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Wine with Natasha – Prologue

A bright & sunny vineyard with ripe red wine grapes. Under the grapes there is text saying "Learning Wine Season 2020."

Introduction

It’s wine time and I work in one of the world’s most amazing wine supply shops in one of the world’s most amazing wine regions. I enjoy wine. So, reasonably, people think I have extensive knowledge of making wine. They assume I make great wine. And they are, sadly, not totally correct. I’ve only attempted to make wine once so far, and I am not confident that wine will be good, much less great. 

I don’t really know how to make wine. Yet.

Last Year

My only experience making wine came last year, when I lucked into enough grapes to make about three gallons of a Malbec and Cabernet Franc blend. I carefully punched down the skins twice a day for ten days, then racked it into a three-gallon glass carboy, and then sat back to wait for the next step. I was pretty sure the next step was malolactic fermentation (“MLF”), but I didn’t know for sure and I didn’t know when to start it if that was the next step.

Then my life got rather topsy-turvy, and in all honesty I didn’t think about that wine again until about January of this year. And our expert, Tom, told me to rack it into a new carboy, sulfite it  and not expect too much. I followed his directions, and (as one always should) I sampled the wine as I moved it.

It isn’t vinegar*. I think that’s the best thing I can say about what I made. I currently have not quite three gallons of flabby, insipid, alcoholic grape juice. Some of this, undoubtedly, is that Cabernet blends require a substantial amount of aging**. But no doubt some is the result of my forgetting the wine for months. (I still haven’t managed the MLF.) Finally, I also think some of that is that I didn’t so much choose a yeast basically because the person who gave me a few grapes shrugged and said, “Use this one,” handed it to me, and wandered off. (I used Red Star Premier Classique.)

Three wine glasses on a stark white backround. The middle is on its side and has red wine gently lying in the bowl of the glass. It is not spilled. The image says "Goals!" in handwriting.

This Year

This year, I’m going to do it differently. This year, I’m going to do it intentionally. This year, I’m doing some research (mostly picking Tom’s brain and reading the things he writes and our copies, new and old, of Wine Maker Magazine) before I buy grapes or juice. Then more research as I work and things ferment. (Tom will be fielding questions from me for months, and I’ll be reading Wine Maker Magazine or the various books we carry) And this year, I’ll document the technique(s) here on the F.H.S. blog. Hopefully this year will be a great deal better.

But I’ll be learning publicly, and so any successes or trip-ups will be documented here.

Socially Distant Together?

I’ll announce the grapes I’m buying next week. I’ll post If anyone wants to do a ferment-a-long, comment here. Anyone who wants to do so is welcome, newbies and experts alike. And it’d be fun, I think, to hear how others’ fermenting is going. Maybe we can build a little wine community and stay safely socially distant. (Thanks 2020.)

Join or not, I hope you’ll follow along. If you have comments, feel free to share them. Or let us know your thoughts on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

*This is of extra concern for me because my favorite thing to make is actually vinegar.

**I did not know this when I started this project.

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Drop Acid? Raise Acid? Only Testing Can Tell You.

Acid Test Kit, including sodium hydroxide, for testing acidity of wine

Tom is all over this blog right now, as it is absolutely time to talk wine all the time. In this piece, he gives the best tips on how to use an acid test kit and why you absolutely should use one.

The first time I made wine was in 1970 when our very old plum tree put out 12 bushels of ripe fruit.  The previous year had been just as productive and everyone in the family was tired of canned plums and jam. Dad suggested I make wine, as I was the only one in the family who liked wine much. Figuring I might as well, I hit a store called WineArt Oregon on Broadway Blvd. Ann McCullum, the proprietor, insisted I get a hydrometer, air lock, carboy, yeast, acid blend and (importantly) an acid testing kit.  She instructed me this kit was the best way to make sure the acidity in my wine was balanced and flavor enhancing.

I have used an acid test kit regularly since.

Why Acid Matters

Acidity is what gives wine the wonderful, refreshing flavor that makes us desire another glass.  Without acid wine is flat and insipid.  Furthermore, without acidity, wine will not keep as well. The acid level that is required is about 0.5% or higher.  You will need at least 0.6% and above for a good crisp white wine and even more about 0.75% for sweetened dessert wines. All wines run a high risk of spoilage from bacterial contamination. Acidity is key to reducing contamination risk. Finally, if you are considering malolactic fermentation (“MLF”) for your wine, you will need to know the total acidity (“TA”) of your wine. Otherwise you might have too much acid for the malolactic cultures to survive, or so little acid that the cultures strip away the very acid you need.

