You got it, your friends over at Groennfell Meadery!
Click here or on the photo above to read the article!
There was an absolutely wonderful article written for Vermont Kids last week about the importance of family leave to businesses of all sizes, and guess who's prominently featured!
You got it, your friends over at Groennfell Meadery!
Click here or on the photo above to read the article!
In the last few weeks since we published all of our recipes online, we have gotten one question over and over again: Why are your fermentation temperatures so high?
This question has come in many forms:
Some people think it's a typo or that we can't convert from fahrenheit to centigrade.
Other people think that it's something magical about being a commercial brewer.
Still others (especially those who live in areas where they can't get our mead) assume that we're sacrificing quality for turn-around time.
The truth is that over the years we have been systematically increasing our fermentation temperatures because it has been making better and better mead. The science behind it is a little complicated, but we'd better start off with a simple question: What is an off flavor?
It seems simple, right? An off flavor is a flavor in your beverage that you don't want there.
Is a heavy phenolic component a good thing in a beer? Well, if it's the right type of phenol for the style, absolutely. Phenols are what give Hefeweizens their distinctive banana and clove characteristics.
Phenols are also responsible for band-aid-like and medicinal characteristics. These you do not want.
What about grassy aromas? Lemon? Douglas Fir? Moss? All appropriate for IPAs.
Caprylic (goat-like) smells? Yes, there are even a few saisons where these are appropriate.
Making Craft Mead means taking a step back and asking yourself without any preconceived notions: What am I trying to make here? The answer can be very simple and straightforward: I'm trying to brew a beverage that my friends enjoy drinking.
Early on, we followed the general rules for brewing: Low and Slow makes clean meads. We fermented at around 68°F, and we got a beverage that was, well, flavorless.
If you're brewing a hydromel (5% abv mead) with no adjuncts or other flavors and you're fermenting at the low-end of your yeast's tolerance, you are going to get something that a) takes forever to brew, b) tastes like slightly honey-flavored seltzer, and c) quite likely has a huge sulfur component.
Yes, you read that right. A slow fermentation may not be vigorous enough to purge the off-flavors from your mead. You can end up with residual hydrogen sulfide from a languid fermentation.
What about the off-flavors from fermenting so hot? First of all, 82°F is NOT that hot. It's only a tiny bit above the Lalvin recommended range. (We'll get to Psychopomp and Old Wayfarer in a minute.) Second, what do you mean by off flavors?
Many of the cool flavors from wildflower honey are similar to the aldehydes and phenols produced by D-47 and similar strains of yeast fermenting slightly above their traditional range. We specifically select our yeast strains in-house such that they will complement the honeys we use, not strip them of flavors or fight with them.
It should also be noted that many off-flavors are, in fact, secondary metabolites, which you can learn about in an article here, and they require certain compounds (primary constituents) to form which simply are not present in honey. Grain has lots and lots of different chemicals for yeast to play with, as does fruit, but honey is mostly sugar. This means that there are fewer potential off-flavors from hot fermentations. This leads us to Psychopomp and Old Wayfarer...
Since we're shooting for a robust, phenolic profile in both of these fine meads, we have to push the envelope when it comes to fermentation temperatures just to get secondary metabolites at all. Yes, we do get some "eggy" aromas during fermentation (we constantly apologize to our neighbors), but these are easily dealt with through CO2 purging and degassing. This is why the recipes specifically require this step before kegging or bottling.
Also, little known fact, these flavors and aromas age-out. This is what we do with Mannaz: a very long aging process (which is why it's not included in our craft mead recipes, although it is, technically, a craft mead).
Furthermore, unhealthy fermentations can happen anywhere on the thermometer. Pitching a sufficient amount of yeast and using adequate nutrient can be even more important than proper fermentation temperatures. You can learn about brewing when it's cold in one of our earliest articles.
Now, remember, we have the ability to temperature control our bataches. There is a possibility that if you try to ferment as high as we do without the ability to bring the temperature down, the metabolic activity of the yeast will keep pushing the temperature higher and higher and either kill itself or make the mead taste a little... gamey. This, however, is true of everything you've ever fermented, not just mead.
So, there you have it. Without getting too deep into the science (which is incompletely understood anyway), that is why we ferment at slightly higher temperatures than you might be used to. Stop freaking out and go try it for yourselves.You know the worst thing that can happen? You have five gallons of a mead that you have to wait a while to drink.
Every once in a while, there is an individual who stands out above the the thousands of people who help build and shape a company. It is especially notable when those people shine from dark corners. They are not brewers or builders or financiers. They are the unexpected artists who change a life.
