Hello, dear Friends, Meadiacs, Homebrewers, Brewing Nerds, and Internet Crawlers! Jess had the idea that for very special brews like First Harvest Mead, folks might like the inside scoop about our whole process. Not just the brewing, but the whole Soup to Nuts about how we bring something like this from Ricky's noggin' to the real world.
That's what this is.
Additionally, as part of our new project, The Professional Brewers' Podcast where we focus more on the business and logistical side of going pro, we thought it was high time that we started sharing more about the larger process of making mead.
Developing the Recipe
Like many (though by no means all) of the meads at Groennfell Meadery, this one started in Ricky's head. Not only do we passionately support small farms with our small and new farm project, we also have our own farm where we specialize in rare herbs as well as brewing-focused crops.
This brought brewing seasonally to a whole new level for us. Walking around the farm with our staff and kiddos looking for ingredients that we thought would make a good mead was a magical experience. This is how we've always wanted to brew.
We harvested a lot of ingredients that day that we were so excited to brew with, then came the next step of the process. No, not brewing, checking with the government...
Recipe Approval from the TTB
Unless your mead is only honey, water, and yeast, you need to get recipe approval from the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). For ingredients that you have in your spice cabinet, this isn't usually a problem, though we've still been thrown curveballs in the past.
Well, guess what, the government didn't have a precedent for brewing mead with Bugle. After reaching out to three different branches of the agency Nora's incredibly hard work picking and drying Bugle had to be put in the cabinet for homebrews and cooking.
That's OK, we did get this incredible photo of her...
And, alas, it's not like you can just look up a list, either. We've had ingredients approved in one batch and not approved in another one. This time, we got three ingredients we harvested approved, and three they wouldn't let us use... at least this year.
First Harvest Mead has Apple Blossoms, Elderflower (both fresh and dried), and Yarrow. The ingredients that we have on the shelf are Bugle, Clover, and Raspberry Leaves.
All in all, we're really excited because the apple blossoms and elderflower were key to what we wanted to brew, and yarrow has the character of the bugle and raspberry leaves; the clover was just in there to boost the character of the apple blossom!
Next Comes the Art
Once the recipe is brewing, Autumn interviews Ricky about the product (usually does a taste test, too), and goes off to work her magic. If possible, they chat while hanging out with goats, honestly, just because they can.
Usually she'll bring back five sketch-ups, then taste the mead, chat with everyone, and in one fell swoop the art will be done. Then it heads over to Kelly for label design!
Since Autumn was part of the harvesting crew, this design more-or-less just flowed out of her.
Fermentation and Packaging
For the most part, the actual brewing process doesn't change much for each batch. We make some on-the-fly decisions (e.g. are we going to just add the flowers or are we going to make a tea? We did both.), but generally this is the time where we just get to taste it every few days and start planning for the big release day!
Same goes for bottling or canning; it's a really exciting day, but it's what we do day-in and day-out, so we all stand around with tears in our eyes and ogle the first labeled bottle, but then we get to our stations and fill, cork, label, and package.
It's as easy as that!