How do we know just how high or low our wine’s acid is?  By testing it.  Remember, sugar masks acid very well so just tasting the fruit, juice, or must we have will fool us, because they will be at least 20% sugar.

Tips for Acid Testing

The acid test kit we carry is a color change titration type test.  A titration test works roughly in the same way as the iconic “science fair project” volcano; it uses the reaction that ensues when combining acidic and alkaline ingredients, but for decision making instead of volcanic activity. So, when the sodium hydroxide (“NaOH”) from the kit is carefully added to wine, juice, or must in specified amounts a color change happens. When the color becomes either magenta or green (depending on wine type) we are done. The kit itself has very good instructions so I will not go into any further detail.  However, there are a few tips for best practices I would like to pass along, based on my years of experience.

First, make sure your base is fresh for the season.  Replace it with the like kind solution that came with the kit. (Our kits use a .01N NaOH solution.) If the solution is stale, your reading will be way off. The results aren’t pretty. I made a wine once that had over 1.5% acid when I thought it had 0.72% acid. I didn’t catch myself as I kept adding acid blend until I thought, “this just can’t be right” then it was too late. There was no way for me to save it. I had to dump it.

Even when you’ve got totally fresh reagents for your kit, bear in mind that it’s very easy to overshoot the color changes you’re looking for to get proper acidity. To test, you will be adding NaOH in 1 milliliter increments of reagent with a syringe. Swirl and mix in well each addition.

The color change for all white or very light colored musts (including red grape musts that haven’t been on the skins for any time yet) will be a pale pink shade.

For red-colored musts dilute the must with an equal amount of water.  Then look for a change into a grayish purple tint as you add the NaOH. Once there you are done.

Here is an easy way to keep track of color changes in any must: when you make up your beaker of must for testing, make a duplicate in a similar sized glass.  Then you can compare the musts as the color changes. By comparing them you will see the color change more accurately. Small tasting cups  or 100 mL beakers are perfect. You need to be able to swirl them vigorously.  When you’re pretty sure what the acid level is? Test it once more to be sure.

When you’re absolutely sure of your wine’s TA, it’s time to decide what acid adjustments you need to make and how you want to make them. For brevity’s sake, I am not going into much in the way of details in this piece. I will save that for another piece.  What I will say is that many ways of adjusting TA in wine require a small scale that can do fractions of a gram. The adjustments will be all grams per liter, so you need accuracy (and possibly to brush up on metric units!) for the best possible results. An acid test kit is a valuable tool you should use.

Remember:

It is impossible for your grapes to become the best possible wine they can become without you knowing their acid levels from day one. Ann McCullum did not steer me wrong 50 years ago, and now I strive to do the same for you. Use an acid test kit for all your future wines, whether they are grape wines, fruit wines, or honey wines.

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Tom’s Tips for Techniques

A cluster of green grapes for white wine.
Tom wrote a couple handouts for the 2020 wine season and beyond. As useful as handouts are, we know it’s also incredibly helpful to have the information easily accessible online. So, with slight editing, we are putting this information up as resources for everyone. They go in order of when to use them.

Wine Production Techniques Guide

The Cold Soak and the Skin Soak

The cold soak is used on a lot of red grape varieties, as it allows the stubborn skin pigments to become dissolved in the juice and thus provide a richer color. Here in the Pacific Northwest, Pinot Noir is the most prominent grape it’s used for. The skin soak is, in effect, the same technique as the cold soak but is is much shorter, as is appropriate for white wines. Soaking on the skins before pressing is a technique that provides a lot of fruity character, and the must will acquire more tannin. Bonus? The grapes will also give up more juice when pressed.

The grapes must be perfect. Broken skins, mold, bunch rot, or dirt cannot be allowed for a cold or skin soak. Infections will raise their ugly heads. Always use pectic enzyme and sulfite (SO2) your must to at least 30 parts per million (ppm) to avoid any wild fermentation.

For white grapes, once they are crushed and have had the pectic enzyme and SO2 added, simply allow them to sit on their skins for 2 – 12 hours. You can chill this must, but it is not required. However, chilling red must to about 50℉ is vital. Once chilled, allow the must to soak for about three days at 50F or lower.

