What is Mead?
Mead is a unique class of alcoholic beverage characterized by three ingredients: fermented honey, water and yeast. Mead is the first known alcoholic beverage consumed by mankind and is believed to predate wine by nearly three thousand years. Today, mead is often referred to as ‘honey wine’ because the process of making mead and wine are so similar. The key difference is the use of honey rather than grapes as a source of sugar. Like wine, mead is aged for a period of months or years, contains up to 18% alcohol, and is typically sold by the bottle. Traditional mead is made without grains and is gluten-free.
What Does Mead Tastes Like?
From Texas wildflowers to Florida orange blossoms; honey tastes like the flowers of its local region. Therefore mead comes in a variety of diverse and complex flavor profiles. How mead tastes depends on the type of honey, how dry or sweet it was crafted to be, and whether or not additional flavors were added. Traditional mead contains only honey, water, and yeast; however, there are many varieties of mead that include fruits, spices, and herbs. While many assume a honey-based beverage would be sweet; like wine, mead can be dry, semi-sweet or sweet.
Types of Mead
From herbaceous and dry, to sweet and fruity, the flavors of mead are so diverse that no matter your taste, there is a perfect mead for every palate.
Melomel is a type of mead that is made with any kind of fruit. Melomels can be dry or sweet; intensely fruity or sublte.
Cyser is a type of melomel, made with apples.
Pyment is a melomel mead, made with grapes.
Black Mead is a melomel, made with black currants.
Metheglin is mead made with herbs and or spices. The word 'medicine' likely derives from this word. For many centuries, mead infused with herbs or spices was a common remedy for colds and ailments. Common spices include cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, clove, ginger, allspice, thyme, and hyssop.
Bochet is mead that is made with caramelized or burned honey; resulting in dark smoky flavors like toffee, caramel, or marshmallow.
Braggot is made by fermenting honey and malted barley together; making it more of a mead-beer hybrid. Braggot was a common drink in medieval times.
Sparkling Mead is carbonated; like sparkling wine and Champagne.
How to Drink Mead
Straight traditional mead is typically served chilled in a wine or cocktail glass; but there is really no wrong way to drink it. From ice cold to pipping hot in your favorite mug, mead can be enjoyed at any temperature.
Mead also makes an excellent cocktail ingredient. Add a drop of a sweet and fruity mead to a Gin Fizz or Vodka Tonic. Mix your mead with sparkling water, ice and fruit for a mead Sangria. Add a bit of herbal mead to your hot tea. The possibilities are endless. The diversity and versatility of mead make it a unique, show stopping ingredient that belongs in every serious mixologists liquor cabinet.
How to Store Mead
An unopened bottle of mead should be stored in a cool dark place like a pantry, cabinet, or wine cellar. Do not to store mead in the sunlight. Do not store mead near a heat source. Prolonged exposure to sunlight or heat can detrimentally affect the taste and shelf life. Light meads with a low alcohol content should be stored in a refrigerator.
Should Mead be Refrigerated After Opening?
Light meads with an alcohol content of <13% should be resealed and stored in a refrigerator. Meads with a high alcohol content can be tightly re-sealed and stored in a cool pantry or wine cellar. Once a bottle of mead is opened, like wine, it begins to oxidize. However, the effects of slight oxidation on mead are not as noticeable or offensive as with your typical wine. In effect, an opened bottle of mead has a longer shelf life than an open bottle of wine. Properly stored a re-sealed and opened bottle of mead should last many weeks to many months.
Shelf Life of Mead
There is no exact expiration date for mead. Like wine, mead is aged and an unopened bottle can last many years if stored properly. The shelf life of mead is effected by alcohol content and aging time. Generally, the higher the alcohol content the longer the shelf life. It is important to note that these factors vary from mead to mead and brand to brand. Check with the manufacturer for the 'best consumed by' recommendation.
History of Mead
Humans began making mead (also referred to as honey wine) before the dawn of civilization. Mead made from harvested wild honey was consumed by hunter gatherers long before we began to cultivate grapes or grain for wine and beer. Pottery vessels dating back to 7000 BC in northern China indicate the presence of fermented honey.
In Europe, the earliest evidence of mead can be found in the archeological remains of the Bell Beaker Culture which thrived over 4,000 years ago. Ancient texts such as the Rigveda (1700-1100 BC) of India, and the works of Aristotle (384-322 BC), and Pliny the Elder (23-79) all refer to mead.
Mead was the primary drink of Celtic and Germanic heroic poetry. The Old English epic Beowulf refers to warriors consuming the mead.
An increase in the popularity of grape wine and the influx of cheaper cane sugar from the New World all contributed to the decline of mead in Europe --although some monasteries continued the tradition of mead-making as a by-product of honey production.
Today mead is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. People looking for a paleo-friendly or gluten free alcoholic beverage are seeking out mead as a new alternative to beer. An interest in local craft beverages and beverages made with local ingredients is also helping to fuel the growth of mead. Whatever the reason, we’re glad you are interested, and look forward to offering you many new interpretations of this ancient drink.