A Chorus of Calamus Mead

Acorus calamus, more often known as calamus root or sweetflag, is a relatively uncommon but widely distributed grass-like plant that grows along the edges of marshes and the margins of quiet lake shores throughout the north temperate world.

I could easily dedicate an entire post to calamus’ appearance, behaviour and fascinating (to me) taxonomy as well as the rich cultural traditions and medicinal properties that surround it. But as we all know, I’m here to write a mead recipe and not set myself up for a long winded lecture on how clearly awesome calamus is.

Calamus possesses a dense, woody rhizome which grows just underneath the surface of the soil. These rhizomes,used fresh or dried, are intensely bitter and aromatic, smelling somewhere between cloves and ginger but with their own personality all together.

One of my very first ever home made alcoholic ferments was a basic pale ale recipe which featured the dried, crushed roots of calamus in place of all of the hops. To this day it has been one of my favourite creations, the flavour entirely unique and something that until today I have not revised. So much time.. so little calamus.

1/2 Gallon Recipe:

– 1/2 gallon of water
– 1 pound wildflower honey
– 0.5 ounces dried Acorus calamus roots
– 1.75 grams Champagne yeast
– 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient (encourages a vigorous and thorough fermentation)
– 2 grams diammonium phosphate (provides additional nitrogen to yeast cells)
– 1 pinch of Irish moss (allows sedimentation of particles in suspension)

1) Fill pot with 1/2 gallon of water and add calamus roots. Set temperature to high and cover with lid.
2) In the mean time combine Champagne yeast, diammonium phosphate, yeast nutrient and Irish moss into 2 ounces of water. Stir for a few moments and set aside.
3) Once the water is boiling, turn down the temperature and allow to simmer (still covered) for 15 minutes.
4) Remove from heat and allow to cool until 160°F or less.
5) Add 1 pound of wildflower honey to the pot and stir until completely dissolved.
6) Once the must has reached 90°F pour it into your fermenter.
7) Add your Champagne yeast, diammonium phosphate, yeast nutrient and Irish moss mixture to your fermenter, cap and shake vigorously several times or for about 10-20 seconds.
8) Remove cap and replace with fitted airlock. Ferment until complete, approximately 16-26 days or as long as 4-6 weeks depending on the warmth of the room or until there is no action in the airlock.*
9) Clean and prime (if carbonated mead is desired) your bottles and rack finished mead into them. Cap tightly. Age at least 2 weeks or for up to a year. The longer the better.

*If you feel so inclined, after primary fermentation some folks rack their mead into a secondary fermenter and leave it for a while longer so as to end up with a clearer product. I find the Irish moss does a pretty good job of that and I’m not patient enough to wait a couple weeks longer.