Mo’ Mead – MelonMel Melon Mead: Done!

Hi all!

Well, it’s finally ready! My birthday melon mead is bottled and ready to be drank!

It has a very pungent smell of melon, way more than I expected and a very subtle taste. Even though you can smell the melon, there is only an aftertaste of melon in the mead, which was quite interesting! This time, I made a lot, 20 bottles worth! If the help of a friend, we managed to clean everything, bottle two different meads (the other will come in a different post) and transfer the wild plum to secondary. It was quite an effort, but it paid off! Now just wait to mature so that it can be better enjoyed!

Local Shop Homebrew – Final Part: Carrot Wine!

Remember the past posts, where I gave a quick tutorial on how to make your own homebrew from scratch? Well, the serioes is finally over! If you are interested to know what I am talking about, please click here, here and here

After three weeks in secondary fermentation and three days stabilizing, The wine was finally bottled! I had a taste and it was quite mild in taste, but so alcoholic! It was a very nice brew, very very cheap indeed! The total cost of the brew was about £5, so £1 per bottle, plus 500ml that were drank just moments ago!

If you are tempted to have a go at homebrewing, this is a very hard to get wrong type of brew! Highly recommended and, really, I hope someone will try it!

Backyard Wild Yeast Plum Mead – Part I

THis post contains 3 photos. Click to enlarge them.

This is a bit of a risky kind of brew, but I will give it a go anyway.

Some fruits come with a natural coat of wild yeast on their skin. This can be beneficial to your brew, but dangerous, because wild yeast can infect your brew.

The way this mead was done was:

  1. Pick the healthier plums from your tree. In this case, I picked them from my own backyard;

  1. See the white coating? This is the wild yeast on the fruit. The aim of this brew is to use that yeast and that alone to kick start the fermentation. This mead is expected to be low in alcohol, so that the fermentation is quick and it gives less times for any infection to develop;

  1. After a quick rinse, the plums are deseeded and quickly hand pulped. This would make homebrewers cringe, but I did sanitize my hands well! Well, back in the day, wine juice was extracted by stepping on grapes, so why not use my hands? Then soak them on a solution of water, honey, lime and lime zest, which was boiled for one hour. Dump the boiling water onto the plums and close the fermenting bin. That’s it. Give it a bit of a mix for the next two days and leave it. A bit of natural selection, after the boiling water in dumped, only the strongest yeast will survive!

Ingredients

  1. 2.5kg of deseeded plums;
  2. 2.5kg of honey;
  3. 13L of water;
  4. Juice and zest of 2 limes;

Updates will follow.

Beer Economics Review: DadoBier Ilex

Who doesn’t like beer? And even more, who doesn’t like caffeine? Mix the two together and you should get an amazing beverage, right? Well, not so much. I will try to explain why.

DadoBier is the first brazilian microbrewery. It’s located in the mid-latitude city of Porto Alegre, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The state prides itself for having the best wine in Brazil and, well, they have the climate for it! Also for making beer, since the southern region of the country is the largest producers of barley.

The state is the second largest producer and the largest consumer of a commodity called Erva-Mate, or just Mate. It’s a herb which is mainly used for tea and has a high caffeine content. If you walk around the city of Porto Alegre, you will see hundreds of people drinking the stuff wherever they go. Think that the British are big tea drinkers? The Gauchos (natives from the state) would put them to shame. Brazil itself is not a big tea drinking country, but the Gauchos consume a whooping 10kg of Mate per capita per year, which puts them ahead of Turkey, the biggest tea drinking country in the world (at 7.32kg/pc/py).

But I digress. So thinking that having the climate and ingredients for a good beer would give them an edge? Well, not so much. Adding a bit of their favourite drink to the beer? That didn’t work so well. Now add that beer to their custom made Cuia-shaped glass? Well, that’s the recipe to get flat and bland beer. In their novelty glass, I couldn’t pour the beer and take a photo fast enough for the head to hold shape. The beer is ok, but the flavour changes quite a bit very quickly, most likely due to oxidation due to the lack of the protecting head.

I have brewed with tea before and I am not sure the techniques they used to add the mate to the brew, but I can say that they were unsuccessful.

