You know, the honey wine drink known as mead is a drink with an intriguing backstory…
It turns out that mead is actually THE oldest alcoholic known to mankind, dating back a staggering 7,000 years ago somewhere in Asia.
The nature of its discovery is not fully known, but it may have come about as a happy accident.
Since then, mead has spread to many other parts of the world. It’s known to have been enjoyed in Europe by the Romans and the Ancient Greeks.
It is also thought to have been enjoyed by the Mayans in Southern Mexico and surrounding areas. But perhaps most famously, it was enjoyed by the Viking population…
The Vikings were adventurers and warriors who traveled long and far, and usually by sea.
And whenever they set off for some known or unknown destination, they would load up their ships with barrels and barrels of delicious honey mead.
Because of its high calorie content, it was an excellent source of bodily fuel to give them all the energy their efforts required. And, better yet, thanks to the high alcohol content, the honey wine was never spoiled as they ventured for long voyages through the seas.
And, to bring the story right up to date, it turns out that you can easily make viking mead at home, with just 3 ingredients, and some basic equipment that’s readily available online.
And, lucky for you, this article is going to show you how!
Easy Viking Mead Recipe
Way back when, the vikings used to use the wild yeast naturally found in unpasteurized natural honey to make their mead. They would add some spring water and simply leave it to ferment over several months.
But don’t worry, with the recipe we’ve got for you here, there’s cultivated mead yeast which not only ferments much faster, but also produces more consistent results.
- 1/2 pack of cultivated mead yeast (such as Bulldog Brews mead yeast with nutrient)
- 3 pounds of pure honey (or 1.4 kg)
- 4.5 quarts of bottled water (or 4.5 liters)
- A 1 gallon (or 5 liter) carboy or jug
- 12 swing-top glass bottles
- A small plastic funnel
- A thermometer
- A siphon (or an auto-siphon)
- A no-rinse sanitizer
By following our recipe, you can make 4.5 liters of mead. But if you wish, you can adapt the quantities to make less or more.
But be sure that you have large enough containers and large enough containers and fermentors for however much you want to make.
Exactly how much mead yeast you want to add depends on how sweet you want it to taste. I like to use about 1.4 kg, because it produces maximum alcohol per unit volume, while still leaving a really nice sweetness.
If you don’t manage to source any mead yeast, you could use champagne yeast instead.
And although I would recommend that you use a yeast that contains nutrients, I realize that this can be difficult to get hold of, in which case you will have to buy the nutrient separately, because honey doesn’t have all the nutrients that the yeast needs to ferment.
As for what honey to use, any brand is fine so long as it is pure honey, and does not contain any additional additives. And it does matter where you get it from, online, local grocery store, farmers market, it’s all good.
As for the bottling, if you don’t happen to have a bottle capper, you can save yourself some money by using 33 cl swing-top glass bottles.
How To Make Viking Mead
Here follows the 8 steps you need to follow to brew your very own Viking mead!
Step 1: Sanitize Your Equipment
Please do not skip this step – it is crucial. If your equipment is not thoroughly sanitized before you start, you run the risk of unwanted bacteria growing and ruining the whole project.
To begin with, you need to thoroughly wash the fermenting vessel, funnel, and thermometer in some soapy water before rinsing them all, and leaving them to dry.
However, although this will remove any dirt, this won’t actually kill off any bacteria, which is why the next steps are also very important.
Then mix up your bowl of no-rinse sanitizer, being careful to follow the packet’s instructions to the letter. The instructions for this can vary, but usually you need to immerse all of your equipment in the sanitizer solution for 10 minutes.
And once you’ve shaken off the excess moisture, you can get straight to using the equipment for your mead recipe.
Step 2: Warm The Water And Honey
Either spring or still water will be fine.
And I strongly recommend that you only use sealed bottles and jars of honey and water for your mixture so that you don’t risk any bugs appearing in the ingredients.
Get a very large bowl of hot water and place the jars of honey and bottle of water inside, leaving them to warm up for about 30 minutes.
Not only does this step ensure that the honey is as runny as can be, but this also helps the ingredients to mix more smoothly in the next step.
Step 3: Really Mix The Honey And Water
Now, you need to add the water to the fermenting vessel until it is half full. Then use the funnel to add ALL the honey.
Then you need to put the cap on and give it a really good shake for about 10 mins to ensure the combination is thoroughly mixed.
The reason I say shake rather than stir is that this adds oxygen bubbles to the mixture, and this is essential because the yeast needs this oxygen to grow in the first stages of the fermentation process.
Step 4: Top The Fermenting Vessel Up With Water
Not that the mixture is thoroughly mixed and aerated, it’s now time to top up the fermenting vessel with some of the water.
However, you must be careful not to fill the fermentor up completely. There needs to be about 10% of space at the top of the vessel in order to allow a layer of bubbles to form as the mixture ferments.
