Hey! Put those pitchforks and torches away – yes, I KNOW that no one ever drinks mead on Game of Thrones. But I do! And if you clicked that link, I’m pretty sure you do too, or want to, or want to want to. I thought it might be fun to brew some Game of Thrones themed meads now to drink during Season 7.
Season 7 is a year away, you say? Yep, so is your mead, if you’re really gonna do this thing. Since Season 7 might be the end, now’s your chance to make Game of Thrones mead to drink while watching Game of Thrones. LET’S DO IT!!
The “Game of Thrones Effect” in the Mead Industry
Before we get our drank makin’ on, let’s talk about Game of Throne’s relationship with mead. Before Season 6, we really had no idea whether or not Westerosi people drank mead, but finally mead got a little tiny mention when Sansa accepted Brienne’s oath of fealty in “The Red Woman:”
“And I vow, that you shall always have a place by my hearth, and meat and mead at my table, and a pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor. I swear it by the old gods and the new. Arise.”
Good enough for me.
But whether they have mead or not seems an oddly irrelevent fact – it hasn’t stopped the mead industry from attributing the recent boom in mead demand to the popularity of the series. What many call “the Game of Thrones effect” is the strong correlation between Game of Thrones’ wild rise in popularity and the rise of the American mead industry.
The theory is that even though characters on GoT don’t drink mead, they do in other universes that fall somewhere near GoT’s historical fantasy genre. All of that medieval stuff is so hot right now. Folks that come to mead because of the romantic idea of it end up staying because it’s f**king delicious, which makes perfect sense to me.
We wrote about it before, in case you like clicking things.
I thought it might be fun to come up with some recipes that characters on the show might drink, IF they drank mead.
Basic Meadmaking Directions for Beginners
My personal meadmaking style is to not boil my must (in other words, my basic honey and water mixture), but there are those that do boil it before adding it to their primary bucket to cool off. As it boils, skim the scum off the top and discard.
If you do boil it, it’s important to allow it to completely cool before adding yeast, otherwise the yeast will have a tough time getting going. Most meadmakers who boil their must allow it to cool overnight.
A primary fermentation container is usually a bucket with a lid and an airlock, which you can purchase or make at the brew store. I use a bucket with cheesecloth over the top, or I pour my ingredients straight into my glass carboy. Make sure you stir (or shake) every day during primary.
After 5-14 days (usually closer to 5) of my mead being in the primary fermentation container, I rack off into secondary fermentation. “Racking off” is the term for putting your mead into another container, usually a glass jug called a carboy fitted with a rubber bung and airlock. Go ahead and get out your giggles over the word “bung” right now.
Racking off is intended to get your mead off of flavoring agents and to help it clear up. You also want to get it off the lees, which is the collection of dead yeast particles at the bottom of your vessel.
We use a siphon with a hand pump to help us rack from bucket to carboy. When racking from a carboy throughout the aging process, we use the siphon to get the mead into a clean bucket, then we clean out the carboy (or grab a fresh one) and put the mead back in. Don’t clean your carboy with tap water, just give it a rinse with spring water. I always buy huge jugs of spring water at the grocery store so I always have it laying around at home when I need it.
To bottle, we use some flip top bottles we found at Ikea for pretty cheap. You can buy (or save and clean) beer and wine bottles. You need special equipment to cap your wine and beer bottles, but corking a wine bottle is super satisfying. You can also age in carboys by replacing the airlocks with screw on tops. Before bottling, you need to make sure fermentation has stopped. You can put your mead in the fridge to make the yeast stop breeding (called “cold crashing”) or you can add chemicals (potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite) to do the same. Up to you. Just make sure your fermentation has stopped before bottling, otherwise you’ll have a basement full of ‘sploded glass and sticky mead.
To carbonate your mead, you need to know what you’re doing – it involves adding a bit of honey or priming sugar to the bottles just as you’re bottling. Be careful not to create “bottle bombs” by using bottles appropriate for beer and champagne – wine bottles aren’t meant to hold carbonation. Also, use champagne corks. This is a more advanced technique, and you should do lots of research before trying it.
