Quick(-ish) and Easy Hippocras…Sort Of

Introduction

Hippocras (or hypocrase, ypocras, etc.) is a medieval spiced wine made with ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and grains of paradise, along with some sugar. As many will notice, it also bears a resemblance to hot mulled wines common during numerous winter holidays.

Here, I will go through the process of attempting to ferment a store-bought spiced drink to simulate hippocras.

Please note: Because of some ingredients (looking at you, cranberries) this isn't a truly medieval endeavor. It's more an exploration of my random thoughts as a beginning brewer.

The History

As mentioned earlier, spiced wines have been made at least as far back as the medieval era. As time goes on, spiced wines continue to be made, two well-known spiced wines are "mulled wine" and "glogg".

Mulled wine is especially common in England as a favored drink to provide one's guests in the winter months. A slow cooker with an orange slice or two, along with spices is a common mental image.

Glogg is a version favored in Sweden, and shares many characteristics with its English cousin. One defining trait (aside from the ramped-up alcohol content in glogg) is the addition dried fruits and nuts into the mix, ending up as more of a soup than a beverage.

Inspiration

For my experiment, I look to the drink that started it all... IKEA's "Vintersaga mulled fruit drink". Being a fan of IKEA, I find myself drawn to it whenever I find myself nearby (good thing the nearest is a couple hours away).

This past winter, while picked up some kitchen utensils and the like, a kind store associate offered me some warm Vintersaga as a sample. The smell of it alone compelled me. Upon tasting that Swedish elixir, I knew I had to have some...a whole case of it.

Upon getting home, I found myself wondering how this delightful beverage would taste in a more alcoholic form, and thus the wheels were set into motion...

IKEA's Vintersaga

Ingredients

Because of the currently on-going nature of this project, this list is subject to change.

-4.5 liters Vintersaga (6 bottles)
-5.3 g Lallemand "Abbaye" dry yeast
-1.799 oz clover honey
-1 1/2 cup hot tap water

The yeast choice was made for a couple of reasons:
1. Higher heat tolerance - My apartment is kept on the warmer side, and lacks area where I can maintain temperatures more conducive to colder yeast strains.

2. Flavor profile - Of the yeasts I had on-hand, this one, with its spicy flavors, would go hand in hand with the vision I have for this project.

3. Alcohol content - A high alcohol content is a hallmark of glogg, and using this yeast strain, I can get upwards of 14% before the yeast begins to die off. It's not nearly as strong as if it were made with hard liquor, but should still prove to be strong in its own right.

Method

Preparing a starter

  1. Into a sanitized jar, combine hot water and honey, stirring to ensure the honey is well-dissolved. (OG: 1.034 @ 105°F)
  2. Place yeast into a larger jar, allowing it to come to room temperature.
  3. Once honey/water mixture has cooled to 90°F, pour into jar containing yeast. Cover with a thin cloth.
  4.  Swirl starter occasionally, allow to sit for 90 minutes.
  5. Measure 1 cup of Vintersaga, and combine it with the starter. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. (Vintersaga OG: 1.076 @ 72°F) It should be noted, that at this point in the process I realized that I should *not* have used the honey-water mixture to rehydrate the yeast, but instead use plain water. One of these days, I'll remember.
  6. Pour all but one full bottle of the Vintersaga into primary fermentor. This includes the bottle you took the 1 cup from earlier.
  7. Pour starter into primary fermentor, gently swirling. Then add the last bottle of Vintersaga. Close up fermentor, and seal with an airlock.

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