The easiest way for small-batch winemakers to cold soak is to freeze water in a couple of plastic gallon milk jugs. (Make sure the jugs don’t split, so you don’t dilute the must.) Alternate jugs between the freezer and the must as needed to keep the temperature low. Remember to also punch down the grape skins once or twice a day, as this will not only release CO2 but also help keep the temperature of the must even. Keep your fermentor covered to prevent the escape of the SO2.

If any signs of wild fermentation show up in either soak, immediately cease the cold soak. Pitch your yeast and warm everything up to fermentation temperature.

After the cold soak, slowly raise the temperature to fermentation temperature and proceed.

Warming Up Must

Even though it’s 100℉ as I type this, I know we will receive our grapes in colder weather. (It might be downright icy at times.) Use the method I detailed above to raise the temperature in your fermentor, but use hot tap water instead of frozen jugs. Keep changing the warm jugs until you reach your fermentation temperature. Then wrap the fermentor with a FermWrap or an electric blanket and place it in a warmer room.

Note: If you have more than 100 pounds of must in a single fermentor, it will start to generate noticable heat on its own. Keep an eye on the wine so it does not get over 80℉ and thus ferment too fast. This will reduce the quality of the final wine.

Tips for Pressing Off Juice/Wine

A red #20 yoke-style fruit press with stainless steel basket.
A heavy fruit press in iron and stainless steel. Presses come in many sizes and styles.

Advice abounds on how to avoid excessive tannin when pressing grapes for wine. However when you make small batches of wine at home using the typical basket press, you will not have problems pressing off too much tannin. That said, there are other things to consider.

For example, you may decide to ferment the free flow wine separately from the pressed wine. (“Free flow” is the what flows out of the press before any pressure is applied.) The pressed wine will mature faster than the free flow wine and be much lighter in body and flavor. I don’t think it’s worth the effort unless you can get more than fifteen gallons of free-flow wine. Then you will get about three gallons of pressed wine.

Make sure you have a good-sized sieve that can fit into a one-gallon or two-gallon bucket and will together fit under the press spout. You’ll also want a funnel that will be big enough to handle the flow from the bucket into the carboy. Don’t skimp on funnel size! If you do, there will substantial slop and spills and wine loss.

Related, remember that pressing off is sloppy work no matter your funnel size. So make sure the press and the fermentor are in an area you can clean up easily by hosing it down.

Malolactic Fermentation

Many of the world’s best red wines go through malolactic fermentation (“MLF”). This is not a yeast fermentation but a bacterial one, and little alcohol is produced. MLF occurs when malolactic bacteria convert malic acid to lactic acid. Malic acid is a harsh acid of unripe fruit like green apples, and lactic acid is that softer “tang” found in cheese or yogurt. You will typically want MLF in any red where a finished softness of acidity and an ability to age well is desired.

However if your grapes are overripe and thus have a low acid level to begin with, MLF can make a flaccid and dull tasting wine that ages less well than you desire. What fruitiness was in the wine before MLF will be gone and the stabilizing acidity will be dramatically lowered. At this point, avoid MLF and increase the acidity of the must.

Most red wines will benefit from MLF, but it’s considered an infection in some wines. It’s particularly undesirable if you want a fruit-forward wine like LembergerRiesling, Muscat or most Chardonnays. (Big, buttery Chards can, and often do, undergo MLF but grapes appropriate for that style rarely come from the PNW.)

For MLF to occur the must should have the following characteristics:

  • Total acidity (TA) no less than 0.070 but no more than 1.00
  • pH no less than 3.3 but no more than 3.7
  • a specific gravity (SG) of 1.05 or below
  • SO2 of less than 30ppm

Typically, all of this information should be given to you when you receive your grapes or juice. Sometimes, though, all you get is the TA and pH. In that case, use your hydrometer to get the SG. The SO2 is what you add. Measure carefully.

If you need to adjust your acid up or down, please see our must adjustment handout. If you need to add acid be sure it’s tartaric acid. This is the acid of balanced wines. If your grape juice or must is over 1.00 TA, you got very under ripe grapes that are sour. Even with careful measurement, your TA and SG will be off (at that point, the acid content can mask sugar content). Unless it is or has been a horrifically cold and wet fall, don’t repurchase those grapes. Find a different grower.