Then you will need to give the mixture another really good shake for a few minutes. And this time, you’re looking to form a more homogeneous, even mixture.
At this stage you can now use your sanitized thermometer to check the mixture’s temperature, because if the mixture is too hot when you add the yeast, this runs the risk of damaging the yeast.
You cannot add the yeast until the mixture cools to the temperature range identified on the yeast’s packet, which is usually about 77 degrees Fahrenheit (or 25 degrees Centigrade.)
Step 5: Pitch The Yeast
For those of you who don’t already know, adding the yeast to the brew is also known as pitching the yeast.
When your mixture of honey water is both thoroughly mixed and cooled down to the sufficient temperature, you can go ahead and pitch the yeast.
If you’re following the recipe exactly, you will only need to add about half a pack. You don’t have to be super precise and weigh it out.
But I only use half a pack because a whole pack is usually enough to produce a whopping 20 liters of mead.
If you haven’t managed to source a packet of mead or champagne yeast that has nutrients already included, then now is also the time for you to add your nutrients.
Place the stopper back in position, and give that fermenting vessel yet another vigorous shake to get that yeast mixing with the honey and water.
Step 6: Fit the Airlock And Leave To Ferment
Once you have achieved as thorough a mixing as possible, you should now seal the top of the vessel with the rubber bung, and apply the airlock.
Then you should top the airlock up with sanitizer (or water) and leave the vessel somewhere dark to ferment for the next 5 weeks.
But this doesn’t mean you should forget all about it for the next few weeks. For the best possible results, you should keep an eye on how things are progressing.
In fact, a few hours after pitching the yeast you should already start to see tiny little bubbles forming in the brew that will pass through the airlock, which is a sign that the fermentation process is already working.
If, as I recommended, you were able to source a cultivated yeast that came complete with a nutrient, the fermentation process will only take between 7 and 10 days, depending on the ambient conditions, such as temperature and lack of light.
When the mixture stops producing bubbles, the dead yeast will gradually sink to the bottom of the vessel, along with other particles, to form a pale brown layer at the bottom called trub.
Then the vessel contents will gradually change from a murky brown to a delightful honey-colored mead.
Technically, you could try drinking the lead at this point. However, the flavor won’t be at its best at this stage, and it will taste pretty fiery, much like cheap vodka or whiskey.
Instead, I would recommend that you siphon off the mead into the glass bottles, and store them away for at least another month somewhere cool and dark to further mature.
Once left bottled for a month to mature, you will notice that the flavor has mellowed somewhat and become more palatable.
And any yeast left remaining and any particulate matter will have sunk to the bottom of the bottles.
Step 7: Bottling
Because of the way that siphons work, using gravity to move the mixture from one spot to another, the fermentor needs to be kept higher up than the glass bottles.
Before bottling the mixture, I recommend moving the vessel from its resting place and placing it on a countertop overnight.
This way, any residue that has been disturbed will settle down at the bottom of the vessel.
However, the mixture still needs to be protected from the light, so I would recommend wrapping the vessel with a towel to prevent exposure. (Exposure to light can bring about off-flavors.)
Always wash and sanitize both your bottles and your auto-siphon before bottling, as per the instructions on the no-rinse sanitizer packet.
Then leave the bottles to drain by having them stand upside down on a clean tea towel for a few minutes until the sanitizer has fully drained out.
I recommend placing the bottles in a large saucepan on the floor, with the siphon stretching down from the fermenter to the bottles.
Now, you can remove both the airlock and the bung and lower the auto-siphon in until it’s about an inch or two above the layer of trub that I mentioned earlier.
You can keep the siphon in place with either a clean plastic clothes peg or a bulldog clip.
As the level of mead in the fermentor starts to come down, you can lower the end of the auto-siphon down, so long as you don’t disturb the trub at the bottom where there’s a residue of yeast.
(After all the bottling, there will still be two to 3 centimeters of trub in the fermenting vessel.)
Meanwhile, the other end of the siphon should be placed into your first glass bottle until it touches the bottom, and pump the auto-siphon a couple of times to get the mead flowing from the fermenter to the bottle.
And because the siphon is going all the way to the bottom, you don’t have to worry about any unwanted splashing.
Once the mead is about level with the top, pinch the tube closed and move on to the next bottle, and continue until all your bottles are full.
Cap all the glass bottles and leave them to mature in a cool, dark place for at least a month.
Step 8: Drink And Be Merry!
Once your 12 bottles of mead have been left to mature for a month, it’s ready and poised for you to go ahead and enjoy!
If you’ve followed this recipe exactly, this Viking mead has a stronger ABV than regular wine, coming in at about 15%, so please drink responsibly and avoid a Viking style hangover!
So, there we have it, the perfect Viking mead recipe that you can easily make at home.
And after the initial cost for all the equipment you need, it’s a very affordable drink that you can make and enjoy over and over!