Bunadh Meá: A First Recipe

This is a first, very simple recipe for brewing mead. ‘Bunadh Meá’ translates as ‘foundation (or root) of mead’. If you have ever wanted to brew mead but thought it was too finicky or tricky, this is your chance, because this is the barest possible recipe you’re ever gonna get.

  •         2.5 gallons of water
  •         4.75 lbs. (2100 g) of honey
  •         Wine Yeast (HA 1001)

First and foremost, make sure everything is completely clean. Ideally, get a sterilising agent from a home-brew store and blast everything with it. Then boil the honey for about 20 min, scraping off any foam that comes to the top. The more you can do this the better, but you don’t want to boil it all off either. MIx it with the water until body temperature. ‘They’ say blood temperature, but honestly it doesn’t matter. You want an environment where the yeast will thrive.

Put this all in a container that will hold just under three gallons and will keep air circulation to a minimum as the more air that gets to your mead the more likely you’ll get bacterial growth that can make it taste bad. Don’t seal it though. The yeast will give off a lot of carbon dioxide in the first 14 days or so, and if you seal it your container will explode. (I found out the hard way.)

Let it sit in a corner for that first two weeks, then put it in bottles … or don’t. The Celts and Vikings brewed their mead in open cauldrons in the middle of their mead halls, and you don’t hear them complaining. Of course, that was for special occasions. More often they started brewing it there and then moved it into barrels (or kegs, or firkins … whatever you want to call them). I have even heard that they would take a branch and scrape off the yeasty foam that accumulated on the top of the mead in the first couple of days, letting it dry on the branches so it could be mixed into the next batch.

Ok, so this doesn’t have much to do with the recipe here, but the Hochdorf horn, dating from the middle of the sixth century B.C. and holding more than a gallon (imperial), seems fitting for where I’m trying to go here.

Anyway, the bulk of fermentation will be done after about two weeks, but you will want to leave it for a month or so before drinking to let it gain a little potency. The yeast has a high tolerance for alcohol (up to 28%, but your batch probably won’t get that far), so let it sit as long as you like. It will get very bubbly — think sparkling honey-wine — so if you’re going to bottle it, don’t put it where an explosion could hurt someone. Explosions are usually more of a nuisance, but I have had bottles explode with enough force to literally pulverise the glass and embed shards in wooden ceilings.

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