Malolactic cultures come in a variety of forms, and you can add them at different times depending on your desires and schedule. You can add them at the tail end of primary fermentation or after the wine is in the carboy for secondary fermentation. Be aware, though, that the longer you delay adding the malolactic bacteria, the harder it will be for MLF to complete. This is because once primary fermentation ends, you will be adding SO2 regularly (up to 50 ppm), and typically your fermentation temperatures will be dropping. MLF occurs best in warm, low oxygen environments. And SO2 is added in large part to prevent bacterial growth, so MLF is caught in that. In a cooler environment with more SO2, MLF will be slow and may take months to finish. This is why if you want to prevent MLF, or any other bacterial invasion, you add SO2 to your wine regularly after every racking and before bottling.

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How to Choose the Right Wine Yeast

Wine grapes, table grapes, and a glass of red wine. This is goals.

It’s not always obvious, but the yeast choice a person makes to ferment a beverage is extremely vital to the flavor of the final beverage. Some yeasts are “clean”, meaning they do not contribute much (if anything) to the flavor of the wine. Others produce a number of phenolics and esters, the type of which can elevate your fermentation or clash mightily with it. Tom’s put together a guide to help you select the best yeast for your circumstances.

Choosing a yeast

This will be the most important choice the home winemaker will make.

You will be able to pick the grape variety but you cannot control its picking date, sugar level, TA, or pH. Yet, these are the things you need to take into consideration when choosing a yeast. Furthermore, you’ll need to consider if you wish to (or are capable of) a cold or warm fermentation.

Once you have those things set in your plan, consider the grape. What styles of wine does this grape often show up in? Think about the grape  by winemaking region, e.g. Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Mosel, California, or Italy. With the grapes you have, what most appeals to you? Do you want a fruit-forward wine or not? Once you’ve taken into account all of these things, you’ll be able to decide on a yeast with ease.

Have a great time making wine!

Red Wines

The Cabernet family (and blends)

F.H. Steinbart will be getting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Petite Verdot, and Carménère. All of these can be used to make wines similar in style to western and southwestern French wines, as well as Californian and Australian wines. These are big, bold, and very vinous wines; they are high in alcohol and not particularly fruity by style. For these wines, the best yeast choices we carry are Wyeast 4267 Summation Red, Wyeast 4946 Bold Red, and Wyeast 4028 Red. All of these will create a dry, rich, hearty red wine. Ferment them warm and for as long as possible. The next level of yeast is the Vintners Harvest brand. These yeasts are dry and of excellent quality. Read their characteristics to make a choice, though I feel R56 is the best choice for this group of grapes. Red Star makes Premier Classique and Premier Rouge. Both yeasts work well, just avoid fermenting either one in the high 70s to 80s. At high temperatures, they tend to produce hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg) aromas that can be hard to get rid of. You will want to do malolactic fermentation (“MLF”) with these grapes to produce a soft-finished and aging-stable wine.

The Fruity Reds

Pinot Noir and Lemberger are the two stars in this group, but it can also include Cabernet Franc.  Want to make Oregon Pinot Noir with a big fruit nose of raspberries and a soft spiciness? Assmannshausen is the premier yeast for that result. It’s good for soft reds and  fruity whites. Use a cold soak to make fruity reds, if you can, to get as much color and juice from your grapes as possible. Use Assmannshausen yeast and at the end of primary fermentation use MLF for the best results. Vintners Harvest R56 and CR51 are also good choices, or you can use Red Star Premier Cuvee. Rhone river area yeasts Lalvin RC212 and D47 can help with color extraction and are helpful when paired with MLF.

Southern European Reds

We will be carrying TempranilloSangioveseGrenache, and Syrah.  Here in the Northwest, where we don’t have as many long and hot days as in Southern Europe, these grapes may not reach their full potential in body and sugar. Therefore, I recommend yeasts and techniques that will extract the most color and tannins as well produce a fruity and easily drinkable wine. Try to do a cold soak if you can, especially for the first three. Then use a yeast from the Pinot Noir suggestions above. Or, if you’d prefer, Wyeast has an Italian Red (4244), which I have not tried but like the sound of. Try it for Sangiovese and Grenache blends. If you can swing their purchase at the same time, add 20% to 30% Syrah to any of the other Southern European reds. This grape will boost the wine’s color and soften the tannins and acidity of the other three. Be aware you may have to adjust the must acidity even with the Syrah addition.

