Monday, 27 June 2011

Thou Loathsome Braggart!

So it's about time I wrote some more of this stuff up before I forget it!

Anyway, having acquired rather a lot of honey on a recent trip to the South coast, it was time to have a go at making some honeyed drinks. Not wanting to do anything too simple first off, I made a Braggot. Not sure of the name yet, though Lion Mole is somewhat appealing in terms of a sort of double pun. Loathsome Braggot also appeals, though that implies it's going to be pretty disgusting.

As this was not going to be a beer I decided to skip the mash and go straight for an extract. Two cans of Amber Malt Extract from the brew shop come in at around 3.4 kg, and I measured out 2.25 kg of the Honey from Bartholomews Meadery (site seems to be offline at time of writing). I was very roughly following this recipe, having calculated from other sources that the grain bill could be replaced with roughly that amount of malt extract. This allowed me to skip straight to the boil instead of going through the usual mash/sparge process.

The boil schedule was as follows -

  • 28 grams Hallertau-Hallertau hops at 60 minutes
  • 1 Irish Moss tablet at 10 minutes
  • 1 Spoon of yeast nutrient at 10 minutes
  • 35 grams Sweet Orange Peel at 5 minutes
  • 32 grams Hallertau-Hallertau hops at 5 minutes
  • All the honey at flameout.

And a bit of the usual calcium sulphate and a couple of campden tablets at the beginning. This was dutifully cubed, through a muslin bag to remove hop and orange matter, and left to cool overnight. This process is something I've become suspicious of and I'm wondering if it's one of the sources of weird flavours in my beer. But there shall be no more brewing equipment until I move house. Then there's going to be lots...

The next day I sterilised and washed and sterilised and washed until everything was ready. Lion Mole was poured into the fermentation bin and that's when I realised the yeast "slap pack" wanted a 3 hour warm up. Still, we can cut that short, stick it in front of the heater for a while that'll get it going, which it did. An hour and a half later I pitched the yeast and sealed everything up, though it was the next day before it really took off. The SG of this batch was 1.080 which could leave it with an alcohol content as high as 10%, apparently the target. The yeast used here was a Wyeast Belgian Strong, which ought to be able to cope with it.

Lion Mole has now been bubbling away to itself happily for a couple of weeks. In the mean time I wanted to use the rest of the honey, so enter "Buzzin Moley Mead". There are recipes all over the web for mead. Especially one recipe for "Orange Clove Mead" that's repeated everywhere, plug it into google and you'll see. It's supposed to be absolutely foolproof. The basics are -

  • Cut up an orange
  • Chuck it in a demijohn with a couple of cloves and a cinnamon stick
  • Shove in 3 1/2 pounds of honey
  • Add a gallon of water
  • Add some bread yeast

Of course I tinkered with the recipe because, well, there's the old saying that if you make something foolproof, nature will evolve a better fool. Hi!

The demijohn from the brewshop is a bit bigger than a gallon though, so there's going to be five times that much. Unfortunately that means five times that much honey. Roughly 7.9 kilos. And I have 4.75 left... right. More honey. I picked up a kilo of the same honey from a supermarket at great expense, then decided to branch out. So there was a 1.5 kilo mini-bucket of something fairly generic but nice sounding and a half kilo of organic leatherwood honey from Tasmania. This latter had quite a strong taste, almost medicinal, so it may affect the flavour of the finished product. Hopefully not though.

The actual ingredients were -

  • 7.75 Kg of assorted honeys, mostly wildflower from Denmark.
  • About 18 litres of water
  • Six oranges cut into quarters
  • Half a lemon, also in two quarters
  • A cinnamon stick
  • A vanilla pod (split)
  • A couple of chunks of ginger root
  • Some coriander seeds, whole
  • Champagne yeast, started in a bowl with some weaker honey-water
  • Some yeast nutrient
  • A few spoons of CaSO4 and a couple of campden tablets just to make sure

This stuff took a few hours to take off, as usual, but not too long. It's cloudy but apparently will spontaneously clear itself in five or six weeks time, when it may need racking or could be left a little longer and bottled straight off. It's supposed to be ready when the fruit drops to the bottom. I have no idea how I'm going to get the fruit out of there when I'm done.

The smell coming out of the airlock on this one is utterly divine, a beautiful mix of honey and orange and warm spices. Not entirely surprising, just divine. I didn't take a gravity reading on this so I don't know how strong it's going to be, but some rough calculations put it about 15% if the yeast survive that long. I hope they don't because I'd prefer it a little sweet, but using champagne yeast may make it come out very dry. We'll see.

In the mean time I've been reading about Braggots some more and apparently an authentic Braggot has at least 50% of its fermentables from Honey. Lion Mole was more like 60-40. This must not stand! So I obtained another kg of the good honey and dissolved it in some boiled water before feeding it in the airlock hole in Lion Mole's lid. Bubbling has recommenced...

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