Thursday, 10 June 2010

Merkato Ethopian Mead

So as my 40th birthday grows ever closer, I’ve planned a grand adventure to Egypt, to search out the sun temples, the lost city of Ra, and for the solstice itself (my birthday) the Great Pyramid.

As a parting gift my colleagues and I went to Merkato, on Caledonian Road, about ½ mile north of Addis, for a feast of injura and (in my case) various spicy lamb dishes.

The food was more interesting than Addis, but perhaps not to the same quality as from the Zigni House, although they have now dramatically changed their menu so not sure if that still holds to be true.

The ambiance was more of a friendly café than the almost clinical Addis, with their surly staff, so given the choice I’d heartedly recommend the extra walk. And then to the mead, which somewhat disappointedly came in a standard wine bottle, rather than the bulbous jar, Zigni served their mead in.

The mead was home made, and looked and smelt like a rough scrumpy. A cloudy yellow with an acidic smell, the first sip had a bite to it. A sip or two later and the faint sweetness of honey emerged but this is a seriously bitter mead.

I had intended to take some of the bottle home for further tasting but I seem to have drunk it in one, so I’m not sure my memories are entirely accurate. As an unlabelled mead, I’ve no idea how strong it was, and as a birthday gift I can’t recall the price.

But all in all a interesting, but bitter, experience, and perhaps the shadow of Egyptian delights to come.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A Long Weekend of Mead

So its been a while since I blogged and after demolishing a bottle of Eglantine mead on Saturday, and a recent debate about crediting peoples works ref the history of Ethiopia, I thought I’d pontificate on a trip to Lurgashall home of my (still favoured) mead.

Then I may open a bottle of something completely different.

So I’d bought a pretty expensive bottle of Lurgashall English mead at the Hive, and I’d suggested to my sister in passing that one day we visit the meadery in the wilds of West Sussex. Over time she became keener on the idea than me, mainly I think as an excuse to bimble around southern England.

I was half thinking that we might end up at middle farm afterwards for a truly excessive mead shopping expedition. In hindsight this may have made things a tad too expensive.

So Lurgashall is a long way from most places, in the posh bit of Sussex near the Surrey border. On a drizzly day we expected the place to be deserted but must have timed our visit to hit rush hour, as there were like people there.

After several tastes, I bought the lot. Well one of each, at a price less than the hive. Oh and a bought some more of the dry as I think I’m developing a taste for more of the dryer meads. The set looked like this:
Christmas Mead
Spiced Honey Mead
Dry Honey Mead
Reserve Honey Mead
English Honey Mead

And I thought there was a Whiskey mead, but maybe I dreamt that bit.

I also bought some of the most delicious Gospel Green cider and my sister acquired some of Old Tom’s tipple (whatever the hell that is)

We demolished a bottle of the Dry that night with my dad and his partner, but I think I may save the review / notes for a different occasion. For now I’m off to the Oakdale….

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Eglantine Mead

So the dullest looking mead in my wine rack, with a plain label, a quiet yellow hue and not much to say about itself. It’s been lurking there since a trip through Melton Mowbray last year, and I’ve not been inspired to drink it since.

So I visited a friend for the wont of anything to do, and over a few games we drank the mead. Well I drank most of it, and his girlfriend had a wee tipple before rushing off to work at the Underworld.

After a fairly good game of Race for the Galaxy, followed by a more in depth fantasy battle games (who’s name escapes me), a few too many sausages and quite a lot of cider I’m not sure how well I’m qualified to report back. I scribbled some notes:
Sweet, bit of a bite – almost reminiscent of a melomel
Quite a nice after taste – flavourful but not unpleasant
I appear to have a mead soaked moustache

Bitter scent, with quite a smooth sip. Quite a heady drink. Perhaps a bit sweet, and what a dull looking bottle.

So there you have it.

Ok in the search for something else to say I had a look at their website, and a few other references. This is the bit I liked:
And why "Eglantine"?.
We wanted a name which immediately evokes the best of the English countryside. This is the name of the smallest of the wild English roses found growing along the hedgerows in some parts of the countryside and flowering in late Spring and early Summer.