Grenache deserves a little extra attention here. It is the best of our reds for a rosé, if you want to make one yourself from grapes. (Otherwise, we do offer rosé juice.) For a good rosé, one to three days of skin contact is best. With a longer soak, you will get a light red wine rather than a rosé. If you are making a red Grenache, plan on MLF only if you plan to make a big, bold red wine with lots of Syrah blended in. If you’re planning a fruity red Grenache, sulfite your wine well to prevent it.

If you purchase enough Grenache (say 150 pounds) try a one to two-day skin soak with half of your grapes, then press off the wine and put those skins in with the rest of the red wine batch that is also on skins. This doubles up the fruit intensity of the red and gives you a lovely rosé to boot. Red Star Côte des Blancs is an excellent yeast for the resulting rosé.

A glass of white wine on a table with bokahed lights behind it.

White Wine

Excepting Muscat, all of the white grapes F.H.S. is selling will be in juice form. So, I will forgo going into pressing and crushing techniques here. If you plan on getting whole white grapes elsewhere, you can use the Muscat procedure detailed below.

You will probably need to adjust must acidity for the whites. Use chemicals first, then fermentation and cold stabilization (storing the wine below 40 degrees for a month). Never use MLF on white wines. The only exception is Chardonnay and even then only if it’s big, very ripe grapes that’s going to become a big, bold, buttery wine. (Grapes appropriate for that style rarely come from the PNW.)

Yeast choice is essential for a red, but it’s more so for white wine. You will want a yeast that ferments in cooler temperatures (which will take longer) and falls out completely when it’s done. (This is known as “flocculation”.) Finally, given that fruit forward is the name of the game, you’ll want yeast that supports or even enhances those fruit notes, rather than something that competes or suppresses them.

For German whites such as RieslingGrüner Veltliner, and/or Gewürztraminer Wyeast 4783 is excellent. Vintners Harvest AW4 (Germanic White) is also a great choice. If you cannot get ahold of either of those, Vintners Harvest BV7 and SN9 do a lovely job, as does Red Star Côte des Blancs  The absolute best yeast for grapes from Germany or Austria is Rudesheimer, also known as “Sweet White” from Wyeast (4783).

Then there’s the French whites and the RosésChardonnaySauvignon BlancViognier, and Pinot Gris. Most of these wines will be light to medium-bodied when done. There’s an extensive variety of yeasts available for these, but I particularly like Vintners Harvest CY17BV7, and Wyeast 4242.

That said, whites and rosé are good grapes to be adventurous with! For example, many wineries use the same yeast they use on their red wines for their whites, and it works incredibly well. Assmannshausen (normally used for the reds of northern France and Germany) promotes a big fruity nose, so it should be just as good in a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc. As you’re considering yeasts, read label descriptions and if something sounds delicious, go for it! Red Star yeasts do well in experiments and adventures for the most part. The exception being the German whites I mentioned above, as they do not accentuate the fruity notes as well as other yeasts do.

Albariño is the new kid on the block for us. Originating in northern Spain and Portugal, it should be fermented with a yeast that both accentuates fruitiness and helps control acidity. Try any of the German white yeasts I mentioned previously or Lalvin DV10 or 71B  Both of these are sold as reducing malic acid without having to undergo MLF.

Finally, we will have Muscat grapes. Many of the delightful fruity white wines of Europe from Spain to Hungry are made from the many various varieties of Muscat  If you have had a pitcher of cold white wine with your scampi overlooking the Amalfi Coast, it was a Muscat. One of the largest and oldest wine grape families, all Muscat varieties are rich in fruit flavors and aromas, and can produce wines high in alcohol as well. They also make some of the world’s best dessert wines, should you want to try your hand at that.

When you get your Muscat grapes, you will be given a choice to crush and press them at our shop or take them home and do it there. If the grapes are good and clean without much skin breakage or bug bites, I strongly suggest a skin soak. Take the grapes home, crush them as best as you can. Use stems and all. Use your fist, feet, or a length of 2×4. It won’t matter. Soak the grapes on the skins for at least 2 hours and no more than 8 hours. As soon as the grapes are crushed, dose with SO2 and pectic enzyme. Press, stems and all. This will help to get more juice and a little tannin. If you do not own a press, we rent them out and we sell them. Ferment the juice as cool as possible, using any of the “French White” yeasts I mentioned above if you’d like a dry Muscat. If you want residual sweetness, try a German white yeast.

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Pyment-Making Advice – Tom Talks Wine

Pyment is made from grapes (left) and honey (right).

