Time for Science

The snow is flying in Colorado and the last Big Brew of the season is perking away. The meadery is alive now. There is a wonderful aroma of happy yeast, which is evident even before the door is opened. I can get a good read on the health of the fermentations simply by the character of the yeast aroma that prevails in the meadery. One of the reasons that I love making mead is that it is the perfect blend of science, craft and art. It can be approached analytically, almost pharmaceutically, which is not a bad idea. But, how very cool it is that no matter where the numbers fall, pH, acidity, alcohol, residual sugar - the bottom line, in every case, is determined subjectively, by our eyes, noses and palates, and I should add ears. Yes, ears. As I stand in the meadery today, I hear a symphony as each of 4 fermentation tanks contributes a unique frequency of perking carbon dioxide bubbles.  I can get a good idea as to how the fermentations are progressing by tuning into this symphony.

With the Big Brews behind us, our focus now shifts to new formula and recipe development and, to the production of our small batch specialty meads, melomels (mead with fruit other than grapes and apples), cyser (mead with organic apple cider) and metheglins (mead with herbs). In addition, it is a time to review the past year’s efforts and look for ways to improve the process. Medovina is truly a craft mead maker. We are using the techniques that we developed over years of home brewing, using lots of customized equipment. Why customized equipment? Home brew gear is too small and not durable enough for what we are doing, but standard commercial winery gear is, well, way too big.  Our small space dictates that each piece of hardware in our meadery be optimized for best performance, utility and flexibility.  We have lots of custom gear. For example, a stainless steel frame from a one hour photo lab serves as a perfect structure for our kettle and custom cooker. Our fermenters are also custom made to our specifications by Larry’s Brewing in Seattle.   Our bottling line includes a pre-fill air purging system built from parts left over from copiers, automatic doors and a lifetime of tinkering and pack-ratting. Virtually every piece of equipment in Medovina is on casters. This allows maximum flexibility in the utilization of our very, very tiny space. Our production process is constantly evolving. I try to never lose track of a good idea, however insignificant it may seem. Whenever possible I develop these ideas and implement them.  The basic philosophy behind our process is a “green theme” to minimize energy and water consumption, and above all a delicate respect for our honey.

It's 7 AM Saturday morning.  Time for a quick sensory check of the meadery ...