Sour Mead Experiment

In this experimead, three different forms of souring are tested in standard meads. This includes Kombucha Scoby, probiotic pills (lactobacilius), and a ginger bug. The meads are evaluated in a oaked, 12% ABV, blueberry blossom honey, traditional, sparkling mead. The meads are quite distinct so judges are presented a flight and asked to provide feedback on the aroma and flavor differences perceived in the meads.

The inspiration for the base recipe for this experimead is the Sour Orange Blossom Mead from Gold Coast Meadery. I oaked the mead, used 50-50 amber blueberry blossom and golden wildflower honey, and used the TANG nutrient profile. After fermentation I added acid to traditional and bottle conditioned to 2.3 vol.

Lets talk about the sour cultures.

Ginger Bug: a relatively unknown culture in brewing, but it is AMAZING. You can make it quite easily and is mostly lacto and yeast. It is often used to ferment sparking lemonade, ginger ale, and root beer. It’s the real stuff. It tasted like lacto in a ginger candy solution. I built up this starter for a month. Google the recipe. I also used it to ferment out apple cider with fantastic results. The ginger shines though clearly.

Kombucha: I made Kombucha using an equal blend of green white, and black tea. I use white sugar, and follow the standard recipe. I often only let my kombucha get to 70-80% fermentation since after that I find the Acetobacter usually kicks in too much which most people find off-putting. For the culture, I pulled off my kombucha jug at around 70 percent completed. It is nice and tart without too much vinegar.

Probiotic pills: I dumped several probiotic pills into a one liter soda stream bottle with filtered tap water and a TBSP and a half of golden brown sugar. I let it sit for 5 weeks and it tasted clean, sweet, soured brown sugar-water. I also added three probiotic pills when I pitched the starter. Who knows how to do this properly?

Recipe: 12%, TANG Soured Traditional Mead, November 2017, 4×1 gallon

  • 0.92 gallon/ 3.5 L
  • 0.375 liters Raw Hogans Golden Wildflower Honey
  • 0.375 liters Amber Blueberry Blossom Wildflower Honey
  • 2.4 lbs honey total
  • 3 g of US-05 yeast
  • 75-25 distilled-filtered tap water




  • OG- 1.09
  • Tar. FG-0.998
  • ABV-12%

TANG nutrients:

At pitch

  • Mixed honey and 2.5 liters distilled water, shook for 1 minute to mix
  • Aerated 0.45 seconds with pure O2
  • Added 1 liter of sour starter
  • Topped up to 3.5 liters using filtered tap water
  • Add 0.25G Fermaid-K
  • Shook all four to mix well
  • Add three medium toast American oak cubes that had been boiled for 5 minutes
  • Rehydrated 1 packet of US-05 (11.5 grams) with 6 grams Go-ferm, added 3 tsp brown sugar after 30 minutes
  • Pitch ¼ yeast starter after 24 hours – traditional immediately

2017-11-06 20.29.10.jpg


  • +12 h – Added 0.3g Fermaid-K – no sign of fermentation, 64°F . Swirled.
  • +24 h pitched the rest of the starter. Traditional going to town, 64°F
  • +36 h swirled, 64°F
  • +48 h – 0.8 g Fermaid K, 0.5 g Fermaid-O , 64°F
  • +60 h swirled, 64°F
  • +72 h 0.5 g Fermaid-O , swirled, foamed up quite a bit, 64°F
  • + 84 h – 2 weeks swirled morning and evening
  • +1 week- Traditional at 1.036. Clean, super sweet, and yummy 🙂
  • +3 Weeks- still off gassing quite a bit, bubbling when swirled.

2017-11-20 15.01.11.jpg


  • +1 Month – the musts have dropped clear. FG 0.998. Tasted and smelled of raw sweet honey, bubble gum, red berries- current and pomegranate. Super clean. Near clear – shook it one last time. 60°F
  • +4 Month – Bottled to 2 vol., using mesquite honey as priming sugar. Added 0.2 grams/ liter of 50-50 malic-tartaric acid to the tradtional.


At bottling they all tasted amazing!! The blueberry-honey character dominated and is supported in the background by the pomme-honey golden honey. They are all very clean, with lots of perceived sweetness. The acidity was present from the soured meads. The traditional was very complex, but rich, and I noted that it needed some acidity to compliment the rich blueberry honey flavor.


The meads were evaluated when they were 6 months old. Eight panelists participated in the evaluation. The meads were all presented during at the same time during a mead-up. Everyone received all fours meads. 2oz of each mead were poured for all participants. The meads were evaulated in a flight using four different colored 8 oz party cups. All panelists were instructed to fill out the following score sheet:


There were eight participants in total. The evaluation took 30 minutes. Two of the panelists knew the treatment, and the other half were blind.

The following table presents the average of the values for the check boxes. level

Overall, people generally tended to score in the midrange of the metric. The probiotic souring was evaluated highly, particularly for taste, technical merit, and overall perception. The kombucha had no perceivable acidic acid. It scored the highest for the aroma, but fell in the mid range for the other statistics and the lowest overall. The ginger bug scored on the lower end of the scores, but was very unique and faired better in overall scores. Finally, the traditional did relatively poorly on aroma, but was the preferred for body, and rated highly for taste, and technical merit.

The following table presents the standard deviation of the values for the check boxes. The higher tannin and “funk” for the kombucha spit participants on their preferences. A few participants raved about it afterwards, whereas other attributed its characteristics to off flavors. This can be seen by the highest standard deviation in all metrics. The traditional had the lowest standard deviation in aroma and technical merit. The ginger bug had the smallest standard deviation for overall merits, with most people finding it preferrable. That said, there was agreement on the lack of body, and taste present in the ginger bug.


Stay tuned for the qualitative descriptors.



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