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Homebrew #91: Evil Clone (Mk. V)

by Rob Friesel

Since moving to Seattle, one of the (many) Vermont things that I miss is constant access to the craft meads of Groennfell and Havoc. And while there will always be the specialest of special places in my heart for Valkyrie’s, when we really break it down, Root of All Evil has always been our go-to. Which is probably why I made my own clone twist on it four times.1234 It’s also why it’s (one of) the first meads I made since moving out here.

Evil Clone (Mk. V) is a ginger mead in a handsome glass tankard

Brew Day

Shorty short version: before I went back to work, making a batch of mead was one my list of things to do. So after getting that first beer brewed, I set aside a morning to bang out a pair of musts.

Given how the Mk. IV batch went, this felt like an easy way to get 5 gallons of sessionable, spicy craft mead flowing in our house.

  1. 90ºF Seattle water heated and prepped
  2. 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP into the sanitized carboy
  3. Run off 2 gallons of water into the carboy
  4. Add 6 lb. of wildflower honey
  5. Top off to 5.1 gallons
  6. Wine whip to homogenize
  7. Pull a sample for gravity (1.044 — more/less nailed it)
  8. Wait a bit for it to cool
  9. Rehydrate 2 sachets of D-47 in 250 ml water with 12.5 g of Go-Ferm
  10. Pitch and aerate and seal it up

Who doesn’t love a brew day that simple?

Evil Clone (Mk. V)

Fermentation

So… with all my reading and study for the BJCP Mead Judge exam, I’d become convinced (again?) to use staggered nutrient additions instead of just the big ol’ 2 oz. undifferentiated nutrient dump at the beginning. So that’s what I did:

  1. The 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP on brew day
  2. At +24 hours: de-gas and add another 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP
  3. At +48 hours: vide supra
  4. At +72 hours: vide supra

But here’s the thing… Either D-47 hates me, or hates Seattle, or is just a lazy yeast because things took forever after that. Around +118 hours, the gravity plateaued at 1.015 for a couple days before continuing to drop … albeit very slowly.

I hit it with a little more DAP, and a little more Fermaid-K, and gently agitated the vessel to try and rouse the yeast. Activity in the airlock never ceased5 but gravity just … floated like a feather.

Finally, around +474 hours, I added the much-needed flavor agents: the juice of 5 limes, and about 60 g of Morton & Bassett powdered ginger.

A Brief Aside About the Ginger

In my previous iterations of this recipe, I used either all fresh ginger, or some combination of fresh ginger and powdered.

Quick aside to the aside: the open source recipe calls for powdered, but I always thought fresh would be better. (After all, I’m already swapping lime juice in for lemon!) But given the ginger flavor I was after, I always felt like the fresh ginger didn’t quite get us there. (Plus it’s a pain in the ass to work with.) So in 3 of those 4 previous iterations, I would supplement the fresh ginger with powdered “to taste” after the fact.

But I’m a man after simplicity, and I started to wonder if I could get away with “just” using the powdered stuff. So I started researching fresh vs. powdered ginger and LO AND BEHOLD there are some real actual differences.

Alas! In an uncharacteristic move for me, I didn’t jot down all of my sources, but the TL;DR reads something like this:

  1. The process of converting fresh ginger to powdered is a form of cooking
  2. That “cooking” does chemically change some of the compounds in the ginger, producing different aromatics and flavors
  3. Given #2, there isn’t a “direct” conversion of fresh to powdered
  4. But if you had to, 14.3 g of fresh is roughly equivalent to 1.2 g of ground

Armed with that information, I went back over my notes for my four previous batches. Here’s what I came up with:

Batch Actual Fresh (g/gal) Actual Ground (g/gal) Equivalent All Fresh (g/gal) Equivalent All Ground (g/gal)
Mk. I 19.8 10.0 139.0 11.7
Mk. II 56.7 0 56.7 4.8
Mk. III 31.2 5 90.8 7.6
Mk. IV 56.7 5 116.3 9.8

Note that Mk. I was likely the most gingery, and received a 41.5 in competition. Granted — this is putting aside the fresh/powder ratio, and just focusing on the powder aspect because the latter is where most of the spicy heat is supposed to come from and that’s what we want in this house.

So with those numbers worked out, I bought a single vial of Morton & Bassett powdered ginger because that there is 60 g and gets us just slightly above the presumptive levels from the Mk. I batch.

Science!

Back to the Fermentation and Conditioning

A little over a full month after pitching, the mead seemed to finally reach its terminal gravity. An in-band but slightly disappointing 1.001. (Aside: I’ll probably never use D-47 again. Especially given that US-05 seems to get the job done fine, despite its own tendency to have slow starts.)

From there? Get it in a keg, burst carbonate it to approx. 2.3 volumes, and let it condition a couple days.

Overall Impressions

Not my all-time favorite batch — but it’s fine. And it gives us the mead we were after for everyday drinking.

