October 23, 2018

What to Brew for Weddings

When I hear about friends getting engaged, my first response is, "What kind of beer do you want for your wedding?" I love brewing, so much that I routinely brew way more than I actually drink, and so an opportunity to put my brewing abilities to use for the powers of good is most welcome. In the case of my friends Betsy and Andrew, a perfect pair if I've ever met one, I didn't even bother to ask. They announced the wedding about a year out, so I decided to brew a batch of mead.

The first time I ever made mead was with Kurt and Cathy's White Wine Pyment Mead Kit. I won't regal you with that particular story of mishaps, but the eventual success of the mead convinced me to try it again. This pyment is what people think of when they think mead - sweet, alcoholic, balanced, and regal. And then there's the old belief (apocryphal according to some) that mead should be drunk on honeymoons for fertility. I can't think of a better wedding gift.

This time around I decided to use our Ames Farm Honey instead of the usual orange blossom. I also tested out cold crashing the mead this time. The kit is designed to wind up sweet by starting with a high original gravity and using a yeast strain (the Lalvin 71-b Narbonne) that has a fairly low alcohol tolerance. To encourage the yeast to stop fermenting, I put the carboy into a fridge when it had reached about 1.026. This level is significantly sweet still, enough to balance out the high alcohol content and make for a pleasant dessert wine. The cold crashing was a success, and the gravity has stayed at this level. However, the mead is still fairly cloudy, so I will probably add some finings to it before bottling.

I brewed this back in October, and haven't tasted it until today. I'm pleased with it - the flavor is very mellow and long, with a good balance between alcohol, sweetness, and floral honey notes. It reminds me of a warm piece of toasted bread with honey spread on it. The mouthfeel is viscous, and the finish slightly sticky, so this is definitely in the dessert wine realm. Not something for everyday drinking, definitely a special occasion drink.

Before I get around to bottling that one, though, I've got another wedding to take care of, my fellow Northern Brewer Brian. Brian helps manage our shipping operations here - he's probably handled or packed one of your orders if you've been a Northern Brewer customer for a while. Brian was planning on brewing himself for his own wedding, but he got swamped with all of the preparations, and was looking at buying commercial kegs when we lept to the rescue. We've assigned him a cellarmaster to handle the arrangements (a role on par with the best man, in my opinion) and a team of brewers to donate kegs of beer. Your wedding shall not be homebrewless, we say! The line up for his wedding is looking like this:

Strawberry Wheat
Another Maibock
Pre-prohibition Lager
American Rye
Nut Brown Ale

Now that's a wedding! We've also got some 2-year old dry mead from our yeast experiments that may get thrown into the mix as well.

So the next time you're invited to a wedding, see if they need homebrew! Local laws and venue restrictions sometimes apply, so be sure to check in advance.