Last month, Tom answered a direct question about cork staining. This month, instead of drawing on a specific question, we asked Tom to tell us about how to make a pyment (mead/wine hybrid).

Tom’s Pyment

Recently, I was asked if I have ever made a pyment. A pyment is a type of mead where grapes or grape juice has been added. This means it’s also a type of melomel, as those are meads with fruit added. Yes, I have made one.

Mine was made with leftover Gewürztraminer juice and some pulp. I had enough must to make seven gallons of wine, but only a six-gallon carboy. With the extra gallon’s worth of wine must, I made three gallons of pyment.

I believe the same rules for making both drinks really apply here. The first thing makers have to decide is if they want a honey mead with hints of grapes and the complexity that can result or a grape wine with hints of honey, leading to more alcohol because you’re adding honey instead of sugar. The latter would not really be a mead, because honey should be the first aroma and flavor.

What Do Grapes Contribute to the Pyment?

What should you expect to gain from using grapes? First, acidity. Remember that mead is honey wine, and most good wines have acidity as part of the balance within their flavor. If you typically add acid blend or some other form of acid to balance your mead, be aware grapes can go a long way bringing about this balance about. Acidity really perks up the flavor components of a mead. Second tannins will also be there. These give a back of the tongue bitterness that is perceived as a clean and sharp flavor. A great addition to many meads. Tannins also aid in clarification. Finally, nutrients from the grapes aid the fermentation so that it comes to completion without taking forever to do so.

Which Grapes for Pyments?

Now let’s talk about the varieties of grapes you can use. For a mead just about anything that is ripe will work. Ripeness is key, though. Remember that alcohol accentuates all flavors so if the grapes are green or overripe this will come through in the finished mead.

Backyard Grapes:

If you are going to make mead from backyard grapes keep this in mind. Most wines or meads made from backyard grapes suffer from being underripe (vs overripe), as most backyard grape-growers haven’t learned how to properly gauge ripeness. More bitterness and sourness will result. How can you tell if they are truly ripe (without doing endless testing like a winery would)? Wait for the grapes to start falling off the vine. They will be very sweet. Far sweeter than, say, a grocery store table grape. Indeed, sweetness to taste is not a good test. Grapes good enough to eat can still be underripe. To get truly ripe grapes for your pyment, you will have to share a lot of the grapes with birds and squirrels.

One the most common backyard grape varietals is the Concord. If you love this flavor use them. The flavor will not change much. Grocery store canned juices and concentrates are also usable and will add the expected flavors. Canned juices from the grocery store are usually in the concord family.

Wine Grapes:

Any grape can be used. If you are buying wine grapes, then by all means save a few pounds and make a pyment. Wine grape concentrates also exist but can be quite expensive.

Richly-colored, almost black, wine grape

In my opinion white grapes and juices make wonderful meads. After all, some white wines are often described as having honey overtones. They are mild yet fruity, acidic, and nutrient rich. Grapes like Riesling, Muscat, and Sauvignon Blanc are complex and the honey comes through beautifully.

Red wine grapes, however, tend to overpower the honey flavor of the mead and yet fall flat because not enough were used to give the expected result. They tend to seem weak because we were expecting fuller grape varietal flavors. To use red grapes, the maker should know that they are making a honey-flavored wine and will end up with a full or light-bodied rose (depending on the grape).

How Much Fruit or Juice to Use?

How much fruit you use is really open here. I would think about four to seven pounds of fruit per gallon of mead. If you purchase grape juice, you’ll want about a gallon of juice to two of water and then enough honey to give you your 10% + alcohol. Rely on the honey to give you your fermentable gravity. With canned concentrates dilute them as instructed and again make enough to be about one third of your volume.

Remember by using grapes you are making a pyment; a mead more like a grape wine, so expect the issues of clarification, fermentation, and aging to be those of wines.

Have a great time this summer fermenting your first pyment!

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Braggot Gold – A Kviek Yeast Recipe

In making a kveik-fermented braggot, Bruce demonstrates proper yeast screaming technique

We love all kinds of fermentables here at F.H. Steinbart Co. So we hope it’s no surprise that we have some fun when beverages collide. In one such “collision,” beer and mead meld to give us braggots. They can be mead-forward or beer-forward or perfectly balanced between the two. Bruce & Natasha came up with this braggot recipe on the fly for last year’s Mead Day. The result was an almost universally-loved beverage. The kviek yeast makes something particularly special. They plan to make it again for this year’s Mead Day. The recipe & its origin story, as written by Bruce, are below.

