Monthly Archives: March 2014

Back from the dead

Sparkling mead

Sparkling mead

The mead that I was convinced was utterly dead may not be so much. It’s somewhat fortunate that I was using stoneware bottles for these, as the corks are not as fixed as with glass bottles (more like stoppers than corks).

We were debating over what to have for dinner when a distinctive ‘pop’ noise came through from the living room. It seems that somehow blending the mead and spirit mix to make a palatable drink has somehow resurrected the yeast in the mead (this was despite repeated attempts to do so deliberately). One of the bottles had blown its cork across the room. Moving like lightning we quickly uncorked the others to let the pressure out, before treating ourselves to a celebratory glass of sparkling mead apiece.

While we’re not entirely sure what to do about this, apart from possibly unbottling the mead, it’s certainly a cause for celebration as I spent nearly a week trying to get the stuff to wake up – and now, six days after we bottled it and two weeks after I gave up, suddenly it decides to do so. Once it’s finished (again) we’ll see how it’s turned out.

For other points we now have another 2kg of parsnips bubbling away for the next batch of parsnip wine, beetroot are going to be sorted this weekend, and I have a bag of dandelion heads as well – just in case.

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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Bottling


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Apartment Brewing Tech: Towels (and lots of them)

Apartment Brewing Tech: Towels (and lots of them)

The Apartment Brewer’s advice here is important. My flat carpet is still slightly multicoloured from my earliest brewing experiments, before I learned this valuable lesson.

The Apartment Homebrewer

For those who are new to homebrewing, towels may seem an unlikely addition to your kit. However, new and seasoned homebrewers alike know all too well of the messes, sometimes gigantic, that can happen on a brew or bottling day. Since brewing indoors on a stove top presents many challenges, having some trusty clean-up technology can make the process less dramatic, especially when you’re trying to learn or perfecting a new creation. In this Apartment Brewing Tech post, I run down some simple tips to improve your brewing process with the use of some old (but clean) towels.

Why might I need towels in apartment brewing? Kitchen floors and stove tops aren’t designed for homebrewing in mind. If they were, my apartment brewery would be much nicer (and have a built-in floor drain). On brew or bottling day, messes are likely. The bigger the batch, the bigger the mess: more…

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Equipment, Preparation, Uncategorized


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State of Play

The carrot wine is bubbling away happily, and some parsnips will be going on the boil tonight. Still to bottle we have another three gallons of mead, a gallon of peppermint mead, so plenty to go.

Polyscience® - The Smoking Gun Promo Pack (Includes 5 x 500ml pots of wood chips)

Polyscience® – The Smoking Gun Promo Pack (Includes 5 x 500ml pots of wood chips)

I do have a plan for the remaining mead. While some of it will be diluted with another few gallons of the raw spirit I’m going to put some aside and try an experiment. In the worst case, I’ll waste a few gallons of mead. Best case, I’ll be inventing (okay, probably not inventing as I’m sure it’s been done before – I’ve just not heard of it) smoked mead. I’ve wanted one of these things for a while anyway, and this seems the perfect excuse. No idea whether it’ll work but that’s what experiments are for.

On the bottling front there has been some rather significant progress. A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, so it’ll be easier to explain with the below than going into purple prose.

In order from left to right: diluted mead, more diluted mead, pineapple-rum thing, more pineapple-rum thing, kiwi, lychee, parsnip, more parsnip, mushroom

In order from left to right: diluted mead, more diluted mead, pineapple-rum thing, more pineapple-rum thing, kiwi, lychee, parsnip, more parsnip, mushroom

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Bottling, Uncategorized


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Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot

Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot label

Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot

Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Difficulty: easy
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* 2 kg cooked but not pickled beetroot
* 2 kg sugar
* water to 1 gallon
* some grated ginger
* wine yeast
* yeast nutrient

I’m getting fond of colourful wines recently – something other than the usual red or yellow colours. I feel it makes them stand out a little, and gives a little variety to the (now full) wine rack, and the stacks of more wine beside it. So when I discovered that beetroot is supposed to make a lovely pink wine (although turning brown if left in a clear bottle in sunlight – so dark bottles in a dark place it is) I had to add it to the list. I’ve not actually made this one yet, but when I do this’ll be the recipe.

Slice the beetroots into itty bitty bits (or largish slices, it doesn’t really matter) and throw them into a big pot to simmer with the water. Adding the sugar and ginger at this point won’t hurt either, as the ginger will add a bit of warmth and the sugar will dissolve. Leave to simmer for an hour or so, then take off the heat and allow to soak overnight.

The next day add the yeast nutrient and yeast. Cover, and leave overnight again. Finally rack into demijohns (with a siphon, or through a cloth to avoid bringing across too much sediment) and allow to bubble away quietly for a while, racking regularly and keeping in a nice dark place. When ready, bottle it up and enjoy.

