I first learned about short meads when my friend Molly bought some Ambrosia Farm kits at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival a few years ago. Short meads are a quick, lower alchohol mead version. I really enjoyed the Elderflower mead that she made from the kit. After a little online research, I created a lavender mead last February that I really enjoyed. I was at Keystone Homebrew in Montgomeryville, PA in late March judging the 1st Round of the National Homebrew Competiton and lo and behold, they stock the Ambrosia Farms kits. With the New York City Homebrewers Guild annual Mead Meeting approaching in May, I picked up 2 kits to make. And then Chris Cuzme and I created two of our own short meads a few weeks later.
Part One: Review of the Ambrosia Farm Short Mead Kits
The Ambrosia Farm kits are fantastic and I highly recommend them for anyone that wishes to make short mead. A lot of thought has been put into the creation of these kits and the flavor combinations show this. The ingredient combinations are wonderful. The instructions are thorough and very easy to follow. The kits contain everything that you need to make a short mead except the honey and the water. The kits can be ordered directly from Ambrosia Farm for $9 each with free shipping. We spent around $7-8 for the flavor ingredients for each of ours below and the Ambrosia Farm kits have a lot more ingredients – this is a good value. Truly, anyone can make a lovely short mead with one of these kits.
1. Ingredients for our Strawberry-Peppercorn Short Mead, 2. Blueberry-Nutmeg short mead ingredients, 3. Pulverizing the freeze-dried strawberries for a short mead, 4. Strawberry-peppercorn short mead ingredients, 5. Warming the water & honey for short mead, 6. Making short meads, 7. Water cap with gasket inserted, 8. Blueberry-nutmeg and strawberry-peppercorn short meads fermenting
Part Two: Our Short Meads
I based my recipe on several that I came across on the internet as well as my experiences with my lavender short mead and the Ambrosia Farm short mead kits.
- a gallon jug of spring water – we used Nirvana, purchased for 99₵ at our local Brooklyn Pathmark
- 2 lbs of honey – we used goldenrod honey from Tremblay Apiaries purchased at the Union Square Greenmarket
- champagne yeast – we used Lalvin EC-118 purchased at Brooklyn Homebrew
- gasket & air lock, Go-Ferm, StarSan (these are optional)
- bottles – I love these flip-top bottles from Ikea and highly recommend them for your meads.
- Strawberry-peppercorn: 1 bag of Trader Joe’s freeze-dried strawberries and 1/2 Tbsp mixed peppercorns
- Blueberry-nutmeg: 1 bag of Trader Joe’s freeze-dried blueberries and freshly grated nutmeg
- Place water jug and honey in sink with warm water to bring up in temperature. You want the water at around 70℉ and the honey to be viscous enough to pour.
- Prepare tea: prepare fruit & spices. We powdered the freeze-dried fruit by pouring into a ziploc bag and pulverizing with a rolling pin. We crushed the peppercorns in a mortar & pestle and grated the nutmeg. Pour 4 cups of the water from your gallon jug into a pan, add the fruit and spice and bring to a simmer. Hold at a simmer for around 10 minutes with lid on, remove from heat and chill pan in a sink or large bowl of ice water.
- Prepare honey mixture: Pour out 3 more cups of water (drink this or whatever) to make room for the honey. Place water jug on scale, zero scale and add 2 lbs of honey. Put lid on and shake the heck out of the jug to mix the water and honey.
- Prepare jug lid: I converted the lids to hold an air lock by cutting a circle in the lid with an exacto knife and inserting a gasket, which I purchased at Brooklyn Homebrew. Trace the inside of the gasket with a permanent market and cut the circle a bit bigger to accomodate the gasket. Place in StarSan mixture along with your air lock.
- Prepare Go-Ferm and yeast. I just started using Go-Ferm and I really like it – it gives your dry yeast a healthier start. I purchased mine at Keystone Homebrew but I’m sure that you can either purchase at Brooklyn Homebrew (or your local homebrew shop) or they can order it for you. We added 1 tsp of Go-Ferm to 2 oz of 110℉ water. Cooled to around 104℉ then sprinkled the dry yeast on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then stir with sanitized spoon.
- Once your tea has cooled to around 70℉, add it to your jug of honey-water mixture, pour in your yeast mixture, screw your gasketized cap on and add your air lock on top. Ferment in a dark place (I covered mine with a t-shirt) somewhere between 68℉ and 86℉. We fermented ours in the upper 60s/low 70s.
- Taste after a week.Bottle when they are at the sweetness level that you like. Although the air lock was still bubbling, we bottled these after a week and a half. We found the easiest way to bottle was to attach hose to the bottom of a funnel, place the funnel/tube on the bottle with a strainer on top and gently pour the mead in – you can see a pic here. We weren’t worried about oxidation as this will not be allowed to age. We let them sit out for 24 hours then placed in the refrigerator.
All four of our short meads were tasty. We prefered the blueberry-nutmeg and strawberry-peppercorn as we had bottled these earlier than the kit meads and they retained some residual sweetness. They were much loved by our members at the May Mead meeting as well. These are light-bodied, dry to semi-sweet, carbonated beverages with a lot of flavor. One of my favorite summer drinks.
These are meant to be drunk young. They are somewhat volatile in the bottle as they are still actively fermenting and need to be stored in the refrigerator. But that’s the great thing about making only a gallon – you can drink them pretty quickly. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more flavors this summer and will continue to add recipes to this blog.