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On the Making of Metheglin

As part of the NOTW card Kickstarter a couple months ago, I promised if we hit a stretch goal I would post up my personal recipe for Metheglin.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you a few things before you go and try to replicate one of my experiments.

1. I got interested in brewing mead while I was writing my books, way back in my college days. It’s not something that I brought to my books, it’s something my books brought to me.

2. I used to be a bit of a chemistry geek. I originally went to College to study the equivalent of chemical engineering.

3. I did not stick with that line of study very long. I never took it very seriously, but I enjoyed the labwork, and I have a great fondness for all the gear involved. I’m a bit of a geek for it, and I know enough to be dangerous.

So. The stage is set. Here’s the story.

It’s 1999 or so, and I’m thinking that I’m going to take a crack at making some mead. So I start doing some research. I buy some books. I look on the early proto-internet for information.

And I learn some interesting things. I learn that the name “metheglin” comes from the old English term for medicine. Metheglin was mead with a bunch of herbs in it. Because, as you know, herbs are good for you.

But as I read more it all started sounding like a *huge* pain in the ass. The books went on and on about about how I’m supposed to check the ph level and… I don’t know, hydroginize things or some shit like that.

What it sounds like is a lot of fiddly bullshit work to me, and that’s not what I signed up for. I wasn’t looking for a part time job. I didn’t want to babysit this goddamn thing for 6 months, petting it and taking its temperature and cooing sweet nothings in its ear.

No. I wanted to muck about with glass bottles and tubes for an afternoon. I wanted to make a potion. I wanted to do some goddamn mad science and then not think about it again until the stuff was ready to drink.

Then I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought. “This is bullshit. Vikings made this, and I guarantee that they did not own a hydrometer. They just thumped it together in a barrel and then drank it and pillaged some shit.”

So, figuring that while I wasn’t a chemical engineer by any stretch of the imagination, my understanding of organic chemistry was at least as good as a  Viking’s.

In proud Viking mad-scientist style, I bunged a bunch of stuff into a big glass jug, shook it up, and brewed what would come to be known among my friends as “The Mindbender Mead.”

Metheglin page

For those of you who don’t want to strain your eyes, here it is typed up.

4.5 lbs Wildflower honey
1 pint apple juice
2 packages champagne yeast (LALVIN brand) -EC-1118
1/2 tsp yeast energizer
3 drops willow tincture
3 tbsp orange rind
7 whole cloves
1/2 tsp morning glory seeds (black)
1 tbsp clover seeds
1/4 (unit missing) bee pollen
1/4 oz stick cinnamon – well broken
1/2 tsp cardamom seed
1/2 tsp hysop
2 pinches brown flaky stuff
1 tbsp poppy seed
1/2 tbs fenugreek (whole)
1 lean pinch wormwood
+1 gallon distilled water (I don’t know why this is written there.)

Note the scientific rigor with which I recorded the ingredients, such as the “brown flaky stuff” that I knew was some sort of herb, because it was sitting on a bottle on my shelves. I can see it in my mind. I wonder if I still have it downstairs?

Hmm…. No luck. But here, I took a picture of one of my shelves that I just scoured to see if I could find it.

My shelves

There’s some stories on *that* shelf, let me tell you. Not the least of which is one of my my failed coffee experiments from back in 2002.

A few notes about the above recipe:

1. The stuff in pencil was me trying to make it ferment again. I thought it was stuck, but in fact, it was just finished.

2. I don’t know why it says +1 gallon of distilled water. I used a 3 gallon carboy, so I know I put more water in than that….

3. I used morning glory seeds because I had heard that they contain a substance similar to LSD. However, I used hand-gathered seeds, because store-bought ones are typically treated with anti-fungal agents you don’t want to ingest.

4. I used some wormwood because I knew it contained a substance similar to THC.

5. Note that I didn’t use much of either one. Mostly because I didn’t want people to drink it and lose their shit all over my house.

I put all the miscelaneous herbs and whatnot into a mesh bag and put it in the mead. But the mead was all bubbly with science and fermentation. It floated to the top, rather than steeping, releasing all of its healthful goodness.

This angered me. So I thought to myself, “what do I have here in the house that I can put in the bag to make it sink?” It must be heavy, but it also must be small enough to fit through the relatively small opening at the top of my carboy. It should also be somewhere inside the house, because I am lazy.

So I picked out a piece of Lapis Lazuli I had laying around. Because, among other things, I am a bit of a rock geek. Have been since I was a kid.

Why did I use a piece of lapis instead of, say, a chunk of gravel or a spoon? Because I was making a fucking potion, that’s why. And if I want to put some gemstones in there then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

And this

(Also introducing: My Foot. And now you know.)

Lapis is a semi-precious stone, and though you can’t tell in that picture, it’s a lovely bluish color.  The piece I put into the mead was almost exactly the same at that one up there, because I bought them at the same time.

It didn’t really weigh the sack down that much, but I was done fiddling about, and decided to call it good enough.

Several months later when I bottled the mead and re-claimed my piece of lapis, I discovered it was no longer a pretty bluish color. It was no longer polished smooth.

Now its surface was pitted and crumbly and white. The mead, you see, had eaten away the outside of the stone.

I was equal parts impressed an terrified. So it was time for more research to figure out if drinking this was going to give me cobalt poisoning or something similar.

And what do I find out? Apparently lapis is mostly composed of stuff some brewers use anyway, to clarify and stabilize their wines or beers. (And there isn’t much chance of their being arsenic or cobalt at all. Hurray!)

The moral of the story is either:

1. I’m really lucky.

2. I played too much D&D as a kid.

3. Even when I’m just fucking about and making shit up I’m pretty goddamn clever.

It was my first batch of mead, and it was probably the best one I’ve ever done. It was strong stuff, and when my friends came over and drank it, the room got a warm, mellow feel. Which could be the wormwood. Or it could be the arsenic….

Or, you know, the booze.

So there you have it: Mindbender Mead.

Please brew responsibly. I am not legally responsible for your stupidity.

With love,

pat

P.S. If you ordered stuff from the Kickstarter, they’re finalizing the orders even as we speak. You should have received e-mails telling you how to log onto the Pledge Manager and confirm your order. This is important, because you’ll have the chance to add anything you missed in those hectic final days.

The folks at Albino Dragon tell me that about 2500 people haven’t finished confirming their orders. So if you *haven’t* seen an e-mail, you might want to check around in your spam filter.

Because the deadline for all this is pretty much today. Monday Sept 30th.

If you don’t confirm things on time, it will slow down your order. And if enough people drag their feet, it will slow down *everyone’s* orders.

So jump to it.

P.P.S. If you *didn’t* order stuff from the Kickstarter and wish you had, there’s no need to wail and gnash your teeth.

Ditto for those of you who are reading this after the deadline has passed. Or the folks who wish they could add a few things, but are strapped for cash at the end of the month.

Rest assured that after we fill all the orders, we’ll be putting most everything from the kickstarter up in our online store: the Tinker’s Packs.

Also posted in Arts and Crafts, hodgelany, small adventures, Terrible Science | By Pat60 Responses
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