Mead is a beverage with a long and storied history. The Greeks described mead as “the nectar of the Gods,” while the Vikings enjoyed warm mead on chilly nights. The English used mead to treat indigestion, and it was fermented in pottery in Ancient China. Mead is even mentioned in many classical works of literature, including Beowolf and Canterbury Tales.
Even though mead has been around for thousands of years, it’s still popular today. In fact, it’s only become more popular in recent years. What is mead? What makes it different from other alcoholic beverages? Read on to learn more about mead and what makes it unique.
What Is Mead Wine?
Mead is a type of alcoholic beverage that’s produced from honey. The word mead comes from an Old English word, [medu], which means “fermented honey drink.” While it’s often referred to as “honey wine,” mead isn’t actually considered to be wine at all. Wine is produced from fermented fruits and berries, but mead wine is made from fermented honey.
While honey is known for its sweetness, mead doesn’t always taste sugary. There are many different types of mead and a wide variety of flavors. Some types of mead, like cyser and melomel, are made from a blend of honey and fruit. There are also types of mead wine that use hops or barley, like braggot. You can even find mead that uses flowers to give the beverage a complex taste. Today, spiced mead wine is especially popular.
Mead has long been a popular way to use honey. In fact, the word “honeymoon” got its name from traditions involving mead. Many cultures believed that mead was an aphrodisiac. It was common for newlyweds to drink this beverage together after their wedding in the hopes that it would increase the chances of offspring.
Mead can be sparkling, still, dry, or sweet. The overall flavor of the beverage will vary based on the type of honey used and the additional ingredients that are included in the brew. Clover, acacia, and orange blossom are some of the most popular types of honey used to make mead, but buckwheat and wildflower honey are also popular options.
It’s possible to enjoy mead at many different temperatures. Mulled mead, a type of warm mead flavored with spices, is frequently served at winter holiday festivities. In the summer months, mead is usually chilled before it is served. Mead can even be served over ice.
Although mead has never disappeared, it became less popular in the 20th century due to alcohol production regulations. In the last decade, however, the beverage has seen an explosion in popularity. Since 2011, production has grown by an incredible 130%.
How Is It Made?
In order to make mead, you’ll need large amounts of honey. In most cases, at least two gallons of honey will be needed to create the brew. Since honey is very thick, it must be diluted with water so that it has a thinner texture that’s easier to drink. It’s also necessary to add yeast so that the mead can ferment. Yeast is the ingredient that makes mead alcoholic. It converts the natural sugars within the honey into alcohol. This process usually takes between one and two months.
After the ingredients have been combined and the mead has begun to ferment, it’s transferred to another container where it can age. The aging process improves the depth of the flavors and increases its complexity. In most cases, mead is aged for six and nine months, but it’s not unusual for a mead brew to age for years before it’s served.
Since mead has been around for such a long time, there are many different varieties, and there are many processes that may be implemented when mead is being made. Some types of mead are supplemented with micronutrients, and cell immobilization may even be used to improve the quality of the mead. It’s possible to make mead at home, but most of the mead that people enjoy today is prepared at meaderies.
What Are the Different Types of Mead?
One of the reasons that mead has had such enduring appeal is that there are so many varieties to choose from. Regardless of your preferences, there’s a good chance that there’s a type of mead that appeals to you. Some of the most common varieties of mead include:
Show mead: This is a plain type of mead that doesn’t use any additional ingredients. Even though it’s made from water, yeast, honey, and nothing else, flavors can vary based on the kind of honey used.
Sparkling mead: This variety of mead is carbonated. This effect is usually achieved by conditioning the bottle that the mead is stored in.
Short mead: Usually, it takes a minimum of seven months to make mead. This kind of mead can be prepared much more quickly. When people make their own mead at home, this is usually the variety of mead they make.
Long mead: To make this type of mead, the ingredients must be fermented and aged for years. Since it takes longer to prepare, this variety of mead tends to be more expensive.
Black mead: A variety of mead made from black currants. This is a dry mead with a dark color and an earthy flavor.
Sack mead: Honey is always used to make mead, but this type of mead uses much more honey. Because of the extra honey, this is also one of the most alcoholic varieties of mead.
In addition to these types of mead, there are many other varieties to choose from. Sweet mead made from fruit or fruit juice is very popular. Another sweet variety of mead is bochet, which is made from caramelized honey. Mead may contain spices, malted grain, or even coffee.
Mead doesn’t require many ingredients, and because of that, brewers are free to experiment. Mead’s long history also means that there are many regional varieties. For example, in Poland, there are four different mead grades that contain different proportions of water and honey. In France, mead is known as “hydromel,” and it usually contains apple juice.
What Makes Mead Wine Different from Traditional Wines or Beers?
Both beer and wine have been around for a long time, but mead may be the earliest alcoholic beverage. It can be traced all the way back to the 7th millennium BC. Although mead is an alcoholic beverage, that may be flavored with fruit or barley, it’s distinct from both wines and beers.
One of the things that makes mead different is that it can be prepared in so many different ways. As long as you have honey, water, and yeast, you can make mead under all kinds of conditions and in virtually all regions. In contrast, you need the right conditions in order to make wine. For this reason, mead also tends to be cheaper than wine, though this isn’t always the case.
Mead is also easier to store than wine. Wine needs to be stored horizontally, and it should be kept in a dark location. After a bottle of wine has been opened, it has to be refrigerated, and it usually won’t last for more than a few days. Since mead contains much more sugar than wine does, it keeps for longer. The natural preservatives in the sugar mean that an open bottle of mead can last for a month.
The ingredients used to make the beverages are also a key difference. All three drinks use a different source of fermentable sugar. For mead, the sugar comes from honey. Wine uses fruit — usually grapes — and beer uses some type of grain, such as hops or barley. Fruit and grain can be used to enhance the flavor of mead, but it doesn’t play a role in the fermentation process.
While all three alcoholic beverages contain yeast, they don’t necessarily use the same types of yeast. Typically, mead is made with the same kinds of yeast that are used to make champagne. Beer is generally made using ale yeast. Ingredients are boiled during the production of beer, but this step isn’t required for mead.
Another notable difference is the alcohol content of these beverages. For mead, it’s common to see alcohol by volume (ABV) of anywhere from 6 to 20%. While the ABV of wine and beer can vary, it’s usually less potent than mead. The average ABV for wine is about 11%, and the average ABV for beer is only 4.5%.
There are some varieties of mead that have more similarities to beer or wine than others, but they’re still three distinct types of drinks. Mead may be called “honey wine,” but it’s a beverage that’s entirely it’s own.
Even though mead is one of the oldest drinks in the world, it’s still very popular today. The reasonable price point, high alcohol content, and the many options on the market make it an appealing choice. With the rise of new meaderies, it’s likely that mead will still be a popular beverage well into the future.