Now for the price. The average citizen of Rio Grande do Sul is better off than the average Brazilian. The beer is slightly expensive, at R$14 (£4) for a pint, it is still quite expensive for the local working man. But as it so happens to microbreweries in Brazil, producers manage to keep the clientele very selected. You can find Dadobier online, if you so choose, but most places are out of stock and, in Porto Alegre, one of the few places where you can find the beer is at their restaurant. This leads to you buying overpriced food with it. So, again, just like with Amazon Beer, if you are not part of the elite or pseudo-rich, this beer can be seen as something you can treat yourself to in a special occasion.

Knowing how much it takes to produce beer and having most of the ingredients locally available, overpricing beer that isn’t all that good seems to be the thing to do nowadays. Microbrewers in Brazil are having a field day with the new middle class!

Birthday Homebrew Label: Hanging Gardens of Nicolau’s Ale

It’s one of my best friend’s birthday today, so a while ago I decided to brew him an Ale. It’s not ready yet, by the way, but the label surely is!

Why the name?? He lives in Iraq and works for a local football team (soccer of you americans). Just trying to be a bit humorous about the daily worry we all go through!

Well, happy birthday Anderson!

Beer Economics Review: Amazon Beer Stout Açaí

I am not sure if this is a good idea, but I will publish a quick beer review worth of notice.

My girlfriend, who travels a lot, gave me several beers from local breweries from different parts of Brazil, which is great! Yesterday, we decided to drink it and, my God, what a tasty beer!

I am no beer connoisseur, but I can appreciate a good beer. And I guess it would have won the title of best beer in Brazil! It is quite subtle, coffee-y taste with not much taste of Açaí, still with a relatively high alcohol content. I wouldn’t expect the extremely hot city of Belem to have been able to produce high quality stout, of all beers, but they did the job! If you know anything about brewing, fermenting at constant, relatively low temperature is crucial, as temperature fluctuation can damage the overall body and taste of the beer. Belem do Para is the largest Brazilian city near the Equator with temperatures averaging around 28C throughout the year. It’s located at the Amazon River Delta and, adding all these factors up, it makes it one of the most humid cities on Earth. All these factors make Belem a nightmare for brewers (and for people to cope with the heat too).

Controlling the brewing temperature must cost the brewery a small fortune on heat belts, AC units etc. Also, everything (except the Açaí and water) must be imported, since the city’s climate is unfavourable for the growth of any of the raw products necessary to produce the simplest beers. All of this is reflected in the price. A 330ml bottle can cost you up to £5. These prices are also not compatible with the means of the average Brazilian, so you can only find it for sale in speciality shops and fancy restaurant, which is a pity.

With a GDP per capita of £3809 (£317/month), and 75% of the population living below that line, most of the population won’t be able to afford one single bottle of this lovely beer.

Well, that’s free capitalism for you! A city, which in my opinion, overcame all the difficulties of brewing a quality product, managed to produce something unique, but only for a selected few.

Now that I have calmed down, I can conclude. It’s a very good beer.

Wild Blackberry Mead… A Simple Name for Once

This post contains 5 photos.

In the earlier post about fruit picking, the purpose of my picked fruits is the usual: homebrew. Blackberry are bloody expensive and farmed ones are not as delicious! Anyway, In a few months, I will have, hopefully, a very delicious drink!

I favour brewing mead over other drinks because, well, I prefer to other drinks and it’s the one that is most difficult to mess up. Why? Honey, that’s why!

Ingredients:

  • 440g of blackberries for primary and another 440g for secondary (I picked 880g, the second half has been frozen);
  • Zest and juice of one lemon;
  • 1.5kg of honey;
  • Enough water to complete 5L;
  • D-47 yeast.

First, sterilize all the equipment. Leave the berries soaking in cold water and remove any creepy crawlers that float up (hey, it’s organic stuff!)

Place the berries in the demijohn (the glass fermenting thingy). There might still be some bacteria/wild yeast/general oganisms that need to be killed.


