experimental beers with a botanical twist

Sassafras, Cinnamon and Spicebush Metheglin

I didn’t date this, but I made it sometime back around 2002, I think. A metheglin (accent on second syllable) is a spiced honey wine (mead). Spicebush tastes very much like allspice, which could in fact be substituted here.

DIRECTIONS FOR ONE GALLON BATCH

Cinnamomum verum
Cinnamomum verum

Clean all equipment in hot tap water. Make two infusions of 1 1/2 qts. each. Infusion #1: two cups cinnamon bark, a dozen spicebush berries and a large handful or unpacked pint of dried spicebush leaves. Infusion #2: large handful of sassafras roots (equivalent of 4-6 teabags, if you can find them). After several hours of steeping, combine the teas and add 2 lbs. wildflower honey (basswood if you can get it!), or three lbs. for a stronger drink, dissolved in a quart of hot water (between 100 and 150 degrees F). Add 1 tsp. yeast nutrient: this typically means ammonium phosphate, but you can also use yeast hulls for a more organic mead. Or you can leave it out all together, and simply let the metheglin mature a year longer.

The next day, add yeast (dry wine, mead or ale yeast revived in quarter cup of sterilized water for ten minutes. I used Pasteur Champagne yeast with unexpectedly good results–it didn’t come out overly dry).

Rack off sediment once a month for several months, then just let the stuff age for a while and forget about it. The longer the better. (I don’t think mead sediments lend the off-tastes that wine makers always obsess about. In fact, given the anti-microbial properties of honey, perhaps they have an additional preservative effect? I’ve noticed that only that part of the mazing literature written by & for vintners stresses the need to keep racking. Most of the homebrewing crowd don’t seem to bother with their mead after the third or fourth racking, so that’s the practice I follow.)

A very festive drink. Would probably be excellent heated like sake, if you’re into that.



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