For our company, one of those people is the late John Hurt.
While it may seem strange for a meadery to eulogize a British actor best known for having an alien burst through his chest, our earliest experience of the work of Sir Hurt comes from a vastly different genre: Jim Henson's The Storyteller.
The Storyteller was most delightful show that mixed myth and legend, fact and fiction, puppets and live action, all to the hypnotic tones of John Hurt. The stories are beautiful, and it is likely that nothing like them will ever be made again.
Here is a true story about The Storyteller.
Long ago, when the world was not quite so ancient, there lived a little boy who would grow up to be Ricky the Meadmaker. When Ricky was very, very little he was afraid of many things. He was afraid of the dark. He was afraid of loud noises. He was afraid of owls.
Most of all, he was afraid of being afraid.
Then, one day, Ricky watched a scary show about a Hedgehog named Hans. He was so taken by the voice of the narrator that he forgot that he was scared. Ricky got all the way to the end of the show and learned that there was a happy ending.
Then Ricky learned about a boy named Fearnot who was born without the ability to fear and had to learn this very gift that came so naturally to Ricky.
One by one Ricky watched every episode of the The Storyteller. Then he watched them all again.
When Ricky was a little older he started going to schools around the world to teach storytelling to little ones who might not know how to face their own fears. Sometimes, finding a story helps us tell our own.
Storytelling became Ricky's great passion so he traveled to Denmark and Sweden and Iceland to learn the great Sagas and know the lands that inspired them. Ricky traveled to India to learn the great epics. On every continent he visited, Ricky studied storytelling and tried to teach what little he knew.
Years went by and Ricky decided that it was time to tell his big story. This story was so big that he couldn't tell it by himself. It took Kelly the boss to get it started, then Lillian to become a hero. It took customers to both populate and appreciate the narrative. For in fact, customers are not our supernumeraries, nor are they merely our audience; they are the very lifeblood of our story.
So you see, Sir John Hurt started a story that he never even knew about. Without him, there would be no Groennfell Meadery. There would be no Colchester's Mead Hall. There wouldn't even be Ricky the Meadmaker... not really.
So, thank you to all of you for being part of our story, and a special thank you to Sir John Hurt; you were an incredible man and you will be missed.
Starting next week, all of our recipes are going to be available in one place on our site so you can try your hand at making all of our meads at home.
No more bugging Ricky the Meadmaker to e-mail you his formulae!
That said, rather than having all of the steps for each batch of mead, we're going to focus on making sure you know the ingredients, the ratios, and a few specific pointers for each brew.
Generally speaking, all of our meads are brewed in a very similar fashion. So, we thought we'd give you our techniques all in one place before inundating you with recipes.
Big Disclaimer: These are our practices, we are not claiming that they are necessarily the best practices.
With that out of the way, here are all of our general principles in one place:
We know that's an awful lot, but we'll have reminders in each recipe. We hope this is helpful!
Head over here for our recipes!
At Colchester's Mead Hall, every rainy, snowy, gloomy, bleak Wednesday is officially declared: Tom Waits Wednesday.
What makes a Tom Waits Wednesday? Well, album after album of music by this incomparable musician... dimmed lights... a general feeling of unsettled restlessness... abundant drinks... basically, we provide the scene, you fill it with your own tortured thoughts.
For the uninitiated, Tom Waits can be a little overwhelming, given that he has 28 albums released relatively consistently over the past five decades, including soundtracks and a Faustian black opera .
Not to mention the fact that he also has several books of poetry and has appeared in over two dozen films.
So, where does one start? Answer: Probably not with Swordfishtrombones.
There's no right way to get into Tom Waits. Heck, we have a regular who started with Alice and then moved on to The Black Rider, only to discover later Waits' melodic works.
What we present is not the definitive technique to become a Tom Waits nut, but it's worked for many acolytes:
From here on in, it's up to you. But don't worry, we're here for you.
That's what Tom Waits Wednesday is really about: just a bunch of Tom Waits nerds listening to a man gargle lava while his band plays like they're falling down the steps of hell and trying to convince the world they should listen, too.
Mead is an amazing beverage.
Ice cold in a glass during the summer, warmed on the stove in the winter; it's versatile, complex, and fun to drink.
You know what else fits this description? Whiskey.
And good Tequila.
While it's possible to make cocktails with beer - you can't fault bartenders for a lack of effort - it's not a natural fit like mead is. Cider is pretty good, too, but we don't make cider. We make mead.
