HOW TO DRINK MEAD LIKE A VIKING
Mead is believed to be the first widely consumed alcoholic beverage. Archaeological records from both Northern China and Greece place mead amongst the earliest of any alcoholic drinks discovered by man. Honey was a cheap source of sugar – needed for the distillation process. It also has antimicrobial properties which reduced the chance for a contaminant to sneak in.
In modern day society, we think of mead as the famous drink of the Vikings. The Scandinavians weren’t the first nor even the most prominent of drinkers of this honey-sweetened brew. Romans, Greeks, and the Chinese all enjoyed a drink that can be made in a surprising number of variations.
HOW IS MEAD MADE?
If you want to go old school, Columella, a Latin historian, wrote in 60 A.D. this basic recipe for mead:
Take a half liter of distilled rain water and mix in a third of a kilogram of honey. Let it sit out in the sun for approximately 40 days and you’ve got yourself a strong mead. For a weaker mead, only add a quarter of a kilogram of honey.
These units are approximated from what historians know to be Roman units of measurement. But from this simple recipe, we can garner a lot.
Because water weighs one kilogram per liter, we can deduce a rough 3:2 ratio of water to honey for the strong mead. For a weaker mead, we’re looking at a 2:1 ratio.
If you put all these ingredients in a sanitized container, in approximately 40 to 60 days, you would have a traditional mead. For the weaker variety, this could be considered a hydromel.
In modern day society, we have the advantage of cultured yeasts and cheap sources of sugar to help the distillation process along. In short, making mead at home isn’t hard but any mead brewery will tell you: the devil is in the details. Take a look here for a complete mead recipe.
TYPES OF MEAD MANUFACTURED TODAY?
Modern mead is manufactured with a dizzying amount of details and specifications. Here is a light preview of all the different types of mead that are made:
- Traditional Mead – Honey, distilled water, yeast and time. That’s it.
- Sack Mead – Mead made to maximize alcohol content.
- Hydromel – A more dilute mead with lower alcohol content.
- Melomel – Mead made with fruit such as sliced apples or grapes.
- Metheglin – Spiced mead made with herbs and sometimes even chili peppers.
- Braggot – Mead made with barley, oats and other beer ingredients. Gives the mead a more earthy tone.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. If anything, this list should give you an idea of how varied the brewing practices can be for producing mead. In addition to these steps, there are additional steps brewers will take to preserve or change the flavor of the mead itself. This can be done by boiling the honey and water product prior to distillation or it can be done by procuring honey made from specific flowers such as carrot, wildflowers, clover, and others.
Alcoholic Strength and Sweetness
Stronger, richer meads can sometimes take on an almost bourbon quality. The sweetness can be reduced greatly in favor of a higher alcohol content and a darker tone. For more information take a look at our previous article “how to make mead“.
Just like wine, mead can be sweet, carbonated, semi-sweet, and dry. It just depends on what your taste buds crave and what is available.
Mead is making a come-back in terms of popularity. Their availability is still limited but high-end brew pubs have been known to feature meads and braggots – though they notoriously sell out fast. Take a look here for a complete selection of premium mead available for sale.
Do you drink mead with anything?
There are no specific rules set in stone. It’s a versatile drink that’s meant to be enjoyed the way you want it. You can have it neat after dinner or create your own concoction with soda, lemonade, or just plain water. You can also pour it over ice or serve it chilled all the way.
As far as the food pairings go, you can enjoy mead with spicy meals or a fruit salad. If you like your mead dry, have it with your favorite cheese snacks for good times.
Sparkling mead, in particular, is great for parties and can be served with hors d’oeuvres to give your guests a memorable experience. Or you can purchase a bottle of mead and go experimenting with your favorite foods, salads, and desserts. And don’t forget to write down the best pairings so that you can share them later with your friends or guests and take the credit for being a wonderful host.
Mead is a historic drink and should be treated as such. So why not drink it from a horn or elaborately decorated silver cups, just like Vikings in medieval times?
There are endless ways to enjoy mead, with various flavors and options ranging from 5% to 20% alcoholic strength.
Should mead be drunk warm or cold?
The short answer is you can have it any which way you like or depending on the weather and the reason for your indulgence. Mead can be served chilled or at room temperature. But if the weather outside is wet and cold, you can enjoy a glass of warmed up mead while sitting by the fireplace.
Make sure you don’t overheat the mead as it can alter the taste and composition. You can heat it up to 55 degrees celsius and spice it up with a cinnamon stick. Most people like their mead warmed up in order to harness its medicinal qualities or to simply sleep better at night. So, having your warm mead neat is the right thing to do.
On the other hand, if you like it chilled or at room temperature, don’t forget to arrange some savory delights or bite-sized snacks to elevate your experience. Alone or in a group, a glass of fine honey wine never disappoints.
Is mead good for beginners?
Most people may associate mead with bad hangover experiences until they get their hands on a fine bottle. Mead is definitely great for beginners, but just like any other drink, not all meads are created alike. So, if you are going to try mead for the first time, you will want to steer clear of the outlets that serve nine bucks a pop. Go for well-made options such as those manufactured by Hidden Legend Winery, and we’ll bet you can’t stop at your first bottle.
Also, it is important for beginners to know that mead comes in alcoholic strength ranging from 5% to 25%. Depending on your tolerance and mood, you can pick a bottle for your good times.
Plus, there’s a variety of flavors to choose from. Although the fundamental ingredient in all kinds of mead is honey, the taste can be accented with certain spices and fruit extracts. These spices are generally added after the honey is diluted with water and before the fermentation begins. However, if you are a beginner, a traditional mead without all the bells and whistles is a great place to start.
Moreover, if you like bubbles in your drink, you can try carbonated mead as well.
Is mead stronger than wine?
Depending on the alcoholic strength, mead can be stronger than wine or beer. Mead bottles can have alcohol composition anywhere between 5% and 25%, whereas most beers and wines barely exceed the 10% mark.
Mead is the oldest known alcoholic beverage in the world, with several historic references dating back to thousands of years ago. Not only is it stronger than wine, but it can also offer diverse flavors so that every time you go out to get a bottle of mead, there’s an opportunity for you to try something new.