Want to sterilize fruit? Want to sterilize anything? Cover it in honey! Add half of the honey into the demijohn and leave the fruits soaking in it. Honey is anti-everything… it will kill wild yeast and other fungi, bacteria, any tiny organism in and around the berries + all the health benefits. If the amount of honey added is kept high, the likelihood of infections in your brew decrease quite a lot.


That’s why it’s hard to get mead wrong. Sanitation and infections are a big problem in wine and beer, but mead has the power of honey to back it up! Pretty cool, right?


After a good honey soaking for about 30 minutes, add 1.5L of boiling water to the demijohn and let it sit for another few minutes. Close it with the airlock/blow tube. Even though mead is harder to infect, don’t take chances! Further sterilization will occur, but this step is most important to dissolve the honey, mostly.


In a sauce pan, heat the water add the honey, lemon juice and zest. Mix until the honey has been dissolved. Add it to the demijohn and close it again. Only pitch the yeast when the most is below 25C.


Let it ferment for a minimum of 10 days (fermentation is about to stop usually when the airlock is producing only one bubble every 4 minutes). Move to secondary fermentation, add the other half of the berries still frozen and let it ferment for another 3 weeks. Then move to tertiary fermentation for another 3 weeks. The mead should be clear and ready for bottling at this stage.

It takes a long time to make it, but trust me, it’s worth it!

Picking Wild Fruits: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This post contains 5 photos.

Picking wild fruit is such a great thing to do. Just walking about the place and knowing that you don’t really need to buy everything you eat is just great! Well, at least I think it is!

Fortunately, I am just a short walk from my University, which offers a few of these wild treasures, but students and bypassers sometimes don’t respect this and abuse the privilege a little bit.

I decided to write this post because what I thought was common sense really is not.

So, before going picking some wild fruit, take some time to think….

  1. Why are you picking them?

What do you plan to do with them? It’s great to be able to go and pick as many as we can possibly fit in our backpack, right? Well, if this is how much you need to do whatever you are planning, good! But take the time to think how long they last for and if you are going to be able to use it all before it goes off. Wasting is bad and you will most likely throw it away in the bin, where it won’t get used up by nature. So, if you can’t use it, better let it fall on the ground and fertilize the tree to keep it alive for years to come.

  1. Pick only the ones that are ripe

Fruits are not hard to pick. If they are ready to be picked, they will just come off the branches with no effort whatsoever. Fruits don’t become ripe at the same time. If you pull it a little bit and they don’t come off, move on! They are not ready to be picked. Come back in a couple of weeks or so and they might be there waiting for you!

  1. If you can’t reach it, don’t pick it

Depending on what you pick, the branches can be full of thorns and can hurt you. We are humans and are extremely whinny. Anything that hurts us, we just complain. So, if you can’t reach the fruit, just leave it alone! Trying to reach can hurt you and, just as important, can hurt the trees on the way.

Photo below credit to @Symphlythebest.

  1. Pulling branches to pick fruits

This is related to the topic above. if you can’t reach the fruit, just leave it there. Get a ladder if it is too high, try a different path to try and get it, if you can’t reach it horizontally. Pulling branches can break them and that’s another branch that will never bear fruits again.

  1. Respect the Wildlife

Maybe near the trees, you will see some birds that won’t go away, even if you come really close to them, hissing geese and swans, bees etc, they are not doing these things for no reason! They are doing it because you are imposing into their territory, they have nests etc and would like you to stay away. Try invade their privacy… you will get a geese ass-whopping!

Volucella Pellucens

  1. Keep an eye out for scumbags

Yeah, scumbags! I said it! When going for a walk, a run or whatever, keep an eye out for people doing harm to plants or local wildlife. Sometimes an angry look does the job to make them aware that they are doing something wrong! Sometimes not, but ah well, we all have different approaches (Maybe I also think that geese are a bit scummy? They love hissing at me at any time for the year… so….).


Well, I think I said my peace! Respect nature and you will be rewarded! Given my container, you can guess what I will use my berries for!

“Still” a Very Nice Cachaça Story – Perpetuating Old Methods

Get it? Get it? Well, bad jokes can be made from time to time, but that’s beside the story.

