Live interview…. Desperate House Witches

Sorry for not providing more notice, but I am about to be interviewed on the Desperate House Witches podcast. The show is underway and I should be going on soon! Once the archive is up I’ll post it here….. I believe they take live call-ins, so if you want to ask me a question about mead (or anything else for that matter) tune in!

EDIT: The show is archived here:

The interview with me starts about 23:30. I had a great time! Thanks to Desperate House Witches!

Mead Day: Double Blueberry Mullein Mead

Today is Mead Day! Since 2002, the American Homebrewers Association has designated the first Saturday in August as such. There are many ways to celebrate Mead Day, but I decided to definitely do up a batch of mead. Blueberries are in season, so they are a natural choice.

The wife picked up a bunch of wild blueberries at the farmer’s market today, and man are they gorgeous! I couldn’t decide what to add to it herbally, apart from chaga…. last year I did a Blueberry Nettle Mead and it was ok, but I wanted to experiment with something different. The wife suggested Mullein, saying she had a good feeling about it, and that was one of two herbs I was considering (along with a nettle repeat). So Mullein it was!


Mullein (Verbascum densiflorum) is a very striking plant. It has a tall stalk, and its leaves are incredibly big and soft (they make the supreme natural toilet paper when doing one’s bidness in the wild). Mullein has been used by humans for thousands of years:

The name mullein itself is derived from the Latin word “mollis” which means soft. It has its origins in the Mediterranean, but has been naturalized in North America. The flowering stem was dried by the Greeks and Romans and dipped in tallow, and then used as a lamp wick or as a torch.

The soothing mucilages of mullein coat sore throats and make coughing more productive. The German E Commission relates that mullein is good for catarrhs of the respiratory tract and as an expectorant.

So I began as I always do, with a chaga decoction, letting 2 gallons of water simmer overnight to make a thick, dark tea. When I turned the heat off, I added 3 black tea bags and a few handfuls of dried mullein leaf:

Chaga decoction, and black tea/mullein infusion


I let this steep for about 10-15 minutes and then began cooling it, using my new favorite cooling method of putting the stockpot into the sink and filling the sink around the stockpot with cold tap water. I drained the water and refilled it once, and it was down to blood temperature after about 20-30 minutes:

Cooling the Tea

Once the tea was cool, I strained it and set it aside for a bit.

Next were the blueberries. In the past, I’ve used as little as a pint, and more often a quart, of berries in my meads. This time I wanted to try a higher concentration of berries, so I used 3 pounds (about 2 quarts) of fresh, wild blueberries. I blended them a quart at a time in my VitaMix high speed blender, poured them into the stockpot, and then added a bit of the tea in the blender, and whizzed that too to get as much of the blueberry goodness as possible:

Whizzing the last bit of blueberry goodness out of the VitaMix

I then added the tea, and enough honey to get us up to 19% initial alcohol potential, and mixed it up well:

Spring water, honey, blueberries, chaga, mullein, black tea mixed together. 19% alcohol potential

Then I pitched the yeast, transferred everything to the carboy, shook it up, and labeled it, leaving a beautifully-colored carboy full of mead-to-be:

Double Blueberry Mullein Mead-to-be. Happy Mead Day!

There are a lot of blueberry skins in tiny bits; between that and the double-blueberry load I expect a lot of sediment in this batch. Time will tell…..

Happy Mead Day to all of my readers!

UPDATE: 4 hours later….

In case of emergency….

Well, this hasn’t happened in a while. 4 hours in, it foamed up pretty vigorously, clogging the airlock. (I would have taken a pic of it, but my wife had already cleaned it by the time I got the camera. :-)  I’m glad she caught it when she did!

To review for my readers, if I hadn’t have removed the airlock the pressure would have continued to build and eventually popped off, making a MUCH bigger mess. As it was, I set the carboy outside, just outside the visible door here — I usually start my ferments near the door for exactly this reason, I can aim the carboy outside if it really starts to shoot, which has only happened once so far.)

Then, stuff the opening in the rubber stopper where the airlock goes with your siphoning hose, and put the other end of the siphoning hose into a bucket of water, making sure the other end of the hose is always underwater. This duplicates the airlock, but gives the bubbles/foam space to blow off without making a mess or building pressure.


UPDATE: Sept 20

I just racked this mead. It is 6% remaining alcohol potential, which means this brew is 13%ABV. The blueberry flavor really comes through strongly! Once this ages it will be fantastic. It’s a gorgeous dark color….

Mead Workshop is Tomorrow!

I can’t believe the Mead Workshop is tomorrow! It is nearly full but there are still a couple of spots open, so we’d welcome any last-minute registrants, get your registration in ASAP…..

Also, one of you who registered, when I sent you details about the workshop the email bounced, apparently it is an invalid email address. So if you have registered for this workshop but have not received details about it, please contact me ASAP, brewmeister -AT- bardicbrews -DOT- net.

Still space left!

Thanks to all of you who have registered for the Beginning & Intermediate Lore And Craft Of Mead workshop coming up on July 28th. The workshop is over half-full as of now, so there are still a few spaces left! It is filling up quickly though so get your registration in as soon as possible.

The Lore And Craft Of Mead Workshop
$50 registration
[WORKSHOP IS OVER. Watch for future workshops!]

Saturday July 28: Beginning AND Intermediate Meadmaking Workshop

Big announcement! I’ll be giving my next The Lore And Craft Of Mead workshop on Saturday, July 28th from 1pm until 4pm in New Gloucester, Maine. There will be an informal mead tasting before this exclusive, private event, and then in the event itself there will be a short lecture about mead, followed by a hands-on demonstration on how to make your own mead.

