Tag Archives: drink

Breaking Mead

One of my other hobbies aside from archery, the balcony garden and writing drivel for this here blog is the ancient art of making mead.

Yesterday I bottled in my mead lab (bedroom) roughly 20 litres of the golden honey booze, and if I say so myself, damn I’m good. It’s all my girlfriends fault, she got me interested in mead, because it is a really nice drink and finding out just how easy it is to make the stuff I just had to add it to my portfolio of home made booze.

Back in Scotland I tried homebrew beer from a kit I bought in Boots, bit of a failure. It became known as Old Tate & Lyle after the sugar sheds in Greenock. Spilled sugar in the puddles would start fermenting and that smell was similar to the beer that came from that kit. Guess I didn’t read the instructions right, added too much sugar…

Then came plum wine. Where I used to live in The Netherlands there is a plum tree in the garden. One year we had a bumper crop. A branch breaking bumper crop. Branches were supported with broom sticks and all manner of a MacGuiver attempts to save it. And what better way to get rid of so many plums than to make wine with it. Add that to the list of ‘Good Ideas At The Time’. It wasn’t very pleasant, can’t remember the taste off hand now, must have blanked it out.

After that was cider. A neighbour came across a load of apples from an orchard that hadn’t been sprayed with chemicals, bonus! Because if they haven’t been sprayed then you don’t have to wash them, then you don’t have to add yeast, because they already have a natural yeast on them. It was a success. That fact made having to drink Grolsch, a lager I’m no fan of, for the bottles a lot less painfull.

And so to the mead, I made a batch last year, roughly 8 litres, and suprised myself that I liked it, it was no failure, but the fact that my girlfriend and her friends, also mead afficionados, were also enthousiastic about it helped. A good confidence boost.

Wanted to make more, but my bottle crashed, literally, my 15 litre fermenting bottle ended up as a pile of shards after an accident while cleaning.Had a bad feeling this was going to be a one hit wonder, till one of the mead afficionados came across a 25 litre bottle and a smaller 5 litre one, will be using the wee one for experimenting, already have ideas for it. So I started stockpiling jars of honey, noticing the supermarket costs were fluctuating a lot, and going back to last years recipe, scaled up for the bigger bottle, I set to work. Things were going great, the initial stages being easy, the rest the easiest, just waiting and watching the air lock go *bloop* once in a while. But disaster struck. while vacuum cleaning the mead lab the vacuum hose broke the glass  air lock. Potential disaster, the thing that lets the fermenting gas escape and stops air getting in and spoiling the mead was bust. A quick frantic search found my back up plastic air lock and shoved that in place, a condom would have worked as well.

It was a case of waiting till bottling time to see if was a success or failure. Bottling time was yesterday, and it was a nervous one. I started syphoning into the first bottle, and the initial taste that came into my mouth was good, as good as I remember last years effort. So just kept on filling, a really nice colour and a cracking taste. Doubts and fears cast aside, damn it I think I got away with it again. Although the real test is my girl friend and the mead afficianados themselves, hope they like it.

If you’re interested in trying this yourself, this is the recipe I used, just scaled up for a bigger bottle. Fool proof, even for this fool.



A Pub Like No Other

Back in the 90’s when I lived in Scotland I used to go to the Cambridge Folk Festival every summer. A couple of times, along with my friend Al, we would go on a road trip round southern England the week before the festival.

How we planned the road trip was with a copy of the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide. A little tent icon by the pub description meant there was camping within a half mile (805 metres), or in other words staggering distance of the pub.

Now the wee icons were not 100% accurate and it did mean some extra driving around to find a place for the night. We did however find some gems on our travels. In a period when some great old boozers, and indeed some real dives were being converted into Irish theme bars, the Good Beer Guide promoted (and still does) fantastic pubs with traditional brewed beers, some classic old school, some modern.

Two of our locations were repeated into the next years trip. One in Southwold on Suffolks North Sea coast, home of Adnams Brewery, a must on any beer lovers ‘to drink list’ and another in, or rather around Boughton Monchelsea in Kent. Home of the legendary, to us anyway, Red House.

So so many things about this pub made it a favourite with us. The Real Ale was amazing, the Real Cider sublime, proper cider, translucent, not crystal clear and filtered to death and with added CO2, and certainly not that Jillz pish Heineken try to pass of as cider. It was a friendly pub, and to cap it all off, you could pitch a tent in the adjacent garden and spend the night after a night on the ales and cider.

Trying to find the pub however was a challenge. It was down a country lane, in a spiders web of country lanes that seem to move around while you’re finding your way. After plenty of driving north, south, east and west, and quite possibly driving up and down the lane we wanted at least five times it would just suddenly appear. This carry on happened on both occasions and became part of the pub’s legendary status.

We had a theory about this, and decided it was a sort of English Brigadoon.

After the last person left the pub and it was locked up for the night it would disappear from sight, not if you were camping out in the garden, but invisible from the road. The Red House would be gone and out of sight, only to reappear whenever the last hangover of the night before finally lifted. Truly it was a magical place and provided us with some of the most amazing, and probably the best hangovers ever.

Now amazing, best and hangover are words you never really see together. More often or not it would be hangover, hell and never again. A Red House hangover was weird, it was a hangover you respected. The kind of hangover that had Al sitting under a stand pipe with a slow cool run of water over his head and I had a cooking pot filled with cool water on my head, slowly seeping out. Too bad Monty Python ended up in a bin in a Kent service station later that day.

Sadly The Red House is no more. A bar restraunt, or gastro pub or something, but the legend lives on.

I wonder what happened to Pod who lived in his caravan there.