Metheglin Mead from 1655

Metheglin Mead from 1655


I started my batch in April, bottled in May, and tried it at the end of August, about 5 months later. At this point, it’s ever so slightly fizzy when first cracked open, and a beautiful light golden color.

It smells like honey.

The flavor is somewhat herbal, but in a good, kitchen-not-medicinal way. I could pick up hints of the sage and rosemary, in particular, while the other herbs and grasses add depth and complexity. The flavor is long and changeable, with just a smidge of acidity.

I’m going to need to learn better descriptors for alcohol. For now, suffice to say that this is wonderful, although should be consumed with caution, tasty as it is. :)

Why it should be in the Next Book:

I could envision this mead being one of many made by the Beesburys, of Honeyholt. I could also see it as a mead from either a meadowy place in the reach, or perhaps even somewhere in the Vale. Or, since metheglin was originally a medicinal mead, it would be well suited to a sept, because of the joint healing/brewing skills of monks and septons.

1655 Metheglin Recipe

Makes 1-5 Gallons     Initial Fermentation: ~1 month     Ageing: 5 months or more

ABV: 9%

“Take all sorts of Herbs that are good & wholesome, as Balm, Mint, Fennel, Rosemary, Angelica, wild Tyme, Isop, Burnet, Egrimony, and such other, as you think fit, some field Herbs, but you must not put in too many, but especially Rosemary or any strong Herbs, less than half an handful wil serve of every sort, you must boil your herbs, ans strain them, and let the liquor stand till the next day and settle them, take off the clearest liquor two gallons and a half to one gallon of Honey, and that porportion as much as you will make, and let it boyl an hour, and in the boyling skim it very clean, then set it a cooling as you do Beer, when it is cold take some very good Ale Barm, and put into the bottome of the Tub a little and a little, as they do Beer, keeping back the thick settling that lieth in the bottome of the vessel that it is cooled in, & when it is all put together, cover it with a cloth, and let it work very neer three dayes, and when you mean to put it up, skim off all the yeast clean, put it up into the Vessel, but you must not stop your vessel very close in three or four dayes, but let it have all the vent you can, for it will work and when it is close stopped, you must look very often to it and have a peg in the top to give it vent when you hear it make a noise, as it will do, or else it will break the Vessel, sometimes I make a bag, and put in good store of Ginger sliced, some Cloves and Cinamon, and boyl it in, and other times I put it into the Barrel and never boil it, it is both ways good, but Nutmeg and Mace do not well to my taste. -Compleat Cook, 1655

Chelsea’s Notes: I used what herbs I could find from the original recipe, omitting only the fennel out of personal preference. I’ve included two sets of ingredients: the redaction for a 5 gallon batch, and the redaction for a 1 gallon batch, which is what I made. Feel free to tweak your own batches to taste, and according to the ingredients available to you!

Ingredients for one gallon:

  • 3 Tbs. each selected herbs: lemon balm, angelica, thyme, hyssop, agrimony, meadowsweet
  • 1 Tbs. each stronger herbs: mint, rosemary, sage, etc.
  • 5/8 gallon water – 10 cups water (or enough to cover)
  • 1/4 gallon honey – 4 cups honey (3 lb.)
  • 1 packet yeast, pasteur champagne or premier cuvee
  • 1 oz.ginger
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Special Equipment needed:

  • 5 or 1 gallon glass jug
  • airlock and plug
  • mesh bag for spices
  • racking wand/tube (optional, but infinitely helpful)

We used wildflower honey, 3 Tbs. each of balm, angelica root, hyssop, meadowsweet, and 1 big Tbs. sage.

Boil your herbs in the amount of water listed, then allow to sit overnight. Strain out the herbs, reserving the liquid. Put the honey in a large pot, then add the strained herb-infused water. Bring to a simmer, while stirring, to thoroughly mix honey and water, and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Pour into your 5 or 1 gallon jug, allow to cool to room temperature, then pitch (add) the yeast. Add the spices, and cap with an airlock.

First fermentation: let sit at least 7 days, [or until the airlock stops bubbling completely], which can take up to two weeks. Remove the spice bag, and rack the mead into a secondary fermenter.

Second fermentation: let sit 1-2 months. When the airlock does not bubble for at least 2 minutes, it should be done fermenting.

Bottle and allow to age at least 5 months.

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22 Responses to Metheglin Mead, 1655

  1. Sounds really good, going to have to try this. Just finishing fermenting a dry mead.

  2. Not sure if you have a lot of brewing experience, but one thing as a fairly experienced homebrewer that I would recommend is not worrying so much about the bubbles in the airlock as you do the gravity. Sometimes airlocks lie, and it’s far more important to know that whatever you’ve brewed has been at a stable gravity for 72 hours. That’s when you know that what you’ve made is really done.

    • Chelsea says:

      Excellent point! I now rely on my hydrometer, but when I first brewed this mead, I hadn’t yet made the leap to including math and science in my brewing… 😉

  3. Michael says:

    I just gave this brew a try and can’t wait for the results. I had to replace some of the more difficult to find herbs with common herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, and lemon balm). I now have meadowsweet and Angelica seeds to grow, but they won’t be ready for a while…. Also, I used blueberry honey because I like the flavor. I’m surprised that the recipe doesn’t specify any lemon or acid. I usually put some kind of acid into my mead.

  4. venneman says:

    Just finished a honey ale, I think the mead will go in next so I can let it ferment while I have other beers on the way!

    • Chelsea says:

      Good plan! I try to always have a mead going while I work on shorter-term projects, since meads can take so long!

  5. Josh says:

    How long do you boil the herbs for?

  6. John says:

    I’m curious ontogeny mead. Have everything buts brewing type yeast, is there another yeast I could use on short notice?

    • John says:

      Was supposed to say “on the mead” not what it reads there. Sorry

      • Mike says:

        Mead or wine yeasts will give the best flavor and aroma profile. It’s not unheard of for folks to use baker’s yeast and it will eventually settle out and mellow with aging, but a quick stop and a couple dollars at the local homebrew supply shop are worthwhile.

  7. Josh says:

    If making a 5 gallon batch do you increase the amount of yeast listed or do you use the same amount?

  8. sadie says:

    I’m assuming the measurements for the herbs are for fresh herbs? Would dried work, or would it be better to leave them out if the can’t be found fresh?

  9. Coinin says:

    That’s a lot of cloves for 1 gallon of mead. Most Mead brewers use only 1 or 2 cloves per gallon because they are so potent. Otherwise great recipe.

  10. John Charles says:

    did you use ground ginger or whole ginger for the recipe? making it right now!

  11. Josh Baker says:

    Do you recommend one kind of honey over another? I’m thinking of trying a wildflower honey, but due to limited choices where I used to live I only had access to clover

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