Having bored you with four consecutive vintage tales of my martial career, I'm now going to bore you with tales of something I actually have some competence in: wine and mead making.
When I joined the Society in Eastrealm, one of the most renowned mead makers in that kingdom was Lady (now Duchess) Melisande de Belvoir. She was resident in the Barony of Bakhale and wherever the Bakhalies went, you would usually find Mel's mead.
On the last day of Pennsic VI, I emerged from my tent to find the Bakhalies, who were camped across the way, engaged in debate. It seems that someone had left half an open bottle of Mel's mead on the table, and they were unsure as to what might have crawled into the bottle overnight. Some thought the contents of the bottle should be discarded, while others maintained that Melisande's mead was too good to waste.
I listened to the discourse for a minute, then strode over to the table, grabbed the bottle, and declared,
"I'm a Viking, I'll drink anything," and chugged the contents. This was, admittedly, a rather rash thing to do, but it did settle the debate and Mel's mead IS too good to waste.
I learned Lady Melisande's recipe from Evart of Bangor, who was a member of the household that Mel belonged to. While watching him put together a batch of mead, Evart advised me to never use non-returnable bottles for mead making. To illustrate why you should not use non-returnable bottles, Evart told me the following story:
Small mead finishes fermenting in the bottle so it can develop effervescence. When Evart made his first lot of mead, he bottled it in no-deposit beer bottles that he had been saving for that purpose. After he was done, he had fourteen bottles of mead which he set aside to finish fermenting.
That Friday, Evart left town to attend a mundane wedding. It was a warm spring weekend and when he returned Sunday evening, Evart found that twelve of the mead bottles had exploded! The scene, as Evart described it, was of mead a quarter inch thick on the kitchen floor, thousands of ants drowning therein, and glass shrapnel embedded in the walls. It was quite a mess to come home to and clean up, and after he was done, Evart collapsed into his bed.
About 2:00 AM, with a report Evart likened to that of a shotgun, bottle #13 detonated.After cleaning up another, smaller mess, Evart carefully put bottle #14 into the refrigerator to cool it down and stop the fermentation. The next day, he carefully cracked the cap on the remaining bottle to relieve the pressure. Evart reported that the bottle bubbled and hissed for a half hour, and afterwards there was only about an inch of mead left in the bottom of the bottle.
I periodically receive letters from folk asking for wine and mead recipes or advice. One day, a few years after Isolde and I had moved to Meridies, I got a letter from Lord Lachlan Sinclair Dumas asking for a recipe for turnip wine. Lord Sinclair explained that he had just heard of someone making turnip wine and he thought it would be quite humorous to toast someone's health with turnips. Sinclair averred that he was sure that I didn't have a recipe for turnip wine, but he was equally sure that I could create one. I smiled at this, because I knew that I had at least two recipes for turnip wine in my wine making books. I copied the recipes, sent them off to Lord Sinclair, and thought no more about it.
When Sinclair received the recipes, he proceeded to produce the wine which he subsequently entered in the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Faire. Baron Gordon Blackwolf the Disrespectful was one of the judges that year and I'll always remember his comment on the turnip wine:
"I can't believe I actually put it in my month!"
No more has been heard of turnip wine in this Kingdom, which I believe to be a good thing.