If you find your mead isn’t sweet enough before bottling, you can add more honey after fermentation has halted to make it sweeter.
A few of these meads are technically melomels, which is another name for a mead made with additional fruit.
Sansa’s Lemon Mead
Since Sansa’s favorite food is lemon cakes, it’s pretty obvious what her favorite mead would be. Plus, she’s been understandably sour as of late, which is very much as refreshing as this mead will be next spring.
There are a few ways to make lemon mead, so think about your lemon goals and do what sounds best to you. You could make a very nice plain sweet mead and add juice and zest to it after primary fermentation, or you could just add everything in at the start and take a ride.
In any case, when you’re about to bottle, you can add zest or juice to your liking, or even backsweeten should you find your mead a bit too sour.
Carbonating during bottling would give this mead an undeniable hard lemonade vibe, which sounds amazing.
Once you do lemon for the first time, it’ll become one of your staples – it’s just such an amazing citric balance for the sweetness of the honey. Try adding ginger as well (insert redheaded Sansa joke here).
To make the lemon mead we made in the pic, collect the zest and juice of 6-8 lemons. Fill a gallon carboy halfway up with spring water. Add 2.5-3 lbs of your favorite honey, a handful of organic raisins (15 or so), black tea that’s been made from 3 teabags steeped and cooled (optional for tannin balance), and your activated yeast. Add your lemon zest and juice, and if you used organic lemons, toss some of the peels in as well (I put some lemon slices on top so my mead would look pretty for my pics – you can do that too).
After 10-14 days, whenever fermentation slows, rack off into secondary. Taste it, and if the lemon flavor isn’t prominent enough for your liking, add more zest and juice. Same goes for every racking you do.
Age for six months in secondary, racking every two months. Bottle or drink.
Olenna Tyrell’s Spiced Fig Mead
“I always take figs mid-afternoon, they help move the bowels.”
Thanks for that tip, Olenna. The only thing better than being regular is regularly enjoying a glass of mead. Now you can have it all!
- 2 lbs of fresh figs
- 2 lbs honey
- 1 gallon spring water
- one organic lemon, zested and sliced
- vanilla bean
- 2 cinnamon sticks, chopped
- 1 tsp of nutmeg
Add all ingredients to the primary fermenter. After 10 days, move off of figs and cinnamon sticks into secondary. Allow to ferment with airlock for 2 months, then rack. Ferment 2 more months, rack again, then 2 more months, and bottle after racking once more. Age for a year before enjoying…regularly.
Margaery’s Wild Rose Mead
The sigil of House Tyrell is a rose, which is incredibly appropriate for beautiful and cunning Margeary’s character. Although she uses marriage to get ahead, she truly belongs to no one but herself. If Margeary is the rose of the family, Grandma Olenna is the thorn – just ask Joff.
I can definitely see the Tyrell ladies sitting around King’s Landing one day sharing a chilled rose mead and celebrating their victories over any man who stood in their way.
- 2 lb honey
- 1 pint fresh, fragrant rose petals
- 1/4 tsp citric acid (or the juice and zest of 1 organic lemon)
- 1/4 tsp grape tannin (or a handful of raisins)
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- Champagne yeast
- 1 handful of chopped cherries (optional, for color)
To gather the roses, gather both the roses and buds. Make sure you get roses that smell intensely awesome, and be careful not to get roses that have been sprayed with pesticide (or dog pee).
Boil 1/2 gal water and honey for 20 minutes, skimming scum off surface. Alternatively, add room temperature water and honey straight into the bucket without boiling. Add all ingredients except for yeast. When water cools to lukewarm (or right away if you’re skipping boiling), add the other 1/2 gallon of water and sprinkle yeast on top. Cover with a piece of cheesecloth and allow to ferment for 10 days.
After primary is finished, using another bucket or a filtered siphon, strain mead off of flowers. Transfer liquid to secondary container and affix airlock. Allow to ferment for 60 days and do your first racking. Refit airlock and allow to sit another 2 months. Rack once more, bottle, and age for a year.
Just like the Tyrells, you must have patience.
