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The Big Reveal!

And here we go, the moment we’ve bee-n working towards. With the announcement now out there we can crack on with fundraising, and give a lot more detail as we go through the process.

Old Boar's Apiary

Photo by Colin Smith CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Photo by Colin Smith
CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/971360

We’ve kept this under wraps for a while now, but we can now reveal the location of our apiary – at Denbies Vineyard in Dorking!

A few months ago Denbies put out a tweet on their Twitter account saying that they wanted to bring bees back to Denbies. The Old Boar saw this and contacted them, a meeting was set up, and that’s where it all began!

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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Bees

 

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Flavours of Mead

Anyone who has read this blog will know that I’m a big fan of mead. A very big fan of mead.

Last year we made five gallons of elderberry melomel, expecting that with that many bottles it would last a year comfortably. We’ve found ourselves half way through the year and due to wastage (drinking at home), handing out to friends and taking along to events to share around the fire we’re down to the last six bottles. I’m sure that there must be some creature eating the bottles, because I don’t remember drinking the other 19 of them.

So this year we’re going a little more ambitious, with the aim of having a variety of different flavours for people to try (and me, of course) next year. The actual amount is still under discussion, but I’m hoping for around 20 gallons. So here comes the big question. With 20 gallons of mead even I’m going to get bored if it’s the same flavour. I have a few ideas for different flavours, of course, but no idea which ones will be popular with other people. That brings me to the poll.

I’ve been doing some research over the last few days to get a big long list of flavours. Now most of you won’t get to try these (though anyone who wants to, and lives locally, is welcome to give me a shout in private to arrange a tasting once it’s done) but I’m hoping you’ll be interested enough to share your views anyway. I’m not sure how many of these flavours we’ll actually be able to make, but I’d guess we’ll have at least five varieties come the new year. Please vote, comment, share your views and suggestions and help us work out what’ll be popular. You can vote once a day if you want to, and vote on as many flavours as you’re interested in. All feedback and suggestions are hugely appreciated.

Also I made a comment on twitter a while ago about dreaming of one day having a meadery. I doubt this’ll actually bring us any closer, but as there are bees of our own coming in next year you never know.

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Blending, Experimental

 

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Not So Secret Project

As you may have noticed things have been very quiet around here recently. This is because we’re currently working on quite a big project (for us). Brewing has still been happening, and once everything is up and running (or at least stable) on the big project all of those recipes will be going up in a deluge of information.

Now, as to the project itself. Obviously hints have been dropped, and if you follow on any of the social media streams you’ll probably know this but I wanted to do a full announcement anyway.

As you may know this is purely a volunteer effort, there’s no commercial aspect to our work on Old Boar’s Brews except for the satisfaction of some people enjoying our recipes, and sharing them with the world. Both of us are quite heavily into the sustainability thing, but have limited time – a lot of which is spent on actually brewing, or clearing up our new allotment plots, or working on the Next Big Thing.

So the Next Big Thing is this: a local business has agreed to give us some land, so that we can set up a small apiary. You can imagine our excitement at this, and it’s been all stations go since this happened as we work out the financials and how best to do it. There’s going to be a lot of work, including fundraising efforts as we’re looking at making this a self-sustaining venture, whereas most of our efforts are purely for enjoyment and not commercial in nature. We’re aiming to have around a dozen hives in place by May next year.

If anyone has any fundraising ideas (currently crowdfunding options are being bounced around, local t-shirt sales with bee-related puns, sponsorship and event a little commercial investment), or would just like to know more about what we’re doing let me know through the comments here, or through e-mail.

We are setting up a separate blog for Old Boar’s Apiary which will have all the latest news, and I’ll share the link here when that’s available.

As for what’s coming up here:

  • Lilac wine
  • Elderflower cordial
  • Elderflower wine
  • Update on the dandelion wine (and we will definitely be making more)
  • Rose wine/mead
  • Plum chutney
  • And more
 
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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in Ingredients, Preparation

 

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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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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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Basic Mead

Basic Mead

  • Servings: 30 bottles
  • Time: 6-24 months
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
* 1 gallon honey
* 10 tsp yeast nutrient
* wine yeast
* water to 5 gallons
* 1 cup of strong (plain) tea
* juice of 1 lemon

José-Manuel Benito Álvarez [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsDirections
* Put the honey in a fermentation bucket and top up with hot water to 5 gallons
* Add the lemon, yeast nutrient and tea, and stir until the honey dissolves
* Once the water has cooled to no more than lukewarm, add the yeast and seal the fermentation bucket
* Stir daily for 4 weeks
* After four weeks, rack and continue to rack on a monthly basis until fermentation stops
* Bottle and store for at least six months (longer the better)

Just a very simple mead recipe I’ve used before to great effect. It’s only when I experiment with more modern recipes that I seem to get problems with over-sweetness. Once thing to note is that mead ages extremely well, the taste matures as it gets older and so I highly recommend waiting at least a year (though a cheeky taste when you’re bottling is only to be expected).

I may have to return to this recipe, just to reassure myself that I haven’t lost my touch with mead. As it’s one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known (in fact may well be the ancestor of all modern alcoholic drinks) it’s a good one to make. In fact mead was what initially got me into making my own homebrew, quite a few years ago. Mainly it was because it was so hard to find at the time, and since then it’s just become a general passion of mine. If you’ve never tried mead I do highly recommend it, at least once. There is a reason it’s been made (and eagerly drunk) for somewhere around 5000 years.

At some point I’ll go a bit more into the history of the stuff. The recipe has changed a lot over time, adding in fruits, spices and so on, but the basic concept is still the same as that original mead brewed by some nameless stone age human.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Mead, Recipe

 

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Operation ‘Rescue the Too-Sweet Mead’

By George Shuklin (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Raw mead

Towards the end of last year I put five gallons of elderberry mead on to brew, which it has done quite successfully. Despite the fact that it is now definitely done brewing, and is surprisingly strong, there is a slight flaw in this perfect plan. Some tasters have adored the stuff, but I just find it far, far too sweet. Ridiculously sweet. Sweeter than, say, honey and lemon.

As I said, some people love it, but I don’t and nor does my partner in crime. As such a rescue mission is required, and fast, so that I can free up some demijons and reduce the stack of empty bottles currently cluttering our store room (where the full bottles will go is up for debate, but that’s a bridge to cross when we come to it). Not to mention getting it bottled and starting to age is a worthwhile aim in itself. Sadly I’m not willing to bottle it as the syrupy sweet nectar that it is, and so I’ve been discussing this with various people. One of the more experienced home brewers I know had a suggestion which I’m going to try.

Stephen McKay [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Delicious elderberries

You may have noticed that I occasionally mention turbo yeast. This is because I’ve used the stuff, quite successfully, to make some very strong near-liquers before and really enjoyed the result. What I’ve not yet done is used it in the way that nature intended, by making pure spirit. So the plan is to get a fermentation bucket, pour in a lot of sugar, top up with water, add the yeast and make sure the whole thing is standing somewhere waterproof for a few days. After that experiment with different blends of the spirit and mead to see if I can strike a happy medium where the sickliness is reduced, giving us (hopefully) a much more manageable fortified melomel.

There is some prior evidence that this will work, as we had the same problem with a previous mead. In this case it was blended with some commercial brandy and turned into a very warming little liquid, currently sitting in bottles on the rack.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Blending, Experimental

 

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