While hanging out with the Barley Bandits for my post on homebrewing, I met Teri Edwards--the jovial wife of club president John Edwards--who was busy in the kitchen making mead.
Mead, a fermented mixture of honey, water and yeast, is believed to mankind's first alcoholic beverage, the liquid courage of vikings and kings. Today, it's flowing beyond Renaissance Fairs, brewed in "meaderies" and homes across the country.
Edwards was introduced to mead by another club member and soon started tweaking the basic recipe. "I just played around with it," says the 56-year-old schoolteacher. "I decided to add Red Hots (the cinnamon candies) and thought, 'Ooh, look, it's really red!"
She poured us a sample of that sweet-and-spicy concoction, and it's divine--it goes down so smoothly, then suddenly awakens your body with a fiery sensation. Twenty percent alcohol by volume, it's also deliciously dangerous.
Mead-making requires the same basic tools used to brew beer at home, including plastic-bucket fermenters with air locks, siphon hoses and bottles. The fermenting process can take up to a year--Edwards has several batches stored in a closet. She has used various ingredients to flavor her mead, such as Ghirardelli chocolate extract, grape Jolly Ranchers and orange-blossom water. Other mead variations include cyser, an apple-honey wine, and melomel, a fruit-and-honey fermented drink.
"Once, I thought, 'Well, I love the flavor of bubble gum, so I bought a bubble-gum extract," she says. "But it tasted rank."
Edwards hopes to enter the mead contest at the OC Fair this year.
Here are some photos of the mead-making process by Kate Kohl Fancher.