If you remember, few weeks ago I wrote an article about Brovarnia, where Michał Saks is working. He is also doing homemade mead and this year he won 2 awards at the Mazer Cup 2010 with his elder flowers mead.
If you don’t know, mead is a fermented alcohol based on honey. It can be of all sorts: still, carbonated, sparkling, sweet, dry, pale to dark… It is independently multicultural and can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks and the earliest archaeological evidence for the production of mead dates to around 7000 BC*.
I went to visit Michał Saks and wanted to see how he was making mead. Unfortunately it’s not the right time of the year to make mead. He prefers to wait for the freshest and tastiest honey around, like the early spring mix flower honey from Pomorze region. And obviously it’s worth the wait.
I still was able to take some photographs, ask some questions and even taste some mead. It was much less sweet than I expected and with a complexity in flavours that surprised me. It’s not too high in alcohol either which makes it more like a wine than a strong alcohol. Which is quite normal as it is fermented and not distilled.
When did you start to think about making your own mead?
In my parents house, on the shelf there is a book entitled “Homemade Wine”. As soon as I knew how to read, this book intrigued me.
When did you start to make it?
My first approach with the fermentation process took place in primary school when me and a friend tried to ferment cherries from his garden, unfortunately nothing came out of it. Then, I tried again at University. For one of my classes I had to prepare a wine with certain characteristic.
Was it difficult to start? Did you start alone or some people helped you?
A Polish proverb say : nothing is difficult when you want. After the first wine I made for degree at university, I started to make my own wine at home. I did it all myself, but I got lot of friend which which helped me with fruits preparation for example. More experienced wine and mead makers gave me advice via online forum. So I cannot say that I was alone and I’m very grateful to all these people.
How was your first mead like? Did it taste okay? Or was it a total disaster?
The first mead I made when I had experience was with wines based on fruits. This knowlege helped me a lot. So I can say that the result of my first mead was very positive. I did few mistakes but the flavour was rich and deep.
How do you make mead? How long does it take? Do you sell it around?
There is no complicated equipment needed to make mead. A big pot of honey that should be melt in water, some demijohns for the fermentation process and for maturing. The honey needs to be prepared for few hours in order to obtain the right mixture (i.e. dissolving the honey in water and let boil), then it take few weeks for the fermentation step and few years for maturation. It’s this long ageing period which gives the mead this precious flavour.
It is not easy to sell mead that is made at home. Polish law doesn’t allow to do it legaly. Sometimes I sell few bottles to my friends or give it as a present.
Are you going to be a professional mead maker one day?
This is my dream and main goal.
How many kind of mead do you make?
I have three main recipes, one with cherry, one with mandarin and the last one with elder flowers. But I’m still experimenting with other different ingredients. One such experimental mead is composed of six different herbs with hypnotic effects, and I named it Lullaby. So I still try to develop my skills and recipes.
Did you win any award?
My mead with elder flowers has won in November 2009 the VI National Championship in the Homemade Mead Category. And in March this year, the same mead won 2 awards: The Herbal Honey Category & The Best of Show Competition during the Mazer Cup 2010. The largest and most prestigious mead competition in the world.