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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Experimental, Recipe, Wine


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Heritage Carrot Wine

Basic Spirit Mix

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print
* 2 kg bright purple heritage carrots, peeled and chopped
* 1 kg castor sugar
* water to two gallons
* wine yeast
* yeast nutrient

While walking through town last weekend we found that our local food stall was selling carrots. Purple carrots. Naturally on seeing these heritage carrots (I’ve heard of them, but never actually had a chance to try them) my immediate thought was ‘I bet those would make great wine’.

Purple carrot wine

Bubbling away very enthusiastically still

It has been suggested that my priorities may be slightly off, and some people would have wondered how these organic heritage carrots would taste as a foodstuff. I dispute this, as the evidence so far is that they will indeed make very interesting wine. It’s certainly colourful, though I was hoping for a more distinct purple out of the mix.

The recipe itself is very simple. Get a big pot. Put in lots of water and throw in the chopped carrots, as if you’re going to cook them. Simmer gently, and keep simmering for a few hours. Throw in the sugar at some point as well, as it’ll dissolve nicely.

Once you’re fed up of the smell of boiling carrots, let the whole mess cool and pour it into a must bucket. Top up to two gallons, throw in your yeast starter and nutrient, cover the bucket and leave for a couple of nights. After that you should have a nice froth on top of the bucket – siphon the liquid into two demijons, top off with an airlock apiece, sit back and listen to it bubble away happily. Wonder curiously about how it’ll taste.

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Ingredients, Recipe, Wine


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Salvaging the Mead

Last night was a board game night at a friend’s. For purely experimental purposes, I took along a bottle of the (sickeningly, syrupy-sweet) mead and another of the spirit mix. Glasses were provided, and different proportions poured into each. Unfortunately the results mean that I may have rather a lot of spirit mix still to make – and an awful lot of mead/spirit mix that’ll have to be bottled. Such a shame.

Essentially the result of the experiment was that a mix of 1 measure mead to 3 measures spirit mix makes something not merely palatable, but actually pleasant. Even though the spirit mix still has a touch of sweetness itself, it isn’t nearly as cloying as the mead and dilutes it quite nicely.

For those who might be interested this means that I will now have to:
– Make another 10 gallons of spirit mix (I currently have 5 gallons)
– Bottle a total of 20 gallons of mead/spirit mix

To give people a rough idea, one gallon generally gives me five bottles. Twenty gallons will then be 100 bottles of pleasantly drinkable mead.

I’m going to need a new wine rack. And a lot of bottles. And more corks. And possibly more labels. This might take a while.

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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Perils of Tapping

The highly sophisticated sap collection arrangement

The highly sophisticated sap collection arrangement

Last weekend we went off to do a trial run of some birch sap harvesting (commonly, and much more accurately, referred to as tapping). With the whole foraging party (of two) being complete amateurs, we’d carefully studied the available material and planned ahead. Heavily equipped (two clean coke bottles, one knife, some twigs and a lot of string) we strode out to confront our destiny. The aim, naturally, being to get some sap to make either wine or syrup (with this initial plan being for syrup, as wine will require a more concerted effort with a little more foresight). The method is one of two advised by various people, and simple in its execution. Rather than the more obvious, less subtle method of drilling a hole in the tree, and using a cork to plug it we went for the primitive route which involves stabbing the tree at an upwards angle, working the knife back and forth a bit until sap starts running, and wedging the cut open until done.

Of course having sap running out of the tree doesn’t do much for your collection, so a bottle was then fixed to the tree through a highly complicated and technologically intensive method, as shown on the right.

Four hours-worth of sap collection

Four hours-worth of sap collection

I wouldn’t exactly say the sap flowed at high speed, but we did manage to collect nearly a full bottle in only a few hours from just two trees. Of course, ideally this would have been done in slightly warmer weather, a little later on, when the sap is flowing more heavily – but for a trial this worked just fine. Birch sap doesn’t seem to have much of a distinctive taste (admittedly I was somewhat distracted by grevious wounds incurred while trying to tap said birch trees), but I think there’s enough there to make a wine that stands alone. I’ll also be planning, if we can gather enough, to bottle some and try for secondary fermentation (don’t tell the missus, she’s somewhat concerned about exploding bottles being more sensible than me).

Birch sap wine is another one of those very, very old wines which occasionally crop up again. I’m looking forward to making it, and have been collecting bottles so that we can get a cycle going to collect enough over a few days next week. With the current batch we’re looking to make some birch syrup, though whether we’ll manage in time before it expires is another question (it’s been rather a busy week).


Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Foraging, Sap


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