I mentioned, a few posts ago, that I’d gotten an “order for mead” which I found humbling. And no, again, I don’t actually DO that. I just make it.
Well, yesterday morning I finished putting together my new wine rack (which is a bucket of crap, but it holds 72 bottles and was cheap) and filled it up with all the accumulated bottles I had squirreled around in cases around the apartment.
It came to a bit over 30 bottles of mead, 27 of which were retrieved from my Father’s basement, having been aging for almost 3 years.
I was admiring my handiwork, trying to decide what to do with my day, when I realized that I had a case of JAOM (“Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead”, a starter mead that’s easy as hell to make and is absolutely delicious) there in the rack AND I had a 5 gallon carboy of JAOM crystal clear, ready to bottle.
People have been telling me for years that mead only gets better with age, up to about 8 years or so.
I thought to myself, I thought… “Self? I should bottle up one of the bottles of new JAOM and take it, and a bottle of the old stuff down to the cigar bar.”
So I hoisted the carboy up on the counter, washed out a syphon, grabbed a bottle, popped the stopper and filled a bottle. Unfortunately the jostling around of carrying the carboy kicked up the lees, so it was a bit less than the crystal clear it was when it had been sitting on the floor, undisturbed for months. But it wasn’t bad.
I put my denim jacket on, grabbed a bottle of the 10/28/14 mead and the new one, stowed them in the inside pockets, which held and hid them pretty well, as long as I didn’t move too much, and headed downstairs.
Fortunately, at 12:30 on a Saturday my buddy was alone at the bar, with a couple guys sitting in high backed chairs. There was a round of “so what’ve you got?”
I explained to him that we had a chance to test the aging effects by doing what was essentially a vertical flight of mead. He excitedly grabbed four glasses.
Now, my previous experience with my own JAOM is that I make it FAR too sweet. That’s what happened with the first batch I made when I came down here to Nashville. I’ve still got a couple bottles of it kicking around someplace. But it’s just cloying. So I’d pretty much written it all off. I figured it’d be an interesting goof and “while the recipe needs work, we’d at least be able to see what the effect of time really was.”
We tried the just-bottled batch first and were both nodding appreciatively at the bottle. It was smooth, maintained a little carbonation still (very little. I don’t carb my mead.) And it had a pleasant orange taste with hints of the other spices floating around on the palate (after all, cinnamon and clove aren’t exactly subtle.) But it all blended together very well.
Emboldened, I poured the older stuff, which was much lighter and gold in color than the young one.
It was almost shocking how much more delicate it had become. There was even a tiny bit of carbonation still there, which surprised me. I don’t really know how to describe the difference. It was less sweet, but still not so far as to be dry. The orange had receded in to the background to join the other flavors.
I sat there at the bar, Hunter and I talking about these just…unmitigated successes. There was a guy down the bar who Hunter offered a taste to, who also gave me genuine wide-eyed appreciative nods at both samples, agreeing with our assessment that the older mead was EVEN better than the younger, by a fair margin.
And I had a weird moment. Something that had been trying to break through to the front of my mind just burst through the wall yelling “Oh YEAAHHHH” unable to be ignored. I had to face the inexplicably difficult truth that…well…I’m getting pretty good at this.
Now, I can see Jennifer’s knowing eye-roll already. I can hear Melanie saying she wouldn’t expect anything else. I actually heard Hunter tell me “well if anybody could do it, it’s you.” And anybody who really makes anything knows exactly what I mean when I say… “They don’t understand.”
Of course they’re right, as far as it goes. I understand they’re right. But I’m not good at this. Not really. All I see in this and in just about every other pursuit in which I engage is how far I have to go.
But I simply can not ignore the fact that, far beyond my expectations when I started this pursuit (which were, if I’m being honest, to stave off existential dread of leading a solitary and quite possibly completely meaningless life through the busywork of engaging in another hobby as a distraction, with no real lust of result) I’m getting pretty good at this.
Before last week’s success (with the Jalapeno mead I gave to our intern at the office) where I was trying to decide which way to go with this stuff. I had been leaning towards letting it fall away as a forgotten half-hearted pursuit.
But, newly emboldened, I went the other direction and made the decision to buy a few cases of bottles, some real corks & a lever corker, some chemistry (tannin, acid blend, sparkalloid, yeast nutrient) and such and just…start taking this more seriously.
Now I’m in this peculiar position. I’ve got 12 gallons of mead in various stages of fermentation (the 5 gallon JAOM, and 7 1-gallon experiments.) That comes to about 4 cases, and I’ve got a clean dozen ideas I want to pursue.
What the actual crap do I DO with all this stuff?
I can’t just give it away. I don’t know that many people. Plus it gets a little weird if, every time I head to the pizza place, I show up with a bottle of home made whatever.
There are a couple large scale experiments I want to try. But I think I’m going to spend a lot more energy on my notes, making sure I can reproduce my results, then just keep pushing the envelope in small-batch work.
At some point I’ve got to do something though.
These bottles are really starting to pile up.