My family comes from a place in Brazil where they are very proud for traditionally producting the best Cachaça (brazilian native spirit drink) in the country, and rightly so! Some places have modernized the production, making everything precise and what not, some other places remains with production just as it was done back a few decades ago. My granduncle used to be one of them.

No, no… my granduncle is fine! Still alive and well, but this still not so much. My grandaunt and himself had to move away from the farm… and people took advantage of that, unfortunately. Since stills are made from now very valuable copper, they managed to beat down an one hundred year old still and take the metal away while no-one was minding the farm. Sad…

Back a few years ago, I managed to take one single photo of the process of fermentation of the sugar cane juice. It was a highly unscientific process which worked I guess, but no-one understood why. After I decided to take up homebrewing, I started to put the pieces they explained to me together in an attempt to perpetuate old methods.

The sugar cane was extracted from the farm itself, which grew organically (very refreshing to drink the ice-cold juice from them!). The juice was extracted from a mechanical mill.

The juice from the sugar cane, without the addition of water, has around 20g of sugar per 100ml. In brewing terms, this adds to around a specific gravity of 1070, with a potential for 10% ABV (Alcohol By Volume after fermentation). The fermenting bin took 1600L of sugar cane juice.

Time to pitch the yeast, right? Which yeast? All I saw was him generously sprinkling unbleached corn flour on top of the juice. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why that was necessary (Hey, I was young, give me a break!). Later I found out that the corn flour, together with the sugar from the juice, acts as a culture for wild yeast present in the air. A somewhat similar process to how lambic beer and sourdough starters are made. (The photo below shows the fermentation at full steam). From day to day, corn flour would be added to keep the yeast going until the fermentation was done, which took about one week.

The most (fermented alcoholic solution) would be tapped into the still, all the 1600L of it, and heated up. I also never understood why they never let the most boil. The point of distillation is to transfer the alcohol with as little water as possible. As alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, keeping the most from boiling avoids a lot of water being fractionally distilled in the final product. Every time the liquid was about to boil, they would cover the fire with a piece of stone, which slid back and forth just under the bottom of the still.

Quick maths now: 1600L of most at 10% has a potential for 160L of 100% alcoholic solution, so any volume above 160L would just be water. If you have 320L as the end volume, your spirit would be 50% proof. Easy!

Alcohol was produced very nicely… but which alcohol??? I saw the first 5L or so being discarded and throw out… why???? I didn’t get an answer from them, apart that the first 5L could impair your sight. Why? Those first few litres of alcohol were methyl alcohol, or methanol. Methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol (the good stuff) and comes out first. Our body metabolizes methanol into formaldehyde (taxidermist’s dream fluid!), which damages several parts of the body, mainly the eyes. The rest of the alcohol was ethanol and was saved.

The end volume was 250L of Cachaça. This corresponds to about 73% proof Cachaça, who would drink that, right? Well, from there, it would be put in for storage in barrels. They are not completely sealed and alcohol would evaporate slightly, so the end product would have a lower alcoholic content. Still pretty strong, but ah well!

In order for the alcoholic proof to be brought down before bottling, it would be slightly diluted with water. How much alcohol was in the final product? Well, the final product was tasted and green flagged… that’s how much alcohol there was! As you can imagine, this means that the proof was highly variable from batch to batch… but still, it is very nice to have these memories and know that a piece of history can be preserved!

MelonMel Melon Mead (Tongue Twister?)

It’s even difficult to say it, right?

I have been meaning to make a big batch of mead, since I haven’t attempted to make anything larger than 10L yet. In a local shop, close to my house, melon were on sale, so why not try to brew with it?

Melon has very little sugar… very, very little, so don’t expect to get much alcohol from it! 99% of the alcohol from this brew is coming from the honey.

For this brew, I used 4.5kg of honey, 3.9kg of the core of melon (weighed only the edible part), zest and juice of three lemons and a hand full of raisins. Let me know if you’d like me to explain the “whys” of the ingredients.

Boiled the fruit and the honey with a bit of water for 45mins, then strained it into a sterilized fermenting bin and topped up to 19L. The yeast here used is D47. The OG of the brew is 1.071 and I am expecting a FG of 0.995.

I will keep you updated on the progress! I am very interested on the final result!