But in my searches I found the anglo-saxon foundation site reviewing mead, and more intriguingly another reference to Eglantine roses and mead.

The Rabbit foot meadery has been hard at work reconstructing a period recipe:
A recipe for Metheglin, a spiced mead, comes from the Closet of Sir Kenholme Digby (see bibliography )

'Take of spring water what quantity you please, and make it more than blood-warm, and dissolve honey in it till 'tis strong enough to bear an egg, the breadth of a shilling; then boil it gently near an hour, taking off the scum as it rises; then put to about nine or ten gallons, seven or eight large blades of mace, three nutmegs quartered, twenty cloves, three or four sticks of cinnamon, two or three roots of ginger, and a quarter of an ounce of Jamaica pepper; put these spices into the kettle to the honey and water, a whole lemon, with a sprig of sweet- briar and a sprig of rosemary; tie the briar and rosemary together, and when they have boiled a little while take them out and throw them away; but let your liquor stand on the spice in a clean earthen pot till the next day; then strain it into a vessel that is fit for it; put the spice in a bag, and hang it in the vessel, stop it, and at three months draw it into bottles. Be sure that 'tis fine when 'tis bottled; after 'tis bottled six weeks 'tis fit to drink.'

Spices etc.
The spices used in the recipe were common of the time and are all available today with the possible exception of Sweet Briar. One would assume that this is possibly no more than a young shoot of blackberry briar (Rubus Rosaceae) common all over Europe with similar varieties found in the US and Canada. This shoot has been know to have medicinal properties as well as a slightly astringent quality. It may also be a reference to 'rosa eglanteria' - the eglantine rose, whose young leaves smell strongly of green apples. If you can't find them you could get the same taste from Russet or Granny Smith Apple peelings.

So perhaps more by luck that judgment the Eglantine mead has tapped into an older tradition of making mead than they might imagine.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Ye Olde Cornish Mead Wine

And a toast to the joys of feeding cats.

So a gift / reward / palovian incentive for feeding my friends / work mates pets in the form of 2 bottles of Mead, one big (75cl) and one small(37.5cl)

So a golden bottle with a screw tap lid and a legend reading:
Ye Olde Cornish Mead. The honeymoon drink. British produce

Clearly aimed at some sort of tourist market

A very dark coloured mead, almost like burnt sugar with a bizarre sweet smell, maybe even that of a sweet tea (or that’s the colour playing tricks on my mind). Perhaps a chemically confectionary smell?

The first sip is not as sweet as the smell, but has that odd chemical tange, and a slightly cloying after taste.

The website suggests what’s wrong here, the art of making mead doesn’t normally use a wine stock – philistines
Cornish Mead Wine. Combining a grape wine base with a
smooth honey flavour gives Cornish mead its distinctive taste.
Cornish mead is avalible in two strengths -
Cornish Mead Wine @ 15% ABV and
Cornish Liqueur mead @ 17 % ABV.

A couple of sips later it’s more palatable, but not great. It’s some while since I started with Harvest Gold but this isn’t much better / different. Perhaps another mead to try hot on a winters day.

Sorry Rachael

Friday, 2 April 2010

Aengus MacLeod Met

Ah Easter, seems like a plausible excuse to crack open a bottle of the sweet stuff, while listening to some classic Eurythmics.

This bottle has been gathering dust since last years Witchfest, and is brewed by that famous German Scot Aengus (well of course it is)

A bulbous bottle and a stopped cork lid implies I don’t need to drink all of this in one sitting, well we’ll see about that. I’m also looking forward to contrasting the taste with his 3 year aged version, so perhaps I’ll do both this weekend.

To an extent this German Mead might present the missing link between the Meads of the Celtic World (Brittany, Wales, Scotland, England) and the East (Poland. Lithuania) so although I’ve tasted this before, I’ve not done so with so many weird ideas in my head.

The scent is sweet with a spike, maybe a hint of a melomel, the mead is a rich but slightly pale gold, and the first sip is quite a crisp sweet bite. There is a hint of something else here almost a white wine taste, so I do wonder.

A surprising easy drink to perhaps guzzle, or simply a reflection of the mood I’m in. There’s an almost burnt aroma to the glass now, and the sweetness is quite subdued compare to more mundane mead.

