Saturday, April 21, 2012

Montmorency Tart Cherry Riesling Pyment

Charles Mingus – “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

Making mead is pretty simple.  As long as you have all of the ingredients available, you can brew up a mead in an hour, including sanitation and clean up.  Considering that a beer takes 5-6 hours with significantly more set up, monitoring, and cleaning, mead making is a lark by comparison.  Mead fermentation is not so simple.  You have to be comfortable waiting a long time to taste the results. It's the simplicity of ingredients and process combined with the implied asceticism of long-term patience that draws me to mead.  It's hard to make something complex and delicious using only a few ingredients, but when it works, it's particularly special.

Raw unfiltered Clover Honey 
Dan McConnell has a few different recipes featured in Ken Schramm's influential book, The Compleat Meadmaker.  He's also one of the founders of the Mazer Cup mead competition and an accomplished homebrewer.  While reading the book, I was particularly intrigued by one of Dan's recipes.  Ken reproduces Dan's recipe for Oblacinska Cherry Riesling Pyment in one of the final chapters of the book.  It turns out that Oblacinska Cherries are one of many experimental cherry hybrids being grown at Michigan State University's Agricultural Experiment Station.  Can you imagine the possibilities available to a brewer who has access to the different cherry varieties being nurtured at MSU?  For my version of the recipe, I decided to use Montmorency tart cherries and upped the quantity a bit.  I'm also using a staggered nutrient addition to nurture the fermentation along as it does its magic.  Recipe below:

I used a low heat method of incorporating the honey into the recipe, using only warm water (no direct heat) in order to preserve the aromatic qualities of the raw clover honey.  The must was created with 46 ounces of Riesling Grape Juice Concentrate mixed with the honey/water solution and topped up in the carboy to four gallons.  In order to ensure the sort of fermentation I wanted I rehydrated two packages of Lalvin D-47 wine yeast and did a 1000ml starter.  I added .5 tsp of Fermaid K and .5 tsp of diammonium phosphate (DAP) after pitching the yeast and aerated vigorously.  I plan to add an additional .5 tsp of each of the above nutrients when fermentation is halfway complete.  Roughly a month into the fermentation I'll rack the mead onto 7 lbs of Montmorency Tart Cherries and let it sit for 6 solid months before racking off the lees into a clean carboy to finish fermentation prior to bottling.  I don't even plan to bottle this mead for at least 2+ years.     


  1. Waiting for bottling is a great idea. Have you decided if this will be a still or carbed mead?

    Also the recipe looks great. The simple addition of the yeast nutrients makes all the difference in the world.

    1. I'm hoping that the staggered nutrient addition will keep the D-47 happy for the duration of the main fermentation. I think I'll probably just leave the mead petillant. I wasn't too happy with the last still mead I made.


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