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Q: What is Skeeter Pee?

A: Essentially it’s a lemon wine.  It’s easy to make, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it tastes great.

Q: Why did you name it “Skeeter Pee”?

A: Several things pointed me to the name Skeeter Pee:

•I wanted to differentiate it from the commercial hard lemonades

•It tastes best when the mosquitoes are their worst; those tend to be hot sweltery evenings        without much breeze. Minnesota has lots of summer heat, humidity, and mosquitoes.

•It looks like… well….uh…. Pee. Most batches made from white and rose slurries are a pale yellow (dark slurries will give you more of a pink lemonade color).

•Back when I was a youngin’, if a guy were to show up at a party drinking a beer with low alcohol content, he would get ribbed for drinking “bunny pi$$”. While Skeeter Pee has more alcohol than most beers and pop wines, it has less alcohol than other wines I make, so the name seemed to fit.

•Before calling it Skeeter Pee, I referred to it as hard lemonade. I found that the more I drank, the harder it got to say hard lemonade. But saying Skeeter Pee seems to get easier as the night wears on, even though it might be slurred a bit. Try saying both yourself while imitating your best drunken drawl.

•The name is just “naughty” enough that it elicits intrigue from the average guest without offending grandma so much that I get an unforgiving glare; she just rolls her eyes.

•The beverage isn’t a real serious one and the name helps prevent people from feigning sophistication. You just pop the top, tip it back, and suddenly we’re all equal. I don’t care if you’re an astronaut, ditch digger, surgeon, or a laborer; when you enjoy a Skeeter Pee together, we’re all brought down to the lowest common denominators of enjoyment; you all have refreshment, each other’s company, and a beverage with a silly name.

Q: Do you have a 1 gallon recipe?

A: Sorry, I don’t.  If there’s any way you can make the 5 gallons, I highly encourage it.  You’ll soon discover that one 5 gallon batch isn’t enough for the summer.

Q: What exactly is slurry?

A: While making wine, heavier particles will settle to the bottom of your primary fermenter.  When you transfer or rack the wine from your primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter, you often leave this sediment behind and end up throwing it out.  This “slurry” at the bottom of your primary is a veritable army of viable yeast, unused nutrients, and fruit flavors. Skeeter Pee essentially “recycles” this slurry by putting it to work in a new batch of wine; this keeps Mother Nature smiling.  We’re all better off when Mother’s happy.

Q: Do I use all the slurry?  How much is needed?

A: Most of my wines have 1-3 cups of slurry left over after racking.  I use all of this slurry in a batch of Skeeter Pee.  If you make a wine from crushed fruit, sometimes there is more sediment due to the fruit solids. In this case, you can pour the slurry through a straining bag which will allow much of the yeast to flow through while eliminating seeds, skins, and fruit chunks (some seeds can impart bitter flavors and should be strained out).

Q: What wine slurry makes the best tasting Skeeter Pee?

A: First off, remember that slurry can add a hint of color and flavor to your Skeeter Pee, but it is usually slight.  Very dark wines will turn your Skeeter Pee light purple or pink color; white wine slurries will give you a straw colored beverage.  As for flavor combinations, just about anything works. Your finished product will be dominated by the lemon flavor, but it could carry hints of the originating wine.  For this reason, I don’t use slurries from odd wines like peppermint, jalapeno, or tomato.  Raspberry, crabapple, and peach are a few of my favorites.

Q: Does the type of yeast make any difference?

A: Any active slurry will work, but some yeasts are better suited for the job.  Red Star Premier Cuvee works well as does Lalvin EC-1118. Both are reliable, robust, and slower to produce sulfur dioxide aromas.

Q: Are there any other qualifications for a good slurry?

A: Your slurry needs to be alive with yeast.  Active bubbling in the airlock is an indicator that you’re yeast is still active. Stay away from these problem slurries:

•A slurry coming from a wine that has already fermented dry.  This means that the yeast has run out of food and died or gone inactive.  We want an active slurry, so I recommend racking and collecting at an S.G. of 1.005.

•A slurry coming from a wine where the alcohol content is near or exceeds the yeast’s tolerance.

•A slurry that has been exposed to temperatures outside their working norm.

•Slurries that you’ve treated with sorbates or benzoates to inhibit activity.

•Using a slurry from an earlier batch of Skeeter Pee can pose problems.  As yeast is pushed to its limits, the likelihood that it could develop sulfur-dioxide problems increases.

Q: Can I save a slurry for a later batch of Skeeter Pee?

A: I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard from people who have.  They keep the slurry in the refrigerator until needed.  A plastic container with a snap on lid would be better than a tightly sealed glass bottle.  I’ve also heard of people keeping a slurry alive for a few days by slowly feeding it small amounts of sugar.  This method does run the risk of running up the alcohol content which could kill off the yeast.  Instead of trying to save slurries, I keep an ample supply of ingredients on hand and mix them together a day or so before I plan to rack a wine.

Q: Can I make a batch of Skeeter Pee if I don’t have a slurry?

