Monday, November 12, 2007

A Successful Failure

Two years ago, I started an experiment I just today remembered to taste the results of. I'd gotten into a bit of a mead phase, noticed an absense of decent meads for sale, and figured I could make one. I don't know that I'd call making alcoholic drinks a hobby, but it's certainly something that's intrigued me for some time. Indeed, one of my best memories from college was when Lucas and I made beer in my dorm kitchen. T'was terrible stuff (as have all my attempts at beer have been), but good times. To keep people off the scent of what we were making, we baked cookies as we made our beer. Don't think anyone fell for it, though. After all, how many people walk around with 5 gallon jugs full of liquid when they're making a sheet of cookies? Ah, we were young and stupid. I'm still stupid, just a little bit older now.

One of the perks of living in SLO was the easy access to good apple cider. There were a couple apple farms nearby that made it, and it was incredible. I frequently bought it, and my parents still bring down a gallon or two for me whenever they visit the area. So I decided that my first attempt at making mead would be a cyser, or apple cider mead. I won't go into details about the procedure as I wrote about it two years ago. I'll just concentrate on the results.

About a year ago, I put a bottle of the cyser in my refridgerator. I think my intention was to drink it for Thanksgiving, but who can remember such things? Point is, there it sat, in my refridgerator, for about a year. Today I got a hankering for some mead, Redstone Meadery's Black Raspberry mead, to be precise. If you've not had it (and I'd bet money you haven't), buy it. It's an excellent sparkling mead, not unlike a really good raspberry wine cooler. Problem is, it's hard to get down here. The one Redstone distributer I know of down here doesn't carry their raspberry mead. Fortunately, I remembered the bottle of homemade mead in my fridge. So I decided to try it.

I was a bit nervous when I cracked open the bottle. After all, I tried it about 6 months after I bottled it, and I could still taste the rubber stopper I used to hold the airlock. The mead was still young and harsh and not tasty at all. Yet I tasted potential. Although I knew after the extra 18 months it would have mellowed, I was unsure how much. My apricot wine (which has not mellowed at all in three years) has made me a bit gun-shy. But I decided to try it anyway.

It's good and not at all what I expected it to be. My goal when I started making it was for it to be a sweet mead, for it to taste mostly like apple cider with alcohol in it. In this respect I've failed; it is not a sweet mead. It's pretty dry and strong, with a rather subtle taste of apple. The West Coast IPA I'd been drinking completely overpowered the subtle taste for some time until the beer subsided and the cyser's taste rang loud and clear on my tongue. I'm happy to say it's mellowed a lot since I last tried it. It is, by far, the best fermented drink I've made; and quite a drinkable one at that. And in this respect, I've succeeded.

Is it perfect? Of course not. I think I still taste a hint of that rubber stopper, but it's a minor issue. And I'd still like to make a sweet cyser just to see what I come up with. I think of mead as a sweet beverage, and I'd like to make something that meets that expectation. Perhaps I'll try again sometime, see what I come up with.


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