy the process of taking care of the little yeasties.
It's such an amazing feeling to offer hospitality to visitors with a glass of homebrewed mead. I am always amazed at the generosity of the universe.
Happy Halloween to all!