A New Batch of Mead

New labels and matching bottles in 750 and 375 ml. Uncle Beth’s Old-Fashioned Mead is movin’ up in the world.

img_7516

Strawberry Wine Forever

Back in May I started 5 gallons of strawberry wine. It’s September now, which means it’s time to bottle!

Actually according to my post-it, I should have bottled back in July. But a little extra ageing never hurt anybody.

some_text

I siphoned all the wine into my huge bucket. I had hoped that using extra strawberries during fermentation would leave some residual sweetness, but I hoped wrong. It was extremely dry.

some_text

I like sweet wine, and I think the strawberry really benefits from the sweetness, so I mixed up some honey in warm water and added it as the wine was siphoning.

some_text

I put in 5 Campden tablets and 2 1/2 tsp potassium sorbate to keep the yeast from going after the new sugar source.

some_text

With a bucket full of wine, I started bottling.

some_text

My parents drink more than I do (though that’s not saying much), and they diligently save their empty bottles for me. I like the motley look.

some_text

The bottles full, it was time to cork. Technically, I have a corker. In the strictly legal definition of the word, I do. It is, however, terrible. With one hand you have to squeeze two handles together to compress the cork, and with the other you have to press down on a lever to drive it into the bottle. All while not shooting your open bottle of wine off across the room. I tried to use it myself. I really did, and I just didn’t have the strength. My roommate Will stepped up to the plate and just barely managed it. What a man!

My birthday’s coming up, and I think I know what to ask for.

some_text

It was a real struggle, but we got there in the end with 8 regular bottles and 8 double-wides. I’ll have to order up some new labels.

some_text

I think I’ll call it Uncle Beth’s Fancy-Ass Wine

Uncle Beth’s Old Fashioned Mead

It’s about time I had some good mead news.

My first big batch leaked all over the floor, and I was too depressed and sticky to even write about it. My second batch started out strong, but then it just kept getting stronger and bubbled longer than it had any right to.

But this batch… is still the second batch. It’s the same mead, hastily thrown into four separate containers to try to stop fermentation because I didn’t know what else to do. But here’s the thing:

It’s actually good!

IMG_2083

I’d been dreading opening up these fermenters, and I put it off for a few months. This may actually have been the best thing I could have done. All the mead makers I’ve talked to have said the same thing – if you don’t like it now, just forget about it for a while.

IMG_2102

Tommy was visiting from Texas, which got me inspired. He’s always up for some good blog fodder. We hauled up the mead and gave it a taste. It was outrageously boozy – everything I make is. I need to get a better handle on the fermentation process so I can stop warning people not to pour a full glass every time they open a bottle of wine.

IMG_2100

Five gallons of mead is a heck of a lot of mead. My parents have been stockpiling bottles, though, and handing them off every time they see me. It felt excessive until I actually needed them. I was especially grateful for the big double wide bottles, because they gave us extra time to think between fillings.

IMG_2097

The corking was a bit of a pain. The corker is inherited from my dad’s wine making days and is made of plastic older than I am. You have to press with all your strength for it to work, but I’m worried all my strength will snap it in half. Some corks didn’t make it as far as others and had to be redone later.

IMG_2108

When all was said and done, we had 10 normal bottles and 7 double sized bottles. I’d painstakingly removed the labels from a few, but when the mead kept flowing we had to break out the reserves. I gave some away before I had a chance to scrub their labels off, but the ones I kept got cleaned up to make way for… wait for it…

IMG_2105

Uncle Beth’s Old Fashioned Mead. Ben designed it, and I’m very happy with how it turned out. My dad’s always had a mustache, and I’m carrying on the tradition. The labels were printed by Bottle Mark and came extremely fast. I’m not sure I’m wild about the red, but for a first run I think it’s great.

IMG_3979

And it feels a heck of a lot more professional than ball point pen on stickers.

 

Too Many Bubbles

Remember my swing-top pale ale? I took some glamour shots of it last night with my fancy new camera. And now, about twelve hours later, one of them is bubbling. A lot.

IMG_0191

I bottled these on Monday. They shouldn’t be bubbling like this ever, let alone after five days. I’m heartened by the fact that it’s only the one bottle and not all of them (I have about thirty). Only two of the bottles are swing-top, and I know that I filled those two first. My best guess is that this one was first of all, and it got a little too much trub from the bottom of the fermenter. That trub contained a lot of yeast, and those yeasts are having a field day. That’s what I’m guessing. Because really I have no idea.

IMG_0194

Conveniently, this is a swing-top bottle, so I just opened up the top to relieve some pressure. This brought up a whole lot more bubbles. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of this thing and what it means. Are more of these bottles ticking away? What would have happened if I’d taken this down the basement right after its glamour shot? (It would have exploded, that’s what!)

So what’s the plan? I’ve put the delinquent bottle in the fridge to slow it down. I discovered it at 11am, not a time I usually drink a liter of beer, but I’ll try it tonight and see how it is.

IMG_0199

And I guess I’ll do a more thorough inspection of the other bottles and hope for the best. Maybe store them wrapped in bubble wrap. Or outside.

Movin’ Up in the World

I have joined the ranks of the fancy.

IMG_0030

No, I didn’t get a mug. I got a real camera.

Finally, I can take the pictures my cat deserves.

IMG_0072

It’s a Canon Rebel T5, which my friends in the know say is the right speed for a beginner. I bought it refurbished from Canon, because even this mother of all starter models costs about a month’s rent new.

My friend pointed me toward a good basic lens to get when I want expand my repertoire. It’s apparently dirt cheap. It’s $100. I’m used to less expensive hobbies.

This is something like an investment, though. Until now I’ve been taking pictures on my phone. It took decent pictures when I got it in 2013, but its time is past. It couldn’t pick up every little seed on this leek blossom.

IMG_0074

Or show that hair stuck to this onion in such minute detail. Why is there a hair on this onion? Already my perception of the world is opening up.

IMG_0109

Or select such a narrow depth of field on my swing-top bottled Cincinnati Pale Ale. Is this a good picture, or is this a lame abuse of aperture? I don’t know. I barely understand aperture as it is, and I still have a lot to learn.

IMG_0098

At least as I learn it should be easier to stumble across decent pictures.

IMG_0092