Arya’s Sour Cherry Mead
How far Arya’s come. Remember before a girl was No One, and Arya was BFF’s with Hot Pie the baker? Hot Pie was a character who, IMHO, hit the mark really well by being somehow equal parts annoying and endearing. Hotpie once said that “you need sour cherries to make it right,” and although he was talking about a pie, it’s something we can imagine newly ‘Someone’ Arya might seek out to remind herself of her old friend.
In real life, cherries are a summer fruit and are ever so briefly in season for a two week flash in July. Sour cherries are incredibly tough to find in North America, since they’re not as popular as table cherries that can be eaten as they are. They’re much coveted by bakers, however, because their tartness and shape holds up through the baking process and they’re a wonderfully sour complement for the sweetness of a pie or tart. Perfect! If you can manage to find someone that grows them, get as much as you can to bake into jams and pies and make into mead, or even sour cherry infused vodka.
They were originally cultivated in Persia, and from there were brought to Greece and found their way to Western Europe. We’re sure Arya can relate to the sour cherry’s migration, as she’s (hopefully) about to make her own journey back to Westeros.
- 2 lb honey
- 2 lb fresh (or frozen and thawed) tart/sour cherries for a medium fruit flavor, more cherries for a stronger flavor.
- sweet mead yeast or Lalvin d-47
- 1 gallon of spring water
- 5 tsp pectic enzyme (found at the brewer’s store)
Stir your honey into your water in your primary fermenter. Add chopped cherries and pectic enzyme, which is optional and is only meant to help clear up the mead. After 10 days to two weeks, rack off primary into secondary. Rack again after 2 months, and again after 2 months, finally bottling. This may ferment more quickly thank 10 days (maybe more like 5) so use your best judgement on when to rack off into secondary.
Daenerys’ Pomegranate Mead
Pomegranates are a fruit native to Essos, the homeland of the Dothraki. If Dany were to make some seasonal mead with what’s been available to her while on the move, she’d undoubtedly want to add some poms. In fact, while she’s in Qarth she drinks a ruby-red wine that tastes like pomegranates, which may have very well been pomegranate mead.
- 2.5 lbs honey
- 1/2 gallon pomegranate juice (make sure it doesn’t have preservatives)
- 1 gallon of spring water
- Champagne yeast
- 1 tsp Irish moss (found at brew shops)
- 2 bags rooibos tea (red tea)
- 1 bag black tea
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
Most of this stuff can be bought at the grocery store, but you’ll need to get Irish moss at the brew shop. The recipe also called for 1 tsp of gypsum, which I decided to omit, but if you can find some at the brew shop you’re welcome to add it to primary.
Put all liquids, honey, Irish Moss, yeast nutrient, and optional gypsum into a large pot on the stove and boil for 15 minutes, skimming the foam off the top as it develops. Add your teabags and keep boiling for another 5 minutes. Remove the tea.
Remove from heat and cool until it reaches 70-80 degrees. Pour into carboy and pitch yeast.
Ferment for six months or until clear, racking every two months. Bottle and allow to age until the last few episodes of Season 7 (or about a year).
Note: to adapt this recipe to my style, I would make a tea of all the ingredients except the honey and juice, and boil that. I would cool it to room temperature, then add honey and juice, and then pitch yeast.
Tyrion’s Quick Pyment (Grape Mead)
The Lannisters replaced their blood with wine long ago. For a character who’s maybe best known for his status as being the god of tits and wine, the best possible mead would of course be grape wine. And while Tyrion has a patience for a lot of things, waiting for his wine isn’t one of them, so the recipe’s gotta be quick.
There aren’t many meads out there as easy and as quick as Joe’s Anceint Orange, excepting maybe this Joe’s Ancient Grape.
- 2 lbs clover honey
- 1 oz buckwheat honey
- 64 ounce welche’s grape juice with vitamin C added – make sure the ingredients don’t list any preservatives other than Vitamin C.
- Lalvin EC-1118 (champagne yeast)
This pyment will be ready to drink in about five weeks – a far cry from the others, which are typically ready to drink in six months to a year. Be careful to get the correct grape juice – preservatives will kill your yeast. The vitamin C in the grape juice serves as your absorbic acid. Its quick ferment finishes very dry because of the grape juice, so adjust accordingly by either adding more honey at the start or backsweetening at the end, up to you. I love dry mead.
