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How Important is Honey in Mead Making?
If you already know how to make mead or if you are just learning about it and have done just a little bit of reading and research you probably have already heard how important honey is as an ingredient in mead. It's one of the first things mead makers will preach about.
After all, mead is just about all honey - mix some honey with water and yeast and there ya go! You got mead. Of course you can add some fruits or spices to make it flavored but even then it is pretty much still all about the honey. - The absolute lion's share of mead is honey so of course it is a very big factor in how the mead looks and how it tastes.
Just a single gallon of mead requires anywhere from two to four pounds of honey and that is a lot of honey!!!
So the real question of this essay is : Does different honey have an effect on the taste of the mead?
A comparison of honey and grapes
We all know that there are people out there who know wines. They can be given a blind taste test and tell you exacty which vinyard the wine came from ala Frasier and Niles Crane. This is a testament to the palate that some people have and it is also a testament to the individuality of vinyards. This same rule, I suspect, applies to honey and apiaries. There are probably mead drinkers/makers who could take a taste of mead and say "hmm, thats a northern oregon apiary" or "that honey comes from vermont".
Does that make sense to you? Can you see how important the honey is? It really does matter and it really does make a difference. And I am faced with the challenge of proving it to you. But until web 3.0 comes out (This is where we will be able to taste and smell websites) I only have a visual medium to work with but I think it's enough.
Here is a picture of two identical batches of mead. And by identical I mean that everything is exactly the same. I made them on the same day, used the same yeast, the same water, the same nutrient and followed the exact same procedure. I added no spices, flavors, fruits of any kind. But the one thing I did vary was the honey!!!! The batch on the left uses wildflower and the batch on the right uses clover honey (15 pounds in each carboy to make a medium mead). With a picture this dramatic do I have to prove that they taste quite different?
A little bit about this picture. I very specifically did this experiment of two identical batches of mead with the thoughts of seeing/tasting the difference and it has been a very successful experiment in Mead Making. But I also have been running it as a stop motion animation so I could watch the mead develop over a period of time.
Here is a stop motion animation of these carboys of Mead over a period of 90 days (It's a bit jumpy but still a wonderful look at how mead changes over time)