The principles of making mead cocktails are pretty simple.
It only gets more fun and complex from there. You can make a classic Manhattan and replace the vermouth with Old Wayfarer. You can make an Old Fashioned with Golden Apple of Discord and a slice of winesap on your flag. The possibilities are endless!
Then again, cookbooks still sell. Not everyone wants to experiment in the kitchen or behind the bar.
We hear you, and we've got your back.
Starting this Friday we're going to be releasing a cocktail recipe every single week! It will have all the ingredients, garnish ideas, and a picture of what the final beverage should look like.
So, stay tuned, meadiacs, exciting things are on the way.
Groennfell Meadery and Havoc Mead are proud to be open-source companies. That means that all of our recipes are available to anyone who asks.
So, where the heck are they?
Lots of people write to us to ask where we post our recipes online, and the answer is that, for the most part, we don't.
There are three reasons for this:
1. Many of our recipes are simple to the point that your ability to replicate our honey source would be the most important detail, and that's not something we can really advise you on.
2. Most of what makes our mead special is the techniques we use, and not the ingredients.
3. Sometimes, our recipes change, and we don't want old versions floating out there in the ether.
To us, this last reason is the most important.
Take for example our Winter Warmer. Up until this year, we made a tea of some of our spices, added it, then aged the mead on cinnamon sticks. This year, we changed it up by playing around with the ratios of the spices and doing a longer aging period with no tea at a colder temperature.
It turns out that the staff likes this version better, but since we're not the people who buy it, we're going to wait to see what our Meadiacs have to say. If the consensus is that this is an improvement, then everyone who asks for the recipe this year will get a slightly different version from the one we've sent out in the past. (And, incidentally, gave to BYO magazine.)
This means that our homebrewing fans get not only the best recipe for replicating what we make, but also you'll have the most up-to-date recipes and techniques as we learn more about brewing.
This is definitely a more time-consuming way to do go about being an open-source company, but we think it helps keep us honest and innovative. We hope that you appreciate it as well!
So please contact us to request recipe info!
Long ago, when the nights were darker and the winters longer,
Back when the world felt new and impossibly old,
Back when we still knew the answers to the mysteries of the earth...
These were the days of the Kolbitar.
Every age and every land has had its story tellers. There have been scalds and bards; biwa hoshi and griots; cuentistas and scéalaí. And, of course, there have been the Kolbitar.
The Kolbitar were the fireside historians of ancient Iceland. They were not great scaldic poets, nor did they travel from town to town recounting adventures. The Kolbitar were plain folk who wished to enthrall, enchant, and inform.
As part of our mission to provide a place for rest and repose, a place to focus on one another rather than our glowing screens, we are proud to introduce Kolbitar at Colchester's Mead Hall.
On the first Thursday of every month - come rain, wind or snow - we will gather around the fire to listen to stories. Each month will feature a different speaker and a different region of the world.
There will be special food and abundant mead.
So, come join us by the fire. There's always room enough for one more.
And, if you missed the first one, don't worry, Ricky will be happy to ramble at you at any time.
We are inordinately proud of the fact that we now have nitro taps for our mead.
In fact, we are one of the first - if not the first - place on earth to have designated nitro taps for mead.
This fact, of course, raises the question... "What is nitro and why should I care?"
The shortest answer: If you've ever seen a Guinness poured from a tap, you've seen a nitro system.
Y'know the tiny characteristic, cascading bubbles? That's Nitro.
Now, as usual, for the long answer:
Nitro is short for "nitrogen gas system." This, however, is a bit of a misnomer since a pure nitrogen gas system is used for dispensing wine and other still products. Nitrogen gas (N2) doesn't readily dissolve into liquids which means that it can be used as an inert plunger to press on the top of a product to push it up and out of a tap. This is in contrast to, say, CO2 which dissolves into solution forming the bubbles we know and love in craft mead, beer, champagne, and so on.
What a nitro system is, more accurately, is a blend known as "beer gas" which is roughly 75% N2 and 25% CO2. In a nitro system, beer gas is pushed into kegs at approximately four times the pressure of a standard tap system, then the beverage is driven through a special type of tap known as a "creamer," "stout," or "nitro" faucet which has a restrictor plate in it to keep the pressure from blowing the glass right out of the bartender's hand and/or showering the entire establishment with foam. This restrictor plate is about the size of a penny and has tiny little holes in it to slow down the flow of the beer and to force the bubbles into a certain diameter for dispensing.
