I love every aspect of brewing, the mashing of the fruit, boiling the honey or maple syrup to skim off the proteins--even the sterilization. I love hearing the little gurgling sounds of gas moving through the water traps--makes me feel like I'm an alchemist in a lab. In the picture below, all but one of these have been bottled and/or drunk by now. Some of it, thankfully, is actually aging, which is what it should do, before being drunk. I show things here in the order that they've been bottled, not brewed, as some things (like the maple meads) take much longer to brew.

This wine turned out to be a delight--rich, red and meaty, spicy with ginger. The tannins in the elderberries and chopped raisins mellowed nicely. High alcoholic content, but it hides it well. My driest wine so far, this was made from pears from a friend's garden. They took a lot of processing, but the result was intriguing--yellow/green pears yielded a light, mauve-colored wine. Very warming. Here is a picture of the pear wine itself--odd ways sediment will color wine over time.
This is for the maple wine which I started in September. It turned out quite sweet, to my dismay.Tastes like maple sugar candy. This was just some apple juice to which I added sugar and yeast. The result was very tasty and dry--I couldn't help drinking a whole bottle the day I bottled it! This turned out much lighter than I expected, and dry (which I did expect), so I primed half the batch to make sparkling wine.
I just did my first beer--from malt extract (starting out easy), using Valhrona and Ghiradelli cocoas as well as fresh-ground Scharfenberger cocoa nibs. There are so many bottles of beer as opposed to wine, so quickly, I decided to take a different approach on labelling, and did the labels in black and white. This was the brew that started everything--and took a year to bottle (carboy shown below). I kept hoping it would get more alcoholic and less sweet, but instead, it got less alcoholic because the alcohol started to evaporate, and it started to oxidize, or "tone." All ports tone, apparently, and luckily, the tone of this wine is one of walnut flavors. A nice wine! My spicyest brew so far, this wine is almost like a "ginger beer" that you can get in the General Store, except that it's alcoholic (and of course, drier than a soda is). It is already smooth, albeit spicy. A good winter brew to keep one warm ;) The orange softened the ginger somewhat in this brew. Rich amber color and a medium dry for a mead (which some would call sweet).

My first straight honey mead--a traditional style "sack" mead, which is sweet and light. Made with a combination of locust and sourwood honeys. "Yarrow is supposed to be psychotropic when fermented." said a friend to me. I'm not sure about that, but this brew packs a whollup at 18% alcohol, and it quite yummy. It turned out a more amber color than the locust mead, and has nice, floral overtones. When the yarrow hit the boiling water, it smelled just like hops, but did not make the brew bitter at all. There's a vineyard of concord grapes where I live now, and I made SOOO much wine from them, but even using 5 lbs of fruit per gallon was disappointed by the lightness of the resulting wine. It's got a lovely fruity nose, fools one into thinking it's sweet, when it is absolutely dry (SG=.990), and it not tannic at all. I was staggered at the original gravity (OG=1.96) and the fact that Montrachet yeast took this all the way to 24% alcohol--FAST.
Lately I've gotten into making beer again, but instead of stouts or porters, I've been making Belgian-style trippels with high alcohol content (high gravity).I've really liked the results, and so have my friends, for they don't stay around very long. They take somewhat longer to ferment, of course, and a couple weeks to clarify, but it seems like less than a month and I need to make more, because it's so yummy!


From left to right, 5 gallon Grade B Maple mead* with Montrachet, 5 gallon Boysenberry wine, 1 gallon Mango wine, 1 gallon Grade A Maple mead with Champagne yeast

*Mead is technically made from honey only, so I have run into some experts who argue calling anything with maple syrup and no honey "mead." If that is truly the case, then maybe we need to make up another name for it altogether, like, say, ambrosia...