We started a 6 gallon batch of Blackberry Melomel yesterday. Mead is a honey-based wine (hence bee barf) and alcohol is the by-product of the yeast eating the sugar (in this case, honey), therefore yeast poop. And blackberries, which makes it heaven.
Meadmaking is a bit fussier, and one helluva lot stickier, at the start, but otherwise like all other winemaking enterprises- ferment the sugar and fruit in an open container (primary fermentation, aerobic) until the Specific Gravity drops to the proper level, ferment in a closed container (secondary fermentation, anaerobic) until the specific gravity drops to the proper level, clear(allow the sediment to drop from the wine, either naturally, which is sllllooooowww, or with the help of clarification agents), bottle, age.
But the start is fiddly- the blackberries (10 packages) were placed in a mesh bag and put in the fermentation bucket, and a little sugar was added to the top to help the juices flow (thawed frozen berries are good for winemaking because the freeze/thaw cycle breaks down the cellular structure), strong tea (from 18 bags in 6 cups of water), lemon peel, tannin, are added.
The honey had to be prepared specifically for meadmaking because we used raw honey from a local producer. This honey was 3 years old and rock solid, so it had to be reheated, and all the little specks and pieces (bee poop?) had to be skimmed from the top. Then the honey was diluted and stirred, added to the blackberries in the bucket and stirred some more. After the liquid cooled, activated yeast was added, and from there it's the same process (except removing the bag of disintegrated fruit before it all goes into the carboy).
I used the recipe from Ken Schramm's The Complete Meadmaker (http://www.amazon.com/Compleat-Meadmaker-Production-Award-winning-Variations/dp/0937381802/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1230910471&sr=1-1 ), and our earlier batches came out perfectly.
If all goes well, we'll be toasting New Year 2011 with this wine.