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Posted in Beer & Brewing, Life
October 28, 2018

Recipe & Tasting: Wisconsin Alt Blau (After 4 Years in a Barrel)

I’ve had this mead sitting in my basement since before we moved into our current house four years ago.  I made it as an experiment, in two 5-gallon batches.  The idea being, one would be served after a brief rest, the other would be aged in the 5-gallon oak barrel I received many Christmases ago!  It’s still in the barrel, in need of additional aging, but I figured I would pull a sample and see how we’re doing!

I haven’t fooled with the “non-aged” mead at all, but that’s because the fermentation got stuck at the stage of “alcoholic pancake syrup.”  It’s the exact same recipe, it just stalled out at about 1.047 (for reference for those of you who aren’t regular brewers/vintners, 1.047 is roughly where a Budweiser-type beer will start before fermentation).

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Fermentables:

  • 17 lbs Kallas Honey Farm blueberry blossom honey
  • 2.5 lbs Kallas Honey Farm buckwheat honey

Yeast:

  • 3 packets Lalvin 1116

Adjuncts:

  • 12oz bee pollen
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 tsp yeast energizer

Vitals (according to the EXTRA handy Brewer’s Friend):

  • OG: 1.140 (measured)
  • FG: 1.020 (measured)
  • IBU: 0
  • SRM: 5.72 (pre-aging)
  • ABV: 15.75%

BrewDay: January 26, 2014

Brought a combination of honey and enough water to make 5.5 gallons to about 185˚F.  Once temp was up, added bee pollen, and mixed well.  Added yeast nutrient and energizer and mixed just prior to putting in primary fermenter.  Pitched with 3 packets of Lalvin 1116.

March 15, 2014

Checked final gravity and it was down to 1.020.  Transferred off lees to a clean carboy to figure out what to do with it next (a lot was going on with life around this time).

October 19, 2014

After transferring out a big barleywine from the barrel, I transferred this into the barrel (where it remains as of this writing).

Tasting: October 28, 2018

Appearance: (3/5) Frankly, it looks like a hazy brandy.  That’s a product of both four years in an oak barrel (the dark brown-ness of it), and the load of pollen and nutrients I haven’t clarified out of it, since it’s not quite ready for prime time.

Aroma: (3.5/5) It smells like a honey brandy almost.  A floral, sweet aroma paired with a little heat from the alcohol.  This…is a big mead.  I really had no idea how to make mead properly when I made this batch (I’ve since learned I screwed up a lot, but hey, that’s what learning’s all about!), but the aroma is, still, pleasant.

Taste: (3/5) Hot!  It’s a hot one, folks!  Granted, it clocks in at (calculated) 15.75% ABV!  But with a 1.020 final gravity (tested), it’s still sweet.  I’ve since learned the main thing I screwed up is that I should have started with less honey, fermented it dry (that is, a final gravity closer to, say, 1.005) and then “back sweetened” it, which is to say, add honey after it was done to add sweetness.  Since I put all the honey in at the start, a lot of the blueberry and buckwheat blossom flavors got fermented out.  But there’s still a good honey flavor in it, and it tastes…I don’t know…special?  It tastes like more than a typical honey wine.  The high final gravity, combined with the high alcohol content, makes it taste like a thick, sweet, honeyed brandy.  Like something to serve chilled in a snifter while wearing a velvet robe.  Kinda.  Or served in a cordial on Christmas eve.

Drinkability/Mouthfeel: (2/5) This is one you only need one of after a big dinner, it seems.  The mouthfeel, as I mentioned, is heavy.  It’s thick.  But pleasantly so.  But you wouldn’t want a full 5oz pour of this, I don’t think.  The heat from the alcohol pushes you back a bit.

Design: (0/0) Since I haven’t finished anything for this yet, there’s no design for it.  But I DID get a bunch of clear claret bottles for it, so I’m going to do something special with it!

Overall: (11.5/20) This is a fun experiment so far.  It still needs to age a few more months, it seems, but once it does, I’ll clarify it, bottle it, and we’ll do another test!

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