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Boysenberry Mead

Log Notes and Documentation

Submitted: Caid Brewers Guild Interkingdom Brewing Contest, GWW VIII (10/9/04)
By: Journeyman Lynnette de Sandoval del Valle de los Unicornios

The Recipe

Boysenberry Syrup:
    3 12oz packages frozen boysenberries
    2 quarts water
    7 cups white sugar
    6 tablespoons potato flour (I used French’s Idaho Spuds, powdered in blender)
    32 oz AlphaBeta Pure Apple Cider

Mash the berries (reserve 2 cups for yeast starter), add water and boil for 5 minutes. Strain to remove seeds. Add sugar. Return to a boil. Stir in potato flour. Return to a boil stirring continuously. Add apple juice. Return to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

Yeast Starter:
    2 cups boysenberry pulp
    2 cups sugar
    1 package Montrachet yeast

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Main Recipe:
    3 lbs honey
    4 quarts water
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    12 whole cloves
    10 whole allspice peppercorns

Add the honey to the slowly boiling water. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Add boysenberry syrup, let cool. Put spices into a 5 gallon bottle. When the liquid has cooled add that to the spices. Cap and store.

When the yeast starter is fermenting well, add that to the 5 gallon bottle.

Yields approx 2 ½ gallons.

Log Notes

    February 1, 1987: Created as per the recipe above.
    February 3, 1987: Yeast starter going strong, combined with the maim bottle.
    Sadly, I kept no log notes after that. It was bottled in due course, and the bottle offered up here has been in storage since.


Mead is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as “An alcoholic liquor made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water: also called metheglin.”

The OED lists the first usage of the word as (in translation) 448 AD as the name used by the Hunnish court for the drink that took the place of wine.

Honey wine has been found in King Midas’ (700BC) tomb, is mentioned in Beowolf (~8th century), as well as the writings of Homer (~700BC ?), Pliny (~77 AD), Plutarch (~100AD), Chaucer (1400), Shakespeare (1564-1616) to name just a few.

Mead’s simplicity – watered honey and yeast – made it a favorite of many culture. In many areas and times it was probably the first alcoholic beverage the culture discovered, with fruit and grain alcohols coming after cultivation was achieved.

Unable to leave a simple thing alone, over the years many variations of mead names have developed, each with it’s own name. This mead is a Metheglin (spiced mead) and Cyser (mead with apple cider).

History: The recipe

The recipe I’ve used is based on a friend’s family recipe. A somewhat similar recipe can be found in Kenelme Digbie’s cookbook (1669), it’s a honey wine with cinnamon, and raspberries (raspes).

Metheglin for Taste and Colour
Must be boiled as the other, if you intend to keep it above half a year; but less according to the time, wherein you mean to use it. You must put in no Herbs, to avoid bitterness and discolouring ; and the proportion of water and honey more or less, as you would drink it sooner or later ; (as a Gallon of honey to 4, 5, or 6 of water.) If to be weak, and to be soon drunk, you must when it is tunned, put in Tost of bread (hard tosted) upon which half a score drops of spirit of yest or barm is dropped ; for want of it, spread it with purest barm beaten with a few drops of Oyl of Cinnamon. If you intend to give it the taste of Raspes, then add more barm, to make it work well, and during that time of working, put in your Raspes (or their Syrup) but the fruit gives a delicate Colour, and Syrup a duller Tincture. Drink not that made after the first manner, till six moneths, and it will endure drawing better then wine; but Bottleled, it is more spirited than any drink.

History: The ingredients

Apples: If the bible is to be believed, apples are the oldest known fruit. A 4th century AD Roman writer described 37 different apple varieties. It is thought that the Romans brought apple cultivation to England in the 1st century BC. The apple cider in this recipe is used for its sugar and its taste.

Boysenberry: The boysenberry is a cross between a loganberry, red raspberry, and blackberry. It was developed by Rudolph Boysen in the early 1920s, and first commercially cultivated by Walter Knott. Although not period, two of its parents – the blackberry and raspberry – were cultivated and used in Medieval Europe.

Honey: Like apples, honey is mentioned in the bible. It’s the world’s first sweetener and was the only sweetener available to all but the richest Medieval European. As the mead history above shows, honey has a long history in fermented beverages.

Potato flour: The Spanish conquistadors brought white potatoes to Europe approx 1570. The potato saw very limited European use before 1600. Potato flour, while a popular cooking agent in Europe, would not have been in use during the Middle Ages. In this recipe, the potato flour slowly converts to sugar, providing the yeast a continuing supply of sugar, thus lengthening the fermenting process. The lengthened fermentation helps increase the absorption of fruit taste.

    Allspice: Columbus brought allspice back from the West Indies in 1494; the spice was not much used in the Europe during the Middle Ages.
    Cinnamon: Cinnamon was a well known, although high priced spice in Medieval Europe.
    Cloves: Cloves were introduced to Europe during the early Middle Ages and became much prized and a much sought after spice.

Sugar: Cane sugar was imported into Europe from India. The Arabs had brought sugar cane cultivation to Southern Europe during 8th century AD, but it didn’t move to the rest of Europe until late in the Middle Ages. Medieval European sugar was processed by the Sugar Bakers to remove the molasses and achieve a white processed sugar.

Yeast: Yeast also has a long history. The ancient Egyptians are credited as the first people to make yeast leavened bread. They used pieces of that bread to provide the fermenting agent in their beers. In medieval Europe barm (scum from the top of fermenting ale) was used as the home cook’s and brewer’s yeast source. By 1655 they were using brewing yeast in a dry powdered form.


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