Brewers Publications, Boulder, CO
Soft cover, $19.95, 212 pp.
A necessary text for the experienced as well as the very-first-time amateur, The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm both humbles the reader and inspires awe. It is both comprehensive and comprehensible in all areas important to the mead maker.
Schramm encourages all levels of expertise, constantly reassuring the beginner of the ease of making mead while simultaneously tempting even the most experienced mead maker with the potentials awaiting those wishing to spend a little more time and care on the craft.
The book starts with well-researched and documented details of many of mankind’s most cherished beverages. The author explains the importance of mead and other potables in shaping human history and culture.
He gives us information on how to achieve the highest quality possible in mead, exploring the ingredients and their raw materials in depth. For instance, we learn about honey, mead’s essential ingredient; about various bees that collect honey, their life-cycle, and the multiple roles they play in their symbiotic relationship with humans. Schramm explains the different qualities and kinds of honey available in tabular form with information on various components such as sugar, acid, ash, and nitrogen. He uses text to describe the qualities less easily defined in percentage and weight and what characteristics they impart to the brew.
The author covers the basics of mead making—the importance of sanitation, the life cycle of the yeast as it metabolizes sugars to alcohol, bottling issues, and how to troubleshoot off-tasting meads, to name a few.
Schramm encourages both beginner and expert to create artistically with the many ingredients provided by nature, explaining the effects of different ingredients on the finished product. A nice cross-section of yeasts favorable to mead fermentation is listed along with the characteristics and likely outcomes associated with each choice.
Having digested the foundation of mead making, readers are then are schooled in some of the variations of mead, including melomels (fruit-integrated meads), pyment (created using grapes), metheglins (spiced meads), and braggot (created with malt and hops).
One especially delightful chapter gives a view to what can be accomplished. Included are some functional but simple recipes, along with more complex recipes for spiced meads, fruited meads, graped meads, and grained and hopped meads. We are encouraged to try these variations by the author’s whimsical and entertaining titles as well as brief but enticing descriptions of the delicious results that await us if our mission is successfully accomplished.
Schramm concludes by giving some suggestions on how to serve these creations of flavor and character—both to share the pleasure with others and to re-popularize this grand drink of history and fable.