Combine all ingredients into primary, shake it a bunch until honey is dissolved, and don’t touch it for two weeks (three weeks max).
Rack to secondary over 6 oz clover honey, 1 oz buckwheat honey, 6 oz of more grape juice, 1/2 t sorbate and 1/2 crushed campden tablet (both likely available at your brew store) to stabilize and halt fermentation. Allow to age and clear for three weeks, then drink, or bottle (but really, just drink it).
The Hound’s Braggot
The hound will drink every f**king braggot in this room.
- 3 lb honey
- 3.3 lb light malt extract
- 3 oz shredded ginger root
- 1 oz. Hallertauer hop pellets
- 4 oz priming suger
- 8 oz maltodextrin
- packet of champagne yeast
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced into boiling must
- 1 lemon juiced into prime
All the other recipes have been for 1 gallon carboys, but please note that this one’s for a 5 gallon carboy.
Braggot is mead that’s brewed with hops, and tastes like beer and mead. This recipe will be a little more challenging due to the beer brewing elements and carbonation at bottling, but you can do it.
Boil the malt for 45 minutes in 1 gallon of spring water, the boil for 10 more minutes after adding ginger, lemon zest and juice, hops, honey, and maltodextrin, available at your brew store.
Strain the wort (what beermakers call their mixture, otherwise known as must to meadmakers) into your fermentation bucket. Add ice cold distilled water until the temperature reaches 100 degrees, and top off with room temperature distilled water until your bucket (usually 6 gallons) is 5 gallons full.
Add your yeast, cover with airlock, and allow to ferment for 7 days. Rack into secondary, straining out the trub (or lees, the dead yeast at the bottom of the bucket). Your secondary should be a glass (or plastic) 5 gallon carboy with an airlock. Allow to ferment until fermentation ends, then prime your bottles with the priming sugar and bottle. Once it’s clear, you can enjoy!
Jon’s Black Mead
When Jon took the black, he took an oath not to enjoy any other color of mead. Black like a crow, or the hair of a Baratheon-sired bastard. Or you know, black like death. This mead is a bochet, which means you’ve got to caramelize the honey in a huge pot before putting it into primary. This requires extra equipment and lots of time to heat the honey – to get it dark without burning it too much, you’ve got to boil it for three hours, constantly stirring. It’s work. But how cool is black mead? As cool as a night on wall guard duty.
For a five gallon carboy:
- 18 lbs caramelized honey
- 2.5 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 package of Lalvin EC-1118, aka Champagne yeast
- 1 oz cardamom
- 1 oz ginger root
- 1 oz black tellicherry “extra bold” peppercorns, whole
Lots of barriers to entry for this mead – you’ll need a lot of honey, and you’ll need a lot of time to create the bochet, and you’ve got to be ok with your house smelling like burnt honey for a few days. You’ll also need a huge pot. That said, I haven’t made this yet, but I hope it’ll be my next one – I’ll keep you posted.
To begin, boil honey in very large pot for three hours until caramelized to your preferred shade. The black honey will become hard at room temperature, so be careful to handle it and hydrate it properly. Stir constantly.
It’ll bubble up while you cook it, so once it’s finished, let it calm down as it cools and gradually add one gallon of warm spring water and keep stirring. Add three more gallons of cold water to chill it, and allow it to fully cool to room temperature.
Place your must directly into your 5 gallon carboy, and pitch your yeast. Fill the carboy up to the neck with spring water. Add yeast nutrients if you like. The recipe calls for yeast nutrient to be added on a schedule: first at yeast pitching, again after 24 hours, then again midway through fermentation.
After primary fermentation is finished in about 5 days, rack into your bucket then back into your carboy, which is now your secondary fermenter as well. Add pepper, peeled and grated ginger root, and cardamom to taste and leave in for about 3 days. Rack once more and allow to age in secondary. Rack as you see fit.
8 weeks before bottling, the recipe recommends to boil finings into water and add boiling water to fermenter. Finings are used to clarify the color of the mead, and can be found at your brew shop.