Golden Origins

Last year the Steinbart’s Mead Day Special Planning Team (i.e. Natasha and, to a lesser extent, me) found ourselves staring at a rapidly approaching Mead Day with only a 1 gallon batch of mead to share with customers.  We racked our brains for a mead style that could be ready and drinkable inside of a week until Natasha pointed out that I had just started fermenting a batch of Norwegian farmhouse-inspired Golden Ale using Imperial Loki yeast.

“Why not throw in some honey and turn it into a braggot?” she asked.

“A fine idea!” I concurred.

The golden ale was an experiment to test out Imperial’s high-temperature claims for Loki.  After mashing and boiling in the shop’s Grainfather, I cooled the wort down to 100F, pitched yeast (while being sure to scream into the fermentor to ward off any evil spirits nearby) and put the fermentor into a broiling hot oven of a room with no air conditioning where the temperature stayed in the high 80s to mid 90s.  Loki was visibly fermenting just a couple hours after pitching and was bubbling like hot lava the next day.

Fermentation had started to subside after about two days.  At that point, I stirred three pounds of warmed-up honey into the gently foaming wort, which I calculated would bump the gravity from about 1.058 to a chest-thumping 1.083.  The yeast soared back into full froth almost immediately and fermented to a final gravity of about 1.006 within a couple more days.  I racked into a Corney keg with a load of Czech Saaz in a stainless hop canister and left it to force carbonate and soak up the noble hop oils for two days.

Sharing the braggot recipe on Mead Day was easy. The braggot itself? Actually, it was so delicious that sharing it was just as easy.

Bruce enjoys a chalice of Braggot Gold while reading about Gnomes

Braggot Recipe:

Braggot Gold is a dangerous concoction that and has laid many low with its pleasantly fragrant orange-rind fruitiness, dry finish, and easy drinkability (aka it hides its ABV well).

Fermentables:

12lbs Bestmalz Heidelberg Pils Malt

3lbs Kraus Wildflower honey (added two days in)

Hop Schedule:

3oz Czech Saaz (3.5% AA) at 60 minutes

2oz Czech Saaz (3.5% AA) at 15 minutes

2oz Czech Saaz dry hop for two days

Yeast:

Imperial A43 Loki

Directions:

Mash at 150F for an hour at your preferred grain-to-water ratio, sparge to collect enough wort for your system.  Boil and add hops at the above times, then cool to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pitch Loki (don’t forget the yeast scream!) and put the fermentor in the hottest room available to you.  Add warmed-up honey after about two days when you start to see the fermentation settling down.  If bottling be sure to dry hop for two or three days first and carb to 2.5 volumes of CO2.  If kegging you can dry hop in either the fermentor or keg, depending on your preference.

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Buy a Mead Book, Get a Mead Book!

The cover image of "The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing by Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor.

One of our favorite celebrations is Mead Day, and we are celebrating again this year. It’ll be virtual, as is probably obvious. We’re still ironing out the schedule, but we’re sure of one thing: Celebrations often involve gifts. Ours is no exception. Since we love knowledge, we are gifting knowledge. In the form of a mead book, “The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing“.

We are lucky enough to be working with mead expert and author Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor of Kookoolan Farms this year. Of course, she makes mead. However, she was also a founding director of the American Mead Makers’ Association, and plenty more. Plus, she’s written an astounding and gorgeous book all about mead tasting and food pairing. With her blessing, we are giving away copies. Mead tasting and food pairing are important skills for any mead-maker, but can often feel a little “advanced” to beginners, especially those who want a book on making mead.

So we say, “Why not both?”

For a limited time, or until we run out of either or both books, we will be giving everyone who purchases Ken Schramm’s “The Compleat Mead Maker” a copy of Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor’s “The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing” as well. We hope you’ll take advantage of this smashing deal as well as join us for some or all of our Mead Day events this year. Schedule, recipes, and more coming soon. Watch our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds or sign up for our newsletter to stay abreast of all developments.

The cover of "The Compleat Meadmaker" by Ken Schramm

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Buy A New T-Shirt. Show the Love and Spread the Luck.

At this point, there’s not a good way to describe what this Covid-19 world is like. The whole thing is a giant pile of bullhonkey. And that pile has landed more on some folks than others. We’ve been lucky.