Evil Clone (Mk. V)

AROMA. Moderately strong spicy note; distinctly ginger. No significant honey aromatics — unless you count the subtle floral note in the background. Faint sulfur note; almost soapy?

APPEARANCE. Pale; straw color. Mostly clear; very slight haze. Pours with a tall white crown of loose foam. This does not persist, and quickly collapses into a thin cordon of thin white bubbles. Enough visible carbonation that it’s easily sparkling.

FLAVOR. Strong spicy ginger dominates. Light citrus note of lime. Almost no honey character to speak of; light floral notes retronasally, but the dry finish leaves no significant residual sweetness, and thus no significant honey. (And/or the ginger is totally bulldozing it.) Spicy character lingers long into the aftertaste. Moderate acidity. Low (but detectable) tannins.

MOUTHFEEL. Light body. Spritzy carbonation with a nice bite. Spicy ginger character brings a bite of its own. Moderate acidity. Again: low (but detectable) tannins. tbh It’s all spice.

OVERALL IMPRESSION. The aspiring BJCP Mead Judge in me would probably be wringing his hands something fierce here. The lack of honey character ought to be a red flag but given that it has such a dry finish, and is such a low-O.G. mead to begin with, and that it features such a strong spice character… You want to say “out of balance” and/or “needs more structure” BUT it’s also so damned enjoyable to drink. Aggressive ginger character and everything. Whatever — it doesn’t have to “score well” to be a damned enjoyable beverage. And this is (more or less) the mead I set out to make.

Changes for next time?

First — I’m going back to US-05 for these meads. I might (MIGHT!) experiment with Belle Saison at some point, just to see. But D-47 just took so long to finish that it was almost silly.

Second — Consider going back to the simple big charge of nutrients at the beginning. I understand the rationale for doing the staggered additions, but when I look back over my own scoresheets and tasting notes… I’m not seeing any significant differences. Not in scores. Not in taste preference. Not in fermentation time. Not in finishing gravity. And a man after simplicity, in the absence of counterfactuals, is probably just going to do the easy thing.

Third — Fresher honey?6 For better residual honey flavor?7 Probably no varietals though.8

Fourth — NOT a change: but I think I’ll stick with the powdered stuff from now on. I might (MIGHT!) cut it back slightly though — it’s more/less at the level that I like it, but that doesn’t mean it’ll resonate with all comers.

Recipe

The recipe for Evil Clone (Mk. V) is as follows:

Water Chemistry

Starting with the Seattle City Water profile as a base, collect it by carbon filtration.

Fermentables

6 lb. wildflower honey

Flavor Agents

  • 12 g/gal. ginger powder (Morton & Bassett)
  • juice of 1 lime per gallon

Yeast

2 sachets (5 g ea.) Lalvin D-47; rehydrate with Go-Ferm nutrients.

Brew Day

  1. Collect 20 qt. water and heat to 90ºF. Add 2 gal. to fermentation vessel. Add 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP to fermentation vessel. Stir to mix until dissolved.
  2. Add 6 lb. of wildflower honey to fermentation vessel. Stir to mix until dissolved. Top up to 5.1 gallons and stir to homogenize.
  3. Allow must to cool to pitching temperatures.
  4. Rehydrate 2 sachets (10 g) of D-47 in 250 ml water with 12.5 g of Go-Ferm. Pitch and aerate must.
  5. Start fermentation in the mid-60s ºF.

Beyond Brew Day

  1. At +24 hours (post-pitch), de-gas must and add 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP.
  2. At +48 hours (post-pitch), de-gas must and add 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP.
  3. At +72 hours (post-pitch), de-gas must and add 0.8 g Fermaid-K + 1.6 g DAP.
  4. When mead is within 20% of expected attenuation, add juice of 1 lime per gallon and gently stir in 12 g/gal. powdered ginger.
  5. Allow fermentation to complete. Allow mead to condition at least another week.
  6. Force carbonate to approx. 2.3 columes.
  7. Enjoy!

Details

Evil Clone (Mk. V), a ginger mead by Tilde Gravitywerks

Original Gravity 1.044
Final Gravity 1.001
ABV 5.6%
Attenuation 97.7%
Links Flickr
  1. Evil Clone! []
  2. Evil Clone (Mk. II)! []
  3. Evil Clone (Mk. III)! []
  4. Evil Clone (Mk. IV)! []
  5. Spare me the lecture about whether or not that is a decent indicator. []
  6. CONFESSION! I’d purchased 3 × 3 lb. containers of honey before we left Vermont and didn’t have time to make (well more like “to make and consume”) the mead before we moved. And/but/so these 3 containers survived the move out here. But I wonder if their time in transit and storage… did them a disservice? []
  7. Not that I want a lot of residual honey flavor in this formulation. Just that maybe a little might be nice. []
  8. Unless I can think of a honey varietal that pairs well with the ginger and can stand up to it. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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