Tofi's Recipes: Black Raspberry Melomel

(brewed August 27th, 1995)

In the spring of '95 I was fortunate enough to obtain some fresh black raspberries. (Thanks Cailand!) A few months before starting this batch, I had started some sweet meads, so I set about making a dry melomel.

About the Ingredients

Melomels - a combination of honey and fruit fermented together - are reasonably well attested (though not as well as mead, sack, and metheglin).

The justification for making a mead with raspberries (melomel) comes primarily from R. Gayre [2, pp 118]:

Prominent, and indeed famous, among those liquors closely related to mead is what, for want of a more specific name, one would call raspberry sack-mead. This, as a sweet liquor, was greatly prize in Poland before the late war. One old writer quoted by Edward Spencer191 tells of its being obtainable in Sweden, Muscovy, and as far as the Caspian Sea. This consists of the juice of raspberries and honey fermented together. It is by no means an easy liquor to make, as there is a strong tendency to vinegrate unless it is made with skill and care.

The proportions of honey and water are based on several recipes in Digbie[1], notably:

TO MAKE MEATH (Digbie, pp. 92)

Take to six quarts of water, a quart of the best honey, and put it on the fire, and stir it, till the honey is melted: and boil it well as long as any scum riseth: and now and then put in a little cold water, for this will make the scum rise: keep your kettle up as full as you did put it on; and when it is boiled enough, about half an hour before you take it off, then take a quantity of Ginger sliced and well scraped first, and a good quantity of Rosemary, and boil both together. Of the Rosemary and Ginger you may put in more or less, for to please your taste: And when you take it off the fire, strain it into your vessel, either a well seasoned-tub, or a great cream pot, and the next morning when it is cold, pour off softly the top from the settlings into another vessel; and then put some little quantity of the best Ale-barm to it and cover it with a thin cloth over it, if it be in summer, but in the winter it will be longer a ripening, and therefore must be the warmer covered in a close place, and when you go to bottle it, take with a feather all the barm off, and put it into your bottles, and stop up close. In ten days you may drink it. If you think six quarts of water be too much, and would have it stronger, then put in a greater quantity of honey.

The use of raspberries as something to ferment is also attested to by Digbie:

TO MAKE RASBERY-WINE (Digbie, pp 148)

Take four Gallons of Deal wine, put it into an earthen jugg; put to it four Gallons of Rasberries; let them stand so infusing seven days; then press it out gently ; Then infuse as many more Rasberries seven days longer, and so three times if you please; put to it as much fine Sugar as will make it pleasant; Put it into a Runlet close stopped, let it stand still till it is fine; and then draw it into bottles, and keep it till it be fine.

It is worth pointing out that in the above recipe, the wine may or may not still have small amounts of active yeast. If so, then the raspberries and sugar will ferment, resulting in a roughly normal strength (10-12% alcohol) wine.


Lacking the "skill and care" mentioned above, and not wishing to allow any random infections to be transmitted to the melomel, I opted to heat my fruit-honey-water mixture to a level sufficient to pasteurize it. Unfortunately this also has the effect of setting the pectin, which results in a very cloudy drink. To overcome this, I added pectic enzyme to break down the pectin and allow the melomel to clear.

The small amount of malt extract acts as a yeast nutrient. I have found using this small amount of extract helps start meads quite quickly. (In retrospect, with all the fruit in this, I didnšt need the extract.)

In Medieval and Elizabethan England, the mead would have been stored in wooden (often oak) barrels. To simulate the taste of oak aging, I added oak chips to the must.

Recipe (for two gallons):

Start yeast according to instructions. Boil honey in 1/2 gallon water for 1/2 hour, skimming scum off the top. Meanwhile, add Raspberry juice and malt extract to 2 quarts water and bring to a simmer. Then turn off heat and add pectic enzyme. Add oak chips to honey-water must, and simmer for 15 minutes. Combine juice must with honey must in a large pot and strain into primary fermenter. Add enough pre-boiled water to make 2 gallons. Cool and pitch yeast.

Rack after primary fermentation subsides. Rack again a month after that. Age in bulk for at least 6 months, then bottle.

Starting specific gravity was 1.103, finishing was less than 0.998.

This batch was outstanding, though perhaps a bit too dry. Aging (of course) helped smooth out the roughness, so the dryness was not a problem.


The closet of...Sir Kenelme Digbie kt., opened..., 1st ed., London, 1669

Wassail! In Mazers of Mead, Gayre, R. G., Brewers Pub. 1986 (first published 1948)

Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, pwp+ (AT) cs dot cmu dot edu