Perhaps this is the secret of a particularity palatable mead, that to some extent the sweetness is hidden, or subdued enough that there other flavours come through. All in all though this bodes for a pleasant evening.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Melionnec Chouchenn (£2.50, 75cl, 13.5%)

My second visit to a Chouchen, and this time a much more elegant look, in a delightful bottle sealed with Celtic spirals and a host of intriguing text that reads thus:
ChouchennCuvee artisanale tradition
La Ruche Celtique
Societe coop d’apiculteurs de Bretagne, 22110 Melionnec
Hydromel Bretton
Boissopn celte d’apertif et de table
Gibier, crepes
Elabore par Joel Catherine, Apiculteur a Korneg

Les Chouchenn
La Ruche Celtique
De la boisson sacree des Druides a la boisson favourite des Fest Deis at Fest nos d’aujourd’hui le chouchenn a toujours ete present dans la culture celte
Le Chouchenn Traditionl de la Ruche celtique eleve de maniere artisanale est une boisson orginale a server tres frais en accompagnement de plats cuisines de viands, poissions et desserts. Il peut etre egalement servi en cocktail d’apertif avec des crèmes de fruits (mure, peche…etc)

This is clearly a mead produced by someone proud of their bee keeping and their Celtic heritage, there’s even a suggestion that there is a bee keeping society involved. Babel fish translates the back text as:

Chouchenn The Celtic Hive Drink sacree of the Druids to the drink favourite of Fest Deis At Fest our of today the chouchenn was always present in the Celtic culture Chouchenn Traditionl of the Celtic Hive high in an artisanal way is a drink orginale has very fresh server in accompaniment of dishes kitchens of viands, pitched and desserts. It can be also been used in cocktail of apertif with creams as fruits (, sinned… etc walls)

So there’s a suggestion of mixing mead with fruit juice, or perhaps something creamy, which probably needs clarifying before experimenting.

The scent is distinctive and reminiscent of the last bottle of Chouchen, sweet but not as sweet as most English meads, with an acidic undercurrent. Not quite vinegar but maybe a hint.

The mead is clear and deep gold, the first taste is sweet but again with subtle undertones, and a bit of an aftertaste, maybe a hint of heartburn but still very pleasant. There’s also dryness here and I suspect if I finish the bottle in one sitting as is my intention I’ll be not only drunk but parched too.

There’s almost a sparkle and the flavor is getting richer. I wonder if someone has ever produced sparkling mead? Anyhow this one has a lot of flavor and the rest of the evening looks set.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

An unlikely occurrence of Mead

A somewhat strange occurance last night at my favourite local.

After a successful meeting in Mabels Tavern, which (to a degree) represented the culmination of a years worth of conspiring to set up a new Peace & Disarmament network. A wee bit merry and by random chance I suggested getting together at the Oakdale for a few more beers.

The Oakdale is a strange pub. It’s a back street local but a most peculiar one. They do agood beer from the Milton brewery, a fine range of malt whiskeys and as I discovered a range of meads.

Also the landlord also is one of the tallest Goths I’ve met, and used to (I think) organise ‘synthetic culture’ back in the day. Of late the pub has installed great big aquariums full of Lizards, and on occasion the landlord encourages them to sit on patrons, which is kind of surreal. The juke box is full of old goth classics, and in case you can’t tell I like it here.

Anyhow last night I bought a beer, settled down for a drink and a chat. The bar tender then turned up with a couple of shot glasses as a free gift (you see it is dead nice here). Somewhat confused I looked at them, wondering what and why. My friend started to question if they were a mead, they were, and a familiar sweet smell suggested something strange.

The bar tender pointed out they weren’t shots but glasses of mead. My mind boggled as my friend suggested I was the biggest mead geek in history. I explained about this site and the bartender described the range of Moniack (a Cornish mead??), Gales and I think others.

The mead he’d donated to us was the Monaick and recognizable as such, after all I have drunk a fair amount of the stuff at various Witchfests.

But still completely surreal. My local real ale come Goth pub donating shots of mead on a Friday night. What great start to the weekend, and perhaps the Mead revival is not inconceivable.

Next time I’ll order a pint.