Since I’ve been doing a lot of different homebrew beer kit reviews, it was nice to finally have another option of something to do. For those that don’t know, mead is the oldest known alcoholic drink that man has consumed. While many people think that mead tastes like grape wine, it’s actually the other way around. In ancient times, honey would drip out of bee hives and collect in puddles below with rain water – it was then fermented by wild yeast, and the Nectar of the Gods was born. Almost every ancient culture has myths and lore about mead, which shows just how old it is. As civilizations grew though, the natural honey became more and more scarce, which led to people searching for something cheap that would taste close to mead – that’s where we get grape wine from.
Now that the brief history lesson is done with, let’s delve into this kit and how everything works, shall we?
First off, it comes with a four and a half gallon fermentation pail with a lid, and complete airlock. This is for the primary racking, and it looks so small compared to my larger buckets that my girlfriend had the gall to call it “cute”. It also comes with a three gallon “Better Bottle” by LD Carlson – a smaller and decidedly more square version of the Better Bottle I use for beer making. Accompanying them is the same siphon I reviewed in the LD Carlson “Brewer’s Best Deluxe” kit, which is nice to see as I absolutely loved it there. Next up is a standard nylon straining bag – you can never have too many of these, and it saved me from having to buy another. It also comes with a standard bottle filler, and a package of taster’s corks for when everything is all said and done. Six pounds of honey were also included in my kit.
While I said before that my most advanced beer kit that I reviewed looked like a home chemistry set, it has nothing on this! Included with the meadery is a large bag full of all sorts of powders and tablets and granules to make sure things go smoothly. You get two ounces of an acid blend that helps with keeping the acidity of the mead level. There’s also one ounce of grape tannin, which adds some flavor to fruit meads (which is what I’ll be making). Two ounces of a yeast nutrient comes in the bag as well, and I wish I had this for all my other brews, as it increases your yeast’s efficiency. Also included is a bottle that contains one ounce of campden tablets (help to stabilize mead), a bottle of one ounce of potassium sorbate (stops re-fermentation), and a bottle of one ounce of pectic enzyme (kills pectin in fruit wines for better clarity). Lastly is four yeast packets, each for different types of wine to be made.
Since I was sent the ingredients to make a peach melomel (fancy way of saying mead with peach added), I also got a 46 ounce can of peach puree and another packet of Cote de Blanc – yeast specifically for fruit wines. As you can see straight off, there’s a lot different here than in any beer kit! One other difference that I should note here, is that while it’s okay to use regular tap water with beer kits since you’re boiling the water, with mead you want to make sure to go buy some spring water. At Wal-Mart you can get a gallon for $.88, so it won’t break you, and it will make all the difference to ensure things turn out the best they can.
Now to start out with, we take one gallon of spring water and dump it into a clean (cleanliness is very important with mead) pot – a 12 quart stock pot is more than enough for this part – and then we add the six pounds of honey. It’s important to make sure you get all the honey out of the containers, and I actually sat mine in a tub of hot water for a few minutes (closed of course) to make sure it all flowed out. I would think you that you could microwave them for a few seconds (no more than ten), but just make sure not to overdo it. Once you have the honey and the water in the pot, you need to heat it to 180 degrees Fahrenheit and do not let it boil. You just want to hold the temperature as close to 180 as you can for ten or so minutes, but I repeat: do NOT let it boil.
Once it’s heating, you’ll start to notice a white substance appear on the top of the brew – this is completely natural as it is the wax that’s in the honey separating. You need to do what you can to skim all of this out. What I did was use one of the Coke glasses you can get from McDonalds every now and then, and slowly skim it off. I then spooned all of the offending wax out, and dumped the liquid back in. This worked to eliminate about 95% of the wax, and made everything look so much better. After ten minutes have passed and you think you have all of the wax out you can shut the heat off and move the pot to a sink to cool.
However you cool it (I just filled the sink with cold water and ice, and kept stirring), once you get it below 80 degrees you’re ready to move on to the next step. At this point you want to pour the remaining two gallons of spring water into the fermentation pail (make sure to let the water splash so it gets oxygenated), and then add your cooled mixture straight to it. You then add two teaspoons of the acid blend, two tablespoons of the yeast nutrient, one teaspoon of the grape tannin, and your packet of yeast (as I said, I used the Cote de Blanc since I am making a melomel). Before you add the yeast though, make sure you stir the mix up good so everything it mixed together.
Once you pitch the yeast, all you need to do is put the lid on and the airlock in the pre-drilled bung, and you’re done for the next fourteen days. Unfortunately this is where the how-to stops for now, as I’m only on day seven. However the next part to this review is literally months away – mead takes a long time to fully mature – we’re talking four+ months here, so you won’t see me talk about the flavor until next Spring. For anyone that’s thinking of getting into the brewing of this truly unique beverage, I have to say this is a GREAT kit to get your hands on. It comes with literally everything you need to make a three gallon batch of mead, and if you have a lot of wine drinkers in your circle of friends, I guarantee you they’ll be impressed when it’s finally finished. As close as grape wine comes to mimicking the flavor, there really is no substitute.
All of the equipment that comes in the kit from Leeners is top quality. I really can appreciate that they’ve included the best siphon that I’ve ever used in with it, and the three gallon Better Bottle is also a wonderful inclusion (even though none of my carboy covers fit it). The only thing I wish would have come with it – and this didn’t so much affect me since I already had some – was a good thermometer. If someone were to buy this as their first kit, they would surely notice that it was missing. Also missing is a hydrometer to check the gravity – again I have three from other kits, but if a neonate wanted to figure out the alcohol content of their finished product, they’d have yet another purchase to make.
The Bottom Line: Once you taste mead, you’ll never want to go back – and this kit makes that happen very easily; you will need to buy a few extra pieces however if this is your first and only adventure into homebrewing.
- The equipment in the kit is very solid, and passed every quality test I threw at it
- You’ll have enough additives for more than one batch with all that comes in the kit
- You’ll gain the ability to tell people that you’ve made the fabled Nectar of the Gods and not be lying
- Mead takes a ton of time to fully mature, and is not for the impatient
- You will need to purchase a few additional items if this is your only kit
You can get the 3 Gallon Personal Meadery Kit from Leeners for $89.95