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I was thinking about doing a very long-term aging on a batch of mead. The original idea was that when I have children in the future, I'd brew a batch as soon as Jr. comes home, and age it until Junior's 21st birthday (legal drinking age here in the US).

I know almost nothing about aging for extended periods. What do I need to learn in order to have this be successful?

EDIT: Since it appears this idea was poorly thought out, I'll probably try to do something else. Thanks for the answers/commentary!

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

21 years is a really long time. My ~11-12% abv meads start going downhill after about 2 years. I agree with what the top poster said, but it still may not be enough to keep it for 21 years and still have it taste good.

Another thing to think about ... age it about a year. Taste it. If it's good, freeze some of it. ;-) That'll slow down all the reactions almost completely. Just be careful if you try and freeze it in glass.

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I think your chances of success are slim -- 21 years is a long time. You'll want a very high ABV to reduce the viability of spoilage organisms. I'd even consider fortifying the mead with neutral spirits to bring the ABV to 20% or higher. (This is also a good way to halt the fermentation at a point where the residual sweetness from honey is to you taste.) When bottling, exercise great care in sanitation and exclude oxygen as much as possible. Use the longest, densest, most expensive corks you can find. Or use a Stelvin cap, or similar, to eliminate atmosphere exchange entirely. If using corks, consider sealing the cork with foil or (and this is mostly to look hardcore), wax. Adding the correct dose of sulphur to when bottling is a very good idea.

One last thing -- consider moving to Canada where the legal drinking age is 19.

Good luck.

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when you rack, add 1/8 tsp of ascorbic acid (Vitamin A) which can also help mop up any oxygen inadvertently introduced. – mdma Jan 31 '12 at 11:23
@mdma, ascorbic acid would be Vitamin C. Not sure how well Vitamin A would work for that... – fire.eagle Jan 31 '12 at 22:42
@fire.eagle, oops, yeah, I meant vitamin C...Vitamin A (Retinol, beta-carotene and a few others) might not do much for the mead apart from make it see better! – mdma Feb 1 '12 at 8:16

In addition to careful sanitation keep it away from heat, light and oxygen.

Heat: At least keep it to room temperature, even better, a cool cellar or refrigerated storage

Light: Brown bottles, or in a closed container (cellar/box/fridge)

Oxygen: Make sure whatever container you use is sealed properly. They make oxygen absorbing bottlecaps, I don't know about corks. A wax seal could help, too.

It's worth saying twice: sanitize carefully.

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I thought beer was light-sensitive because of the hop oils. Do wines/meads also have this problem, even though they have no hops in them? – Pulsehead Jan 31 '12 at 1:18
I think he's thinking about beer. Wine gets corked so it can breath someone. Capping it solidly like beer bottles might make for some overpressurized bottles at some point if you don't pasteurize the yeast. – brewchez Jan 31 '12 at 2:21
Hops are the main reason beer is light sensitive. If you're trying to get something to last 21 years, UV can't be good for it. I've never heard of wine "breathing". If fermentation is finished it won't overpressurize. – jcs Feb 2 '12 at 1:55

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