A: You can.  Some people have had luck simply sprinkling the yeast on top of the must in the place of using a slurry.  Be cautioned though, that the ferment will take much longer to get started.  It helps to whip the must with a wire whisk to introduce lots of oxygen and keep the must warm.  Be prepared to wait up to a week to see signs of ferment.  An alternative method that has been successful is starting a 1 gallon batch of wine using frozen concentrate, letting it go for 5 days to a week to get good and active, and then using the whole thing in place of a slurry.

Q: Can I use frozen lemonade concentrate or fresh lemons to make Skeeter Pee?

A: People have gone this route but with varying degrees of success.  Because of differences in acidity, they often run into the same problems that the old hard lemonade recipes encountered.  Be careful that your frozen concentrate doesn’t contain artificial preservatives.  While fresh lemons don’t contain artificial preservatives, I believe there are natural barriers in the lemon that prevent or slow fermentation.  If you use fresh or frozen, be prepared to do some extra babysitting to get the finished product.

Q: I have a batch of SP going and I’m getting ready to add the last bottle of lemon juice.  I know the lemon juice doesn’t have much sugar, but doesn’t adding more lemon after the SG reading make the previous reading inaccurate?

A: That last bottle of juice will likely throw the numbers off slightly, but not by much. Skeeter Pee is a little more casual than some of the precise processes used to create world-class wines. It’s a fun beverage enjoyed by the common people of the world. The only number I really get concerned about is: Have I made enough to get me through the summer?

Q: When my Skeeter Pee is finished fermenting, can I sweeten it using frozen concentrate instead of sugar?

A: My experience tells me that the lemon flavor can be somewhat hidden when the Pee is dry (unsweetened).  I’d recommend removing a small sample and doing some bench testing. I think you’ll find that as you add sugar, the lemon flavor will begin to blossom.  If you feel you need to punch up the lemon flavor, go ahead and use lemonade and sugar in a ratio that you like. Just be careful not to get the acid too high or it’ll strip the enamel off your teeth and burn a hole in your stomach.

Q: Ok… call me an inpatient winemaker……or, perhaps with patio season here, I just really want to drink some Skeeter Pee.  My question is: do you find the flavor profile changes or opens up when you leave it in a carboy longer versus adding the sparkolloid earlier and bottling earlier? I’m about three weeks in and getting thirsty.

A:   I haven’t done any double-blind studies to see if it noticeably improves with aging.  I have had bottles that have aged over winter and I didn’t notice any changes. The way I see it, the small possibility of improvement isn’t worth the lost opportunities. I say; as soon as it’s done fermenting and you’re happy with the clarity, bottle it for drinking.

Q: Most recipes call for the addition of campden/sulfites at the beginning; did you forget to include this in the recipe?

A: No, campden or sulfites should not be added when preparing your must assuming you’ve followed proper standard sanitation procedures.  The bottled lemon juice is already sterile and is infused with sulfites.  Adding more sulfites would likely prevent fermentation.

Q: Where do you get your bottles for Skeeter Pee?

A: I use Modelo bottles. It’s a beer from Mexico that still uses crown caps. Modelo also makes a dark beer in brown bottles called Negra Modelo. I like the single serving container best, but I’ve seen others use wine bottles, 2-liter pop bottles, gallon jugs, or standard long-neck beer bottles. I serve mine to guests chilled, right in the bottle, but some people serve it in a glass over ice with a wedge of lemon or mint.

Q: Will my SP clear faster in a 70 degree indoor environment or a 34-45 degree environment?

A: Here is what I’d recommend. To get Skeeter Pee to clear, it helps if it’s degassed…. really well. To do a good job of degassing, keep it warm. Degassing in the 70’s is usually more productive than trying to degas at lower temps. I would keep it warm to degas, and then add fining agents if you’re in a hurry, and then move it to cooler temps.

Q: I see that your Skeeter Pee is clear.  Does it need to be clear or can I serve it cloudy like natural lemonade?

A: That’s a matter of preference.  Some like it clear, some like it cloudy.  I’ve served it both ways and find that the presentation is better when the beverage is clear.  Some people seem to have a problem with home-made cloudy concoctions (just like cloudy water may be safe to drink, but it’s far less visually appealing).  I also find that the cloudy version carries a stronger “yeasty” flavor.

Q: Why do you add a little bit of lemon juice when making the invert sugar?

A: The lemon juice is an acid. It’s the acid and the heat that breaks the long chain sugars (table sugar a.k.a. sucrose) into two short chain sugars[fructose and glucose]. You could use another acid if you had it handy, but since we’re working with lemon juice anyway….

Q: What is the purpose of waiting 24-48 hours before pitching the yeast?

A: Bottled lemon juice usually contains preservatives. Giving it a day to breathe lets some of these preservatives dissipate. It also ensures that your batch has settled at room temperature so that when it is blended with the yeast slurry, they are close to the same temp and we don’t shock the yeast.

Q: I see that several people mentioned the weather outside needing to get warmer so they could start their Skeeter Pee. I’m assuming this has to do with the temperature of the wine during fermentation. What’s the ideal temp and will the wine be negatively affected if it’s not in this range?

A: Actually, references to warm weather have to do with the ideal temperature to enjoy an ice cold Skeeter Pee. As for fermentation temperatures, it will depend a little on the yeast you use, but you’d do well to keep it around 70-75 F (21-24C).  Other temps will often work but may affect the time needed to complete fermentation.