A Meadery is a winery where mead is made and sold commercially. Historically, both mead and wine date back to ancient civilizations. When thinking of mead, we most likely recall the days of medieval Kings and Queens with Vikings slurping their mead from huge tankards at rough wooden tables laden with food. As the accepted ancestor to all alcoholic drinks, mead was the go-to beverage as it was primarily the only alcoholic drink available in medieval times. By the end of the Middle Ages, however, mead had been replaced by wine and instead was mostly used for medicinal purposes. Since then, the wine industry has become enormous.
Nowadays, there are thousands of wineries spread across the world that produce a vast variety of wines, while the mead industry has become almost non-existent with only a handful of mead makers producing the traditional drink. This did, in some way, tip the scales in favor of those who love the taste of mead as the lack of competition allowed them to get hold of their sip at a fairly low cost. However, with popular TV dramas like Game of Thrones showing actors sipping the historical drink, the demand for mead has skyrocketed. By 2015, consumption of mead had increased by a whopping 42% and continues to rise.
So what is a Meadery and how does it differ from a Winery?
Both mead and wine were discovered somewhat accidentally when the use of yeast led to the creation of fermented alcoholic drinks. The main difference being that mead was made from fermented honey while wine was made from grapes. While globally wine has become the preferred drink at the table, in the past it did not have the worldwide reach that mead had. Because every continent had access to honey, mead was enjoyed around the world for thousands of years. While wine also has a long history, grapes were initially only grown in Western Asia and in Mediterranean regions, so wine was not as widely available as mead. That is, until traders started exporting wine globally.
In addition, while wine is limited to only one ingredient being used in its production, mead can be made with a number of other ingredients included alongside honey such as spices, grains, hops, or fruits.
One of the main debates in the world of alcoholic drinks is whether mead should be classified as a beer or a wine. Mead is a drink in its own right, however, it is often erroneously put in the same category as wine and is sometimes even called honey-wine. Mead, like wine, is fermented rather than being brewed so it can’t be categorized as a beer. Similar to wine, it also has a higher alcohol content than beer
Ingredients and Varietals
A myriad of grape varieties and an almost endless potential for combinations make it possible to produce a wide range of wine types, each having its own classification.
Mead, on the other hand, is classified by its ingredients of diluted honey, yeast, and water as well as the amount of sugar in each bottle despite being made from honey. Even though mead is made from sweet honey, the addition of sugar allows it to be classified into ‘sweet’ or ‘semi-sweet’ categories. Meads with a less sweet taste are referred to as ‘dry.
While wine production traditionally uses only fermented grapes, a number of additional ingredients can be added to mead. The type of mead produced will, therefore, depend on the type of ingredients used in the mix
Regardless of whether a single variety of grapes is used in the production of wine or a blend of different varietals, most wines are basically blends. Blends refer to a number of different vintages of varying ages being mixed together to create the desired ‘blend’ of wine
In the case of mead production, however, there is no blending process and the mead is simply bottled directly.
As wine connoisseurs are well aware, after opening a bottle, the wine has only a short lifespan before it starts to taste vinegary. Some wines will last around 3 days while fortified wines like Sherries or Port with a higher sugar content can be enjoyed for much longer once opened.
By contrast, due to the high sugar content provided by the honey, mead will last much longer. If properly stoppered, mead can last for up to a month after being opened.
Different Types of Mead
There are almost as many types of mead available as there are mead makers. At Hidden Legend Winery our traditional line of mead is crafted in the ‘old world’ style before improved brewing techniques produced a more consistent, cheaper mead, and honey was replaced with cane and beet sugars. Some of the general categories used by Hidden Legend to classify our products include traditional meads made from honey, yeast, and water that range from semi-sweet to dry. Other well known and award-winning varieties include:
- Kings Mead
- Gold Mead
- Huckleberry Mead
- Chokecherry Mead
- Aronia Mead
- Dark Honey Mead
- Elderberry Mead
- Bearded Saint Carbonated Mead
- Maple Mead
- Grace Flynn’s Scarver Mead
The best way to experience mead is to take a tour of a meadery. After a tasting, you can choose your favorite and buy it right where it was made.