In February we were gifted a bottle of cyser, which is a honey-apple wine. I admit, we were suspicious. We were not exceptionally quick to open the bottle of home brew. But then we opened it and ZOINKS(!), it was good. And that’s how our interest was spiked in making honey wines, called mead.
Fast forward through the summer of 2013, with our fingers crossed that the bees would be able to yield well even though we had a spring flood … and then another summer drought. The girls came through and we harvested enough honey to begin to dabble in brewing mead. We gathered supplies like bottles, brushes, sanitizing supplies, thermometer, hydrometer, siphon, wine thief, different yeasts, spices, sugars, etc., and cider. In fact, we walked right off the plank of insanity and bought a 100-yr old cider press off of eBay and found plans on the Internet on how to modify a garbage disposal into an apple crusher. Through the amazing generosity of friends in the ‘Burg, a stunning amount of apples appeared on our front porch. Two full days of manual labor later, we had 8.5 gallons of apple cider to begin the project. We also bought a gallon of apple cider, for a brewing comparison. On October 20 we christened the start of 4 gallons of cyser and 5 gallons of hard cider.
On November 12 we ‘racked’ the hard cider. That means we drew off the cider, disposing of a layer of dead yeast on the bottom and put in spices (cinnamon, etc.). The hard cider is aging/mellowing in the new bottles. Maybe by Christmas we’ll be enjoying a glass.
The mead is still in the first bottles. They don’t appear to be bubbling, so maybe racking is in the near future. It will age for a much long time – maybe two years. 😮
So far, it’s been an enjoying challenge. No matter how many books and blogs you read – you still have oh-shit moments. Like, when we learned our basement was not warm enough to really make the yeast go to town turning the sugars into alcohol. More mad poking of the buttons on the laptop and a couple days later a shipment of heating mats for reptiles + thermostat arrived. The bottles are now toasty warm on the mats.
…all because we thought it would be interesting to get a beehive…
Soon we’ll write more about feeding the bees, winterizing the hives in November and two new Robin stings, and the resulting steroid shots in da butt.