Blackberry Mead: DIY Prehistoric Wine

The wild blackberry bush in the alleyway behind my apartment was heavy with fruit this weekend, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for mead-making. Mead is wine fermented out of honey instead of grapes. Archeologists have found evidence of mead dating back to 7,000 BCE in northern China.

Image by Oregon.gov

I had never made mead before, but I knew my friend Jason Hovatter, an urban homesteader and professional shoemaker, had gallons of homemade mead fermenting in his kitchen. Fortunately, he was free Sunday afternoon.

It took us a little over an hour to pick four pounds of blackberries. We collected them from the alleyway and from another bush growing on the edge of a quiet parking lot. After rinsing off our berry-stained hands, we went to Jason’s house, where we mashed the berries in a bucket with a big stick (as you see me doing above) until the skins had all burst.

Meanwhile, we boiled a gallon of water on the stove. We then turned the heat off, waited for the water to cool down a bit, and poured in the berries to kill any bacteria and release the sugar. We let the mixture steep for half an hour. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but can still pasteurize down to 180 degrees.

We measured out three pounds of honey and stirred it into the warm berry/water mix. Three pounds of honey in one gallon of water makes a wine with 12% alcohol.

Jason does his best impression of Blue Steel.

Jason got the honey for free from a student who bartered with him in exchange for a shoemaking class.

Then we added an ounce of dehydrated hops from Jason’s garden, to build some aromatic complexity into the flavor. (You could add any herb you like).

We turned the heat back on at a low setting and let the mixture simmer for an hour.

Next, we poured the mixture from the pot into a mesh bag and used tongs to squeeze and strain the liquid into a large plastic bucket Jason had sanitized with boiling water.

Then we set the plastic bucket on the counter and used a plastic hose to siphon the mixture into a giant glass jug called a “carboy,” where the mead will cure for months.

Finally, we plugged the top with a little device called a bubbler that allows the carbon dioxide to escape as the yeast do their work. We put a little hot water in the top of the tube to block bacteria in the air from getting into the liquid below. Jason waited for the mixture to cool overnight before adding half a packet of champagne yeast he got from a brew store.

The most active part of the fermentation process will happen within the first week. After three to four weeks, we’ll switch the mixture to another glass jug to separate it from the dead yeast that will have accumulated on the bottom. Then the liquid will ferment for another three months before it’s ready to drink.

Blackberries get a bad rap, but share this post to show what happens when you embrace them!

15 thoughts on “Blackberry Mead: DIY Prehistoric Wine

  1. My father-in-law makes fabulous muscadine and scuppernong wine from vines growing in his and our yards. I also have a fig tree that love to use the figs in preserves and handmafe CP soap. I have some blackberry bushes at the edge of the woods in my yard which I love. If I can get to the blackberries before the snakes, birds and various other “critters” I may have to try this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I just moved to gresham and used some black berries my wife and i picked to make fruit smoothies. mmm. a small benefit of the invasive vines. my friend from KS made a similar wine from sandhill plums, just finished a bottle he made me.

  3. I have not drank mead since my university days . In my younger days we found wild honey in the woods but we ate it with everything . We chew’d the waxy comb as gum. I think my friends used a store bought honey to make what i drank. Miss Rebecca doe’s it matter if its store bought honey? I some time hear folks say store bought honey is not honey but man made. Or do it not matter? I can get them both but , wild honey takes more time and i really hate to mess with the fuss an all. And i so do enjoy your website it makes me laugh ,you have such a blessing .

  4. I’m trying the recipe and waiting to see how it comes out. :) I included a link to this post in my post on things to make with blackberries. I hope that is ok, it takes them here to your post. I like to share good posts when they relate to what I’m writing about. thanks!

    • Absolutely. I put this info out here hoping people will share it. All I ask is for credit, so thank you very much for directing folks to my site. 😉

  5. As a little addition to this plan, if you have enough berries, freeze some juice and then thaw a week before racking off the wine or mead into the new carboy. Make a batch of simple hard cider out of it(sugar and yeast). I use half gallon, glass milk bottles for this. Not only is this fruity and delicious that can be put into small bottles for some hillbilly champaign, but it can also serve as a CO2 pot to drive oxygen out of the carboy for the longer fermenting concoctions when you rack them. Nobody could get enough of my mulberry-lime juice hard cider this year. I did not even bother with cultured yeast. I just used the wild yeast on the mulberries.

    • please please please share your methods and ingredients for the mulberry lime hard cider. i’d pee my pants in public for a gallon of *that.*

  6. @melanie, you have gotta be kidding me, blackberry is probably new zealands most widespread weed after gorse(furze) its the bane of farmers and barefoot kids alike, i know a few riverbanks where a nice cold swim on a hot summers day is complemented by ripe blackberry hanging into the water, awesome.

  7. I am making mead tomorrow with the blackberries we picked in the field behind our house. I made mead awhile ago (like 7 years ago) and so I am trying to brush up on the steps. :) Looks like it will be divine!

  8. We don’t get wild growing blackberries here in New Zealand, but I’m definitely going to look into making some mead of some kind this year. Our backyard hive will be in its second year and we’ll have loads more than I think we’ll be able to eat, bake or even barter our way through.

  9. Hmmm…We make a hillbilly version of blackberry wine but haven’t tried making mead before. We use wild berries, regular yeast from the grocery, loads of sugar, and a gallon jug topped with a holey balloon. It allows the gases to escape but won’t let air enter. Works great!

  10. Brilliant post and great explanation. So, it sounds like it will be prime for consumption just about Thanksgiving and the holidays.
    Enjoy

  11. Blackberries get a bad rap because they’re an invasive species and create harmful monocultures where they’re allowed to proliferate. The key is not to allow them to proliferate in certain important ecosystems. In other areas they can be left to grow and provide us with an excellent food source.

    We simply need to exercise our responsibility as stewards of the land to control where they’re allowed to grow.

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