When I was growing up various neighbours and family friends would brew all sorts of magical drinks. You’d see the demijohns with those mysterious bubble air locks attached and possibly some tubes or the odd barrel in their garages and basements. When I was a teenager I tried my hand at making cider once. It took months, but it was potent! But that was about 30 years ago!
Last year when I was trying out a variety of different things I came across an intriguing book called “The Artisan Kitchen” which was all about cooking, smoking, curing, fermenting and brewing, as well as some other techniques. At the time I was focussed on the smoking and curious about the bread making and only really skimmed over some of the other chapters.
With a greenhouse and other stuff going on in the garden I thought maybe I’d be able to use some of my crops to make some alcoholic beverages.
While I like beer and am a big fan of Irish craft beer and breweries I am not overly interested in making my own at the moment. I’m more interested in meads and ciders. Mead is one of those drinks that fascinates me. It’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and it’s apparently relatively easy to make.
Cider has always been a drink I’ve enjoyed. When I say “cider” I’m thinking of a lovely dry cider that is made from apples and little else. A fruity version from some kind of red fruit would be fine, but never confuse it with the sweet muck that gets served in most pubs.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent quite a bit of time watching videos of various people from around the world showing how “easy” it is to make both mead and cider. I don’t think it’s that easy. I think it’s easy to make a drink that is somewhere in the same neighbourhood as a mead or a cider, but I suspect that producing something that is objectively good and drinkable takes skill.
I have vague recollections of home brewing shops existing in various places I’ve lived over the years, or at least of shops having a section where you could get some home brewing supplies. Either it’s gone out of fashion or I’m simply living in the wrong place, as my only option was to order some of the equipment to get me started online. I picked up starter kits for both cider and mead from Home Brew West and The Home Brew Company. I also ended up at The Home Brew Company’s shop in Mountmellick last week, as I had an appointment in the vicinity, so I was able to top up my supplies in person.
The first brew I’ve tried my hand at is mead and I specifically did not want to make a huge quantity of it the first time I tried.
For my first mead I didn’t want to splurge on honey. Of course I wanted a reasonable quality honey, but I also didn’t think that using the top quality honey was a good investment either. Once I’ve done a couple of test runs I’ll be happy to use better quality honey, but the price difference is significant.
One of the things every blog post, video and book emphasises is that you need to sterilise everything, so this afternoon my kitchen had a wonderful parfum of steriliser and yeast!
I’ve absolutely no idea how well or how badly my first batch of mead will turn out. None.
It’s now sitting in a demijohn in my sitting room bubbling away as it does its first fermentation. In a couple of weeks time I can hopefully find out how good or bad it is.
Obviously I topped up the demijohn and added the bubble lock!
Now to find out what I need to do with the cider kit I bought .. ..