Do you ever wonder what medieval booze was like? Does home brewing intrigue you? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Right now, we’re going to kill two birds with one stone.
Let’s find out how to homebrew our own batch of one of the most popular drinks of the 5th century!
What Is Melomel?
Simply put, it’s a fruit mead – but what even is mead?
Back in the old days, we’re talking old, when refrigeration and food storage wasn’t all too great – everything was preserved.
We’re talking meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, so naturally from these preservation methods came fermentation!
People found out that through fermentation, they get alcohol – and what is life without alcohol? Not a party, that’s what.
Fermentation became popular, with people making alcoholic drinks left and right. Wine, beer, and other homemade drinks were stocked – keeping people warm and happy in their homes.
One of the most popular was mead! To make things easier:
- Mead is fermented honey and water.
- Melomel is mead with fruit.
Technically, when people call melomel a fruit wine – it’s not quite right. Wine is made with fermented grapes, while melomel is made with fermented honey.
They aren’t the same at their core, but for the sake of ease, we can call it honey wine. Melomel can be made with a WIDE variety of fruits and spices for flavor.
Every time you change the ingredients for taste, i.e., changing or adding fruit – you get a whole new kind of melomel!
Let’s go over the different kinds of melomel, shall we?
Different Kinds of Melomel: Fruity Honey Wine or Blueberry Blossom Honey?
Since we’ve got hundreds of types of fruits and honey in the world – we also have the option of making hundreds of flavors of melomel.
You commonly find berry melomel because they have strong, distinct flavors, are small, and easy to break down.
Berries also have unmatched natural sweetness in comparison to other milder fruit.
But, let’s go over some of the most common flavors of our “honey wine fruit mead” to start:
- Bilbemel – this mead is made specifically with blueberry blossom honey
- Black Mead – got its name from using blackcurrants
- Morat – this delicious melomel is made with mulberries
- Perry – make this melomel when you use pears
- Pyment – not to be confused with wine, but this is made using grapes
- Cyser – this is a delicious apple mead
- Capsicumel – a spicy-sweet variety made with chile peppers
These are a few kinds of melomel you can make, but honestly, the sky’s the limit here! As long as you’ve got fermented honey and fermented fruit – you’re making a melomel.
Like beer where there are different ways, styles, and ingredients that you can use to make it – i.e., the difference between Ale and Lager, a Stout, or an IPA – it’s all still beer.
Melomel is just like that.
How Is Melolmel Made?
Let’s get into learning how to make melomel! If it’s your first time, try making mead only. Mead is a good choice if you’re starting out with homebrewing.
It’s not as complicated as beer and is a simple fermented drink. Metheglin is a specific type of Mead too.
Melomel is just mead with fruit or spices added, but there are actually a few different methods when adding fruit:
- Adding the fruit during primary fermentation is the most common method.
- Add the fruit together with the honey at the beginning of fermentation with the yeast.
- The fruit will break down and release a lot of juice and flavor because this is the most active stage of the fermentation process.
- This method is best for fruits and spices that are strongly flavored and have firm flesh.
- You can also add the fruits after the first active stage of fermentation has calmed down.
- This is a better option for mild fruits.
- The fermentation overactivity can remove the taste of the fruit from the mead.
- At this point, the drink has some alcohol content which draws out the fruity flavor and prevents, however unlikely, any wild yeast or bacteria from growing in the drink.
Juice or Flavor Before Bottling
- This last option adds fruit puree, juices, extracts, or flavorings when the fermentation activity is over.
- This is the best option because the active fermenting process is over, and it won’t affect the taste of the fruit.
You’ll need a couple of things to start making any meads or melomel!
- Primary Fermenter & Secondary Fermenter
- Any food grade jar or bucket. We prefer 6-gallon glass carboys because they keep well, and you can see the entire process through the glass.
- Bottling Basics
- Bottle stoppers and airlocks are a must for you to keep the environment anaerobic.
- A dark bottle is great because direct sunlight affects fermenting, but if you can’t find one, just store your mead in a cool, dry, dark area of the house.
These aren’t too many things, but you need them if you want a successful batch of melomel!
Yes, we did say that melomel is pretty much three main ingredients, but of course, we have to go over some ratios!
Depending on the amount of honey you use, you could be getting a nice sweet honey wine or a more dry variety.
So, let’s get into it!
- Honey (12-18lbs)
- This is where you can choose whether you want a dry or sweet wine.
- Water (4 gallons)
- Please use spring water or filtered water, NOT distilled. Distilled water will not have the nutrients that yeast needs for fermenting.
- Fruit (8-12lbs)
- Get as creative as you want here! You can choose all kinds of berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries. You can do apples, pears, peaches. You can even try different spices!
- Depending on the fruit, you may need more or less if you want the taste to really come through.
- Note that the more fruit you use, the less you will taste the honey.
- Yeast (1-2 packets)
- Please make sure to buy the HIGH ALCOHOLIC variety. DO NOT GET BREAD kind. It will work, but it’s going to taste overly yeasty – liquid bread, anyone?
- Yeast Nutrient (5 teaspoons)
- Depending on the type and amount you use, you may not need to use this. This is more often used with just plain mead because honey alone cannot support the yeast.
Note that this recipe will produce about 6 gallons of melomel – be ready to share!
Melomel is, thankfully, very forgiving. So, even if it is your first time making meads and melomel or even your first time homebrewing, don’t stress too much!
Step 1: Freeze Your Fruit
- Place them in an airtight plastic bag. If they’re too big, go ahead and chop them up first.
- Freezing them will help them to break down more easily later on.
- For first-timers, a fresh berry is usually a good option.
Step 2: Heat Water and Honey
- Bring water up to 170º F – while it’s warming, add your yeast nutrient
- Add the honey while stirring the water. Leave for 20 mins.
Step 3: Primary Ferment
- Pour 1-2 gallons of honey water mix into the primary. You can leave it to create a mead first, then after about 2 weeks, add your flavoring.
- Shake it for 5 mins – it needs oxygen. Then top it off with 4 or 5 gallons of water.
- Let cool to 105º F. Seal and airlock. Keep in a cool, dry, dark area.
- Pop the airlock every 3 to 4 days to release gas.
Step 4: Secondary Ferment
- Once the airlock on your mead stops bubbling, transfer to its secondary.
- Make sure to thaw and mash the fruit before you mix it in!
- Oxygenate again, then airlock and cover it.
- Let it sit for 2-3 more weeks.
Step 5: Continue to Rack
- At this point, the ingredients have fermented, and your first batch of berry mead is pretty much good to go, but you may want to siphon it out into another clean container.
- This will remove any sediment and keep it clear.
- Serve and enjoy!
Hopefully, this has shown you how fun and easy it is to make your own fruit mead!
It may take a little practice, but in no time, we’re sure you’ll get the hang of homebrewing and making your own interesting concoctions soon!