2007-08 365 Whales Barrel Mead Project

Plan:  Ferment honey in two 55 gallon foodservice grade drums.  Rack into secondary Laird's Applejack barrels and age for one year.  Cost:  $30 per 5 gallon share all inclusive.

Barrel One @Luke's: Jenn&Brad, Luke, Rick&Heather, KeithS, Jody, Tripka, MikeV & Newman, BillC, Jim and BillS.

Barrel A @Uncle Leo's: Gene, Kristen&Rob, Leo, Colin, Prez, Gary, HarleySteve, BobbyM and Glenn.

Honey Source:

Stiles Apiaries

859 King George Road, Fords NJ 08863

(732) 661-0700.  Contact:  Grant Stiles

Sold in 1lb, 2lb, 5lb, 12lb (1 gallon), 60lb, and 55 gal drums.   Call ahead after 4PM...Wed/Thurs are the best days.  Be sure to mention Whales Homebrew Club.

The Ingredients:

Honey- The floral source was approx. 80% Blueberry, 20% Wildflower.  Our recipe was configured at 15 lbs/5 gallons which should yield an OG of 1120.  The drum is 55 gal and our "top off" side batch is 5 gal so for 60 gallons we purchased 180 lbs, which conveniently is three 5 gallon (60lb.) buckets.  This, of course, is for one drum.  Our total purchase including member side projects was 480 lbs.

Water- Filtered tap.  I have a whole house filter and we doubled up outside with a portable filter off the hose.

Yeast-  White Labs WLP720 Sweet Mead Yeast.  Purchased two standard vials and made two half gallon starters two days in advance with 6 cups of water and 1 cup honey each.  Aerated and added ½ tsp yeast nutrient and ¼ tsp yeast energizer each.  Bumped it up the next day with another 2.5 gallons of water and 7lbs. of  honey divided into two 3 gal carboys and dumped the initial starters on top of each.  Aerated, nutrients and energized again.  From the way the barrels took off, there was plenty of yeast.

WLP720 should give us a 100 point drop yielding an alcohol percentage around 12-13%, plus what we pull out of the brandy barrel.  With an OG of 1120, we should be left with some residual sugars and wind up with a semi-sweet finished product.  With lower OG's this yeast has been known to drop down to 1000 and dry meads out.

Yeast Profile: A wine yeast strain that is less attenuative than WLP715 Pasteur Champagne, leaving some residual sweetness. Slightly fruity and will tolerate alcohol concentrations up to 15%. A good choice for sweet mead and cider, as well as Blush wines, Sauternes, Riesling.  Alcohol Tolerance: 15%, Attenuation: <75%, Flocculation: Low, Ferm Temp: 70-75°F

Adjuncts-  Honey does not naturally have enough nitrogen to allow for maxium yeast propagation.  The use of nutrient and energizer help yeast multiply and makes for a minimal lag time as well as a steady and complete fermentation.  Crosby & Baker Yeast Nutrient was used at the rate of ½ tsp per gallon per day (5 oz) and C&B Yeast Energizer at the rate of ¼ tsp per gallon per day (2.3 oz).  The must will foam when adjuncts are added so be sure to have adequate headspace!!

All homebrewing rules apply:  aeration, sanitization, temperature control, bottling/kegging techniques are basically the same.

The Technique: 7/14/07

The barrel was sanitized (and checked for leaks) using 1 qt. of bleach and filled with water overnight.  It was rinsed thoroughly, capped and set onto the stand a day in advance.

We heated water to 140F and added honey in the ratio of 3:1 (45 gallons of water to 15 gallons of honey).  We let the must sit for 10 minutes to knock out any wild yeasts and ran it through a chiller and pumped it directly into the barrel.  Our initial fermentation temp was running high at 84F, but the yeast don't seem to mind.  The basement air temp is running in the hi-70s.

A blow off tube was inserted and yeast took off in less than 12 hours.  The goal is to ferment out completely (100 points) in 30 days.  We racked into a Laird's Applejack (apple brandy) charred oak barrels on 9/16/07, topped off for minimum headspace and let age for one year.    Set it and forget it.

Topped barrel off with 3+ gallons of reserve on 7/1/08 and racked off other 5 gallon reserve at that time.  The Leo Barrel was racked to participants on 8/17/08.  Luke Barrel racked 9/16/08.

Estimated OG 1120, FG 1000, ABV 15% + the barrel.

Web Sources:

www.gotmead.com - general mead info

www.talisman.com/mead - Subscribe to the Mead Lover's Digest, an ongoing online mead chat.

www.honeylocator.com - find that special floral source honey anywhere in America

Don't forget the Vahalla Mead Competition in October is a Whales HBOY sanctioned event.