In addition, for the first time ever, I will also be showing how to “rack” the mead at the end of the fermentation cycle, as well as how to bottle the mead after it has cleared. You will witness the entire process, from mixing the initial ingredients to the final bottling! I’m very excited to teach this aspect of meadmaking because I’ve never done it before.

Space is limited to 12 participants, so get your registration in as soon as possible! The $50 registration fee includes a free copy of the Lore And Craft Of Mead eBook, so you will have something to study in advance and refer to after the workshop.

Get your registration in as soon as you can, space is limited!
[WORKSHOP IS OVER. Watch for future workshops!]

Location details will be sent to you upon registration. The $50 registration is non-refundable. If extraordinary circumstances cause you to miss the event, we will hold a space for you at a future event.

New Meadmaking Class in Maine? And Ohio?

Quick entry…. I’d like to plan another meadmaking class this summer, somewhere between Portland and Augusta in Maine. It’s been nearly a year since the last one. If you are interested in attending, contact me; I’d like to have an idea of how many people are interested before I decide the location.

I would also like to set one up in Ohio (Cincinnati area) this summer, since I am planning a visit there this summer. If you are interested in having a workshop in that area, please contact me.

Contact info is brewmeister AT the domain name of this site (ie, Die, spam, die.

Blueberry Nettle Mead

The Blueberry Mead I did last year was really yummy, and blueberries are abundant here. So of course I wanted to do another one this year. As it happened, the Auburn Mead Workshop coincided with blueberry season. This year I found a quart of wild blueberries at my local farm stand, at a very reasonable price. So of course I used them.

I wanted to use chaga again, since chaga works so well with berry meads. I did a 2 gallon chaga decoction, and then when I turned off the heat I added a sumac drupe and several handfuls of nettle leaf. I let these ingredients infuse for about an hour, strained the tea, and let it cool down overnight.

I took the tea to the workshop, brought up to about a 19% alcohol potential using my all-time favorite honey, Tony’s Raspberry Honey. I pitched the yeast, and before long I had a yummy carboy full of a deeply colored must:

The color on this quick photo doesn't really do it justice....

Looking forward to this one again….. all the berry meads from last year were fantastic.


10 Sept 2011: I just racked this mead, and it clocks in at 4% alcohol potential. This means it’s a sweet melomel with 15% alcohol. Taste is good…. it’s still young of course so aging will benefit it greatly, but it’s already quite drinkable. Nice color too, will be even better when it settles out!

Mead Workshop in Auburn, ME

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be offering a Lore And Craft Of Mead Workshop in Auburn, ME on Tuesday, July 26th at 6pm. The workshop will include a small mead tasting of a few brews I’ve done, a talk about the lore and value of mead, and a demonstration of how to make your first batch of mead. Registration for the class is $30, and includes a copy of The Lore And Craft Of Mead eBook.

If there are any questions, or specific requests for what the class should cover, please contact us! I’m very much looking forward to sharing the magic of mead with Lewiston/Auburn people! Space is limited, so register now!

Whole Strawberry Mead

The Mead Workshop in Manchester, NH was a smashing success! Thanks again to our host, KO Bisson, and to Michael Fairbrother from Moonlight Meadery for supporting the event. The evening had a fantastic vibe to it, and there are several new meadmakers in the world.

As part of the event, I demonstrated how to make a batch of mead. Strawberries are in season now, and last year’s Strawberry Mead was fantastic, so I wanted to do another batch. I followed basically the same recipe as last year, with the following modifications:

  • I made a more complex tea. I started with a chaga decoction as I did last year, but when I removed the heat I then infused a sumac drupe (rather than the lemons) and 2 handfuls of strawberry leaves. I let the drupe and the leaves sit for an hour, removed them, and then let the tea cool down before straining to remove any last little bits. Strawberry leaf tea is one of my wife’s favorites, she harvests the leaves out of our yard. Plain strawberry tea definitely tastes like strawberries, so this should add another layer of flavor.
  • I added enough honey to get to an 18% alcohol potential. I wasn’t doing hydrometer readings much at this point last year.
  • Also, I remember last year was much hotter than this year, and the initial blast of fermentation built up pressure and this batch exploded all over! Quite a mess to clean up in the morning.
  • This year’s batch also survived a 2 hour car trip home after the workshop. If anything this will only help oxidize the must more, which in the early stage of fermentation is a good thing.

Now, 2 days afterward, it’s bubbling away nicely:

If it’s anything like last year’s, this will be incredibly refreshing later in the summer as we move into fall.

UPDATE: 15 August

I racked this mead tonight. It was already starting to clear, so I actually jumped it ahead of the Spruce Tip Mead, which is still quite cloudy (I expected this…. last year’s Spruce Mead is still cloudy). It tastes delightful! Not as sweet as last years, with 3% remaining alcohol potential. The ABV therefore is 15%. This is already quite good, and should get even better!

The color isn’t as vibrant as last year’s Strawberry Mead…. this could be because of the strawberries, or perhaps I didn’t use as many strawberries this year as I did last year.

Forbidden America podcast live interview

I’m happy to be a guest on the Forbidden America podcast interview, which airs live TONIGHT, Saturday June 4th, at 11pm. This is a live call in show, so please call in with your mead questions! You can call (661)449-9322 and ask your questions.

Tune in to listen live, or listen after-the-fact, by pointing your browser to

UPDATE: the show is archived here:

Listen to internet radio with Steve McManus on Blog Talk Radio