Prickly pear mead yeast question

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Feb 8, 2017
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I'm mainly a beer brewer but I've made a few meads and melomels over the years. I have about 4 liters of prickly pear juice in the freezer from a recent trip to NM, and I've been planning a melomel from that. However, after reading up on sour beers, and being slightly crazy, I've been thinking of experimenting and would like some advice. Here's what I'm thinking of doing.

I would use about half of the juice with 15 lbs of honey to make a 5 gallon batch of melomel. I've always gone dry before, but this time would like to have a semi-dry finish, on the dry side but with some sweetness left.

At the same time, I would like to start two 1-gallon batches. Each would have a couple lbs of honey with 1 liter of juice, but these would each be sour. After the 5 gallon batch is done, I would bottle 3 gallons of it, then add one of the 1-gallon batches to it and let it go for as long as needed. I would then bottle it when done and bottle the other 1-gallon batch as well. The idea is to finish with three styles: the semi-dry, the pure sour, and a combination of the three.

The question I have for more experienced folks is this - what yeast would you use for the semi-dry? And what bugs or blend of bugs would you use for the sour part? And how long will the 1-gallon sour and the combination batch need to ferment?

Thanks in advance.
Hi riograndejoe - and welcome. There is not a lot of solid information out there about sour meads so IMO, anything you want to try pitching will be as good as anything anyone might suggest. I have a batch of mead to which I added L. brevis (WL 672) but brevis bacteria will only ferment a couple of points or so (this according to White Labs) and so you want to also add some yeast. This mead is still quietly aging so I cannot offer you any tasting notes. I am also experimenting with Brett (B. lambicus) but this is not a sour although I may blend the lambicus with the brevis (I don't have my notes with me and may have added 71B to the sour to take down all the rest of the sugar....

How long will it need to age? Not sure. I am not letting mine age more than two or three months: I am experimenting with quick short meads (ABV of about 5 or 6 %) that are intended to be ready for drinking in one to three months.

Last thought: mead ain't beer. Any yeast will ferment bone dry any reasonably assembled must made from honey (yes, even ale yeasts) so the idea is to coddle the yeast and allow it to chow down on the available sugars and then to stabilize and back sweeten to a sweetness that balances the ABV and the acidity of the mead. That means the choice of yeast should really depend on the flavors and aromas you want to highlight and those you want to mask or diminish - and not on any idea that this or that yeast can better handle gravities that are above the stratosphere...
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Thanks for the input. I didn't know about the limitations on the L. Brevis. Maybe I should try a lambic blend for the gallon that I don't add to the main carboy.

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