I've been wanting to make a low alcohol, easy drinking, beer replacment mead. Some call a low alcohol mead a "hydromel" or "short mead". After a bunch of reading online, I found a gentlemen who is a college professor that enjoys making meads and he has spent a lot of time/research finding yeast that produce quick drinking meads. His name is Bray Denard and he has found particular strains of beer yeast (which have been selected for generations for clean, quick fermentation) that can be used to create a drinkable mead in one month (nicknamed the BOMM - Bray's One Month Mead). They improve further after that month and a 3 month old mead is roughly equivalent to a 1 year old mead made with traditional wine yeasts. If you want to learn more, visit his site here:
To make a low alcohol mead, you just add less honey so there is less sugar to ferment. That's easy; however, this type drink is typically "thin" lacking body. The way Mr. Denard addressed this issue is to make a tea from fresh, dried ingredients and add the honey to this base for fermenting. This sounds like a neat idea with almost limitless possibilities using various teas and varietal honeys so I thought I would give it a try. Mr. Denard started with a tea from Mountain Rose Herbs named "Fidnemed Nightime Tea" which is made from Lemon Balm, Hibiscus flowers, Skullcap, Passionflower, Hops flowers, Valerian root, and Lavender flowers (all organic). Hops seem to dominate this tea and it seems an ideal candidate for a beer replacement so I decided to try it and ordered this exact tea. For Bray, this short mead was ready to bottle in 1 week and ready to drink in 2 weeks!.......exactly what I wanted, ready before Christmas.
Link to the tea:
Link to Bray Denard's Short Mead Recipe:
I made a few changes to Bray's recipe to utilize what I have on-hand. Instead of Weast 1388, I'll use the Lallemand Abbaye dry yeast (Bray tested this dry yeast and found it works very similarly to Weast 1388). I will re-hydrate this yeast using Go-Ferm so it is ready for a quick start. Warning: you don't want to use any yeast other than one of these two options (Wyeast 1388 or Lallemand Abbaye) if you want it ready to drink in 2 weeks. Also, I plan to use honey from my beehives instead of Orange Blossom used in the original recipe. I have some dark honey from 1 hive that has a bit of molasses taste on the back end that I'll use in one gallon and use a lighter, wildflower honey (which is most of what I harvested) in the other gallon.
So here is the recipe I used for 1 gallon:
- 1/2 cup Fidnemed Nighttime Tea in container
- Added boiling water to container to 1 quart level
- Cover and let steep for 10 mins occasionally swirling tea inside container
Fidnemed Short Mead Recipe
- Strain quart of Fidnemed Nighttime Tea into sanitized carboy and add water (leave room for honey/yeast)
- Add 1.5 lbs of honey to tea in carboy and stir/swirl to dissolve honey (target OG=1.060)
- Add 1 TBSP (~10 grams) of Fermaid-O to carboy
- Add 1/8 tsp KHCO3 (potassium carbonate) to carboy
- Mix/swirl thoroughly
In a seperate bowl:
- Mix 1/2 cup of 115F water with 8g (or a bit more) of Go-Ferm and mix thoroughly
- Add pack of Lallemand Abbaye dry yeast (8g) to Go-Ferm solution when temp is 104F to re-hydrate yeast
- After 15 min: add a small amount of honey/tea must to lower temp near temp of the must (5 min between additions)
Note: temp of re-hydration solution should be within 10F - 15F of must before pitching
Back to Carboy:
- Oxygenate must with pure oxygen for roughly 60 seconds
*** Alternatively, shake the carboy vigorously to aerate liquid as much as possible
- Pitch yeast and if needed, add water to fill carboy
My measured OG was 1.055.
- Ferment until 1.000 (5-7 days or so) swirling to degass daily
- Cold crash in the fridge to clear
- After clearing, bottle (may or may not add carbonation tabs)
Hopefully ready to drink 2 weeks after pitch. Made 2 gallons last night (1 gal with the darker honey that has the molasses taste on the back end and 1 gal with the lighter honey that has a little buttery taste on the front end).