We’ve been able to stay open during this mess, and we are so grateful. To show our gratitude and spread the luck, we want to give back to those who have had a harder time than we have had. Given it was time for a t-shirt redesign anyway, we realized a solution was right there.

Designed by Ethan Colyer, printed by Chris Strickland at Printed Matter, and with a big chunk of the proceeds going to the Oregon Food Bank, we submit for your consideration the newest FHS t-shirt.

Of course, we think this is great. Everyone here loves the design and can’t wait to wear it. We’re thrilled our company is using this new shirt to raise funds for our community. We hope you will feel the same. And, before you ask, yes FHS will be donating to Oregon Food Bank continuously with this design. We understand that even once things become less awful, there will still be need. As a member of the Oregon community for over a century, and as a founding member of the brewing community, we’ve seen this need over and over. We will be here at least another century, and we’ll be helping the whole time.

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Online Order Frequently Asked Questions

I just placed an order online; how will I know when it’s ready?

You will receive two automated emails. The first email lets you know we have received your order. The second email will come when your order is ready. If we are shipping your order, this email will go out when we ship. If you are picking up your order, you will be able to pick up your items any time AFTER you receive this email.

How long will my order take to process? Can I expedite it?

We complete many orders the same day they’re received, but some orders may take between 24 – 48 hours to complete. The sheer volume of orders we are receiving has dramatically increased. In turn, handling times have increased. Please allow some extra time between when you place your order & your planned brew day (or make any other plans contingent upon receiving your order).

We can send things via expedited shipping if you pay for it, but our small team simply cannot handle orders any faster, unfortunately.

How are you handling in-store pick-ups and what are the hours?

We have a clearly designated walk-up area in our parking lot, so just walk under the tent and step up to the table under the tent. We will pass you your order over this table; it is wide enough for appropriate social distancing in both directions. You do not need to enter the store to pick up your order.

You can pick up your order anytime we are open, Mondays through Saturdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

I need to add to my order. How do I do that?

If you haven’t yet received an email indicating your order is complete, the easiest way to add more items is to place another online order and place in the notes that this is an addition to a previous order. For orders that we are shipping out, if your second order is under $30.00 please select “store pick-up” as the shipping method to avoid shipping charges. Double check that you’ve indicated in the notes that this is to be combined with a previous order.

If you have received the “completed” email, you can ask us at the table to bring out a few items and we can process your payment inside. You are also welcome to come inside and shop for yourself, but be aware capacity limits apply.

How do I use my virtual grain bag?

Do NOT order the grain – you will be charged for it. Order everything else you need, then let us know in the “notes” section that you have a virtual bag and how much grain you’d like us to remove from it. Please let us know if you’d like it milled or left whole.

Will you be combining grains in my order?

By default, we do not combine grains in an order; we bag them separately. It is easier & thus somewhat faster if we can combine grains in your order, particularly if you would like them milled. If you are willing to have us combine (or some but not all) grains, please leave us extremely clear & detailed instructions in the notes of your order.

I was charged for shipping and I don’t believe I should have been. What should I do?

Please reply to the automated email you received acknowledging your order with your question. This will allow us to quickly reference your order number and items and help figure out what is going on. In most cases, we can issue refunds as soon as we receive the email.

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In-Person Frequently Asked Questions

Are you still allowing customers in the store?

We are still allowing customers in the store, but we have a capacity limit of four (4) people at a time. We are also limiting our grain room to one (1) person at a time; this includes if you arrive in a group.

Do you still accept cash?

Absolutely.

Do you require face masks?

We do not require face masks at this time, but we strongly encourage them as per CDC’s recommendations.

17 June 2020 update: Multnomah County enters Phase I reopening on the 19th of June. We will be requiring face masks as per the requirements under Multnomah County entering Phase I.

Are you still filling CO2 tanks at this time?

Yes, we are! We can fill anything that’s within certification from paint ball canisters to 10 lb tanks. We cannot fill larger.

You cannot place an order online for a fill, but you can leave us a note in your order saying you’ll be bringing your tank to be filled. We will be happy to take & fill your tank and process your payment while you wait outside, leaving the store available for people who need other things as well as keeping things safer for you & our staff.

If you are only coming for a CO2 refill, please feel free to go to the tent designated for order pick-ups & follow the procedure above.

Can you fill my Soda Stream canister?

We cannot fill anything from Soda Stream. They use proprietary technology that we do not have.