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