Honey and Experimental Design
Without apology, I am a man of varying interests. At any given moment, i’m thinking about doing or actively trying to do 15 different things of dissimilar pursuits. I like to work with my hands and I like working with living things and systems.
This weekend I built a rather large entertainment shelving cabinet center for the living room, then I bought manure for my raised garden beds, and 680 lbs of topsoil for my lawn, and 50 lbs of grass seed. My wife and I tilled up the entire back yard (essentially) and I turned all the soil in the garden beds over. We seeded and watered the lawn. We bought 191 lbs of beef from the local farmer and bought a new car seat for the baby Giles. We were pretty busy. It’s that busy action that makes me consider my time and my efforts. And in that vein, this year I decided to make absolutely sure that my mead recipe is top notch. And the only way to ensure success is to experiment.
In the fading moments of Sunday night, instead of just going to sleep like a normal person, I was preparing an experiment designed to evaluate the optimal ingredients necessary to improve on my mead recipe, last year’s foray is entered into the Vermont amateur national competition due to be judged next month. Working in the biotechnology field, you get a lot of exposure to statistical experimental design, the core idea of which is learning the most about a series of variables with the least number of experiments. Mead takes a LONG time to ferment and to be ready. It does not lend itself to “cook and look” approaches.
This is pretty important to me, because often times the ingredients I have around are either expensive or in short supply. Honey is an expensive material. I scour the internet for sales on this stuff, and with the Colony Collapse Disorder and Varroe Mites, the stuff is becoming even more expensive to work with. But oh man, does it make a fine fermented beverage!
So, now I have a 9 point fractional factorial experiment with a single center point brewing in my kitchen in 175 mL aliquot jelly jar fermenters. Each point has been varied for gravity, pH, and/or tannin concentration. Mrs. J has gone on the road to pick up some KV-116 yeasties for me so we can innoculate. And she has found us a supplier of honey through whom I can get 60 lbs of raw honey for roughly 200 dollars. If you’re interested, that is enough bee juice to make 2 x 12.5 gallons of Falling Stone Mead. In about 4 weeks, when the mini-primaries are finished, we’ll sample and decide what the master recipe is for this year, and we’ll have the results of the amateur wine competition.
Once that’s decided, I can give my garden the proper amount of attention.