Some time ago, I (Tofi) had the chance to sample some wonderful blueberry vanilla mead made by Wayne Sawdon, a fellow brewer from the CS Dept. of CMU. It was wonderful, if somewhat oxidized, which caused it to taste like a fine port. I like port. A lot. So I persuaded the rest of the group that we needed to do a version of this, and that we should do it with sherry yeast to get that yummy port taste.
OG = 1.114
SG = 1.060 Racked off fruit
SG = 1.052 Added 1/2 cup calcium carbonate to reduce acidity Added 1 pkg Lalvin EC-1118 champagne yeast
FG = 1.022 Bottled
6 weeks in primary on the fruit
5 months in secondary
4 months in tertiary after adding chalk
bottled about 10 months ago [July '95]
You might want to add 3-5 tsp of calcium carbonate at the start to try to avoid the stuck fermentation. Also, the vanilla isn't really noticeable. You might want to omit it or increase it to 5 or 6 oz.
Wash and pick through all the blueberries, separating them into the moldy, squishy ones (which get thrown out), the kinda-squishy ones, and the firm whole ones. We got about 10 lbs. of nice whole ones, so we just used them. (If you need to use the kinda-okay ones, you will have to boil these a bit longer, before you add the rest.)
Combine the honey with about 3 gallons of boiling water, and heat to a simmer. Simmer, skimming, until very little scum rises out of the honey-water. Now add the blueberries, and simmer them until the skins start to break apart, and then a bit more.
Turn off the heat, and use something (a potato masher) to mash up the blueberries so they are pretty much all broken open and mushy. Cool the must, and dump the mess into a wide-mouthed fermenter. (Don't strain out the berries yet.) We used a plastic-bucket fermenter. Add more water if needed in order to bring the level up to about 5 1/2 gal. Swirl up and pitch in the entire yeast starter.
Ferment on the fruit for a month (or even longer), just like you would for a deep red wine.
When you are ready to rack, sanitize a big strainer and funnel, a spoon, a racking tube and cane, etc. Also take about a foot-square piece of cheese-cloth and a rubber band, put it in a small saucepan with some water, and boil it for about 10 mins. Fold the cheese-cloth over a few times to make a six-inch square, and use the rubber band to put this over the end of your racking cane as a strainer.
Siphon as much liquid into the secondary as you can conveniently. Then switch to pouring the remainder through the strainer, squishing the fruit with the spoon as needed. Ferment in secondary until activity stops and the specific gravity is acceptably low (e.g. under 1.030). Then leave about a month more.
Rack. Rack again every 6 months until you bottle.
We got a starting gravity of 1.100, and an ending gravity of 1.003 (quite a bit lower than Wayne's). It was a bit rough at the one-year racking, but smoothed out somewhat four months later, when we bottled it. It should be really nice in about a year.
Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, guildmaster, BMDL Brewers' Guild.