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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 contains up to 20% alcohol and is typically sold by the bottle. Traditional mead is made without grains and is gluten-free.

 

What Mead Tastes Like

From Texas wildflowers to Japanese cherry blossoms; honey tastes like the flowers of its local region. Therefore mead comes in a variety of diverse and complex flavors profiles. How mead tastes depends on the type of honey, whether or not additional flavors were added, and how dry or sweet it was crafted to be. Traditional mead contains only honey, water, and yeast; however, there are many varieties of mead that include fruits, spices, and herbs. While most people assume a honey-based beverage would be sweet; like wine, mead can be dry, sweet, or semi-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 you.

 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. 

 
Mead cocktail in a martini glass, next to a bottle of Bubbs Bitters and Elgin Mead

How to Drink Mead

Straight 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

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.  

Shelf Life of Mead

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. Light meads with an alcohol content of <13% should be re-sealed and stored in a refrigerator.  Meads with a high alcohol content can be tightly re-sealed and stored in a pantry or wine cellar. There is no exact expiration date for mead. An unopened bottle has a shelf life of many years. A properly stored re-sealed bottle should last many weeks.

Ecological Benefits of Mead

Mead is a sustainable, natural and ecologically beneficial product. Learn about how making mead helps save the bees, the unique and properties of honey, or check out our Mead Maker's Manifesto.

 
 

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. 

medieval painting of monk drinking 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. 

Mead Today

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.