The question is, why would you go through all of that effort if nitrogen basically comes rushing out of solution the second you pour it? To answer that, we need to visit British pubs in the days of yore.
Back in the days before mass produced beer, almost all beer brewed in Britain was a) locally made if not actually made on premises, b) an ale, and c) consumed very quickly.
When the ale completed its fermentation (or shortly before), the barrel would be bunged closed, placed in a cellar below the main serving area (the bar), and attached to a serving mechanism known as a beer engine. A beer engine is a sort of pump which draws the beer up through the line with approximately 35 pounds of pressure (liquids are heavy), and dispenses it in your glass. Downstairs, one of two things is happening: some of the carbonation is coming out of the beer causing it to go flat, and/or a small amount of air is pulled into the barrel to displace the lost liquid. In the latter case, this air contains lots of chemicals, but the two that matter here are oxygen and nitrogen.
Oxygen spoils beer through a process known as oxidizing. Oxidized beer tastes like old, wet cardboard. Nitrogen, as noted above, is inert. If a pub is going through a cask of ale every two to three days, this isn't a problem since the beer doesn't have time to oxidize. Most pubs could easily go through beer at that rate. Then something radical happened: people started wanting a variety of beers. The result was that casks were just sitting downstairs too long and they were either spoiling or, thanks to innovations in keg technology, simply going completely flat.
One of the techniques used to serve an acceptable beer and combat the "no foam problem" was that bars were filling glasses with 3/4 flat beer and 1/4 super carbonated beer in the hopes that it would be palatable to their customers. Then, after a few days, the super carbonated beer would become the flat beer and another keg would be swapped onto the flat tap, and so on.
Around the world, people were solving the problem in lots of innovative ways, and our modern draft system is the result. At Guinness, however, a man named Michael Ash figured out a solution which relied on one of the most abundant compounds on earth: Nitrogen.
When nitro was invented, the reviews were... mixed. It fundamentally changed the flavor and texture of Guinness. It made it smoother, but also masked many of the flavors. To this day, in fact, the exact mechanism known as flavor suppression in nitro beers is poorly understood.
What this means for a mead is that something like Fenberry Draught or Nordic Farmhouse (both cranberry meads) becomes "mellower" when served on nitro. The strong acidic bite of the fruit and the wild fermentation are suppressed by the creaminess of the pour. The result is a mead which tastes something like a pie without any cloying sweetness.
When you take something like Chaos Cyser, our apple vanilla mead, the result is basically a cake you can drink.
So, it appears that the entire article was as simple as saying:
"Why should you care about mead on nitro? Because, basically, we are now serving cake in a glass."
For more on Michael Ash and his work at Guinness, please check out this article.
 It does not "beg the question" since that is a technical term for a type of logical fallacy. The thing about begging the question is that it happens every time you do so.
 We are aware that, technically, "Champagne" should be capitalized, but then again, so should "Cheddar."
We put an enormous amount of work into our recipes at Colchester's Mead Hall. Not just making the food every day, but coming up with the recipes themselves.
One of the reasons we have a limited and rotating menu is that everything you eat represents extensive research and tons of experimentation.
While most of our food is locally grown or made in-house, we strive to use only Old World ingredients: things that would have been available in Scandinavia during the Viking Era through late Middle Ages. We use traditional curing, smoking, boiling, and roasting techniques as well.
Why do we do all this work? Because it's cool. And, frankly, we're nerds about this. Rules actually help us to be more creative. If we can only use certain ingredients, it makes us think in new ways.
Another reason we do all of this is because the Vikings had an extremely healthy diet. It's tough to conquer the land and seas without a good breakfast of fatty meats and lots of vegetables. As part of our mission to build strong communities, we are deeply committed to providing healthy, ethically sourced foods.
The one area where we take some license is with our cheeses. They are all imported from Scandinavia, and cheese was probably a very important part of the Viking diet, but we simply have no way of knowing what types of cheese they were eating.
Oh yeah, and since we're fanatically committed to being an open source company, all of our recipes are free for you to make at home. Once we have them all locked-down, we'll be publishing them for your enjoyment!
If you'd like to try your hand at developing Viking-era dishes, some of our favorite resources are:
Viking Answer Lady
And the wonderful book, Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink
Groennfell Meadery is Vermont’s premier craft meadery. Inspired by Old Norse legends, brewed with extraordinary ingredients, Groennfell’s meads are unlike anything you’ve had before. Crisp, clean, and astoundingly drinkable, the only way to explain any one of Groennfell’s meads is to try one yourself.