What is Mead Made From?
With mead quickly becoming a favorite drink all year-’round and inching towards becoming a holiday must, it’s no wonder more people are asking, “what is mead made from?” It could be a short answer, but why not get the full story on mead? Instead of simply saying “it’s made from fermented honey”, you can get the full scope of all the kinds of meads available. Like wine or beer, mead has a wide range of flavors that begin with what mead is made from.
The base of the drink is not even half the story. So, let’s start there. Let’s go over what mead is before we answer what is mead made from?
What is Mead?
Mead, also known as honey wine, is an ancient alcoholic drink that has much in common with both beer and wine. Here we go with the simple answer to “what is mead made from?” Essentially, mead is made from yeast, water, and fermented honey. Sound familiar? See, wine is made from fermented grapes, and beer becomes alcoholic via yeast. That’s why mead is sometimes referred to as honey wine and often compared to beer. Though, mead very much exists in its own category. It’s like trying to compare vodka and whiskey. Sure, they’re both spirits, but they aren’t the same thing.
Mead isn’t just honey and water, much of the time mead is flavored with spices, grains, fruits, and hops. It’s also important to note that it’s a sipping drink, like wine. The ABV is above 8% and can reach as high as 20%. Not the best idea to chug mead and it would be a disservice to the drink itself.
A Little Viking Mead History
It was mentioned earlier that mead is an ancient drink, possibly the very first alcoholic drink made. It’s even where the term “honeymoon” comes from. See, it was once a tradition to give newlyweds a supply of mead to ensure a fruitful marriage. Partly because mead was considered a sacred drink, that the gods drank it near exclusively. It was used in many ceremonies of worship and praise in ancient cultures. That’s right, before wine entered religion there was mead.
Mead is usually associated with the Vikings and while that’s true, the drink is found in many other cultures. For example, remnants of mead have been found in China and Aristotle wrote about it in his Meteorologica. The oldest known evidence of an ancient civilization drinking mead comes from pottery found in northern China. They found evidence of honey, rice, and compounds associated with fermentation that dates back to 7000 BCE.
For quite some time mead was called the “nectar of the gods” and those who drink it today are likely to agree. It’s intoxicating in more ways than one and combining so many elements of a harvest that it made sense for the ancients to view it as a magic brew gifted from the divine.
What Does Mead Taste Like?
Alright, enough with the history lesson. Now that you know where mead comes from and the basics of what is mead made from, we can move on to what it tastes like. Like any other kind of drink, it depends on the style of the mead and what is in it. Generally, honey wine can range from something akin to fruit wine to white wine or hard cider. Each mead brand style has its own floral notes and the taste of a mead recipe even depends on the quality and kind of honey used. If the winery that made the mead used orange blossom honey or clove honey, that will change the flavor profile of the mead recipe.
Meads can be very dry or really sweet, they can even fall somewhere in between. A good way to start drinking mead, if you’re unfamiliar with the flavors of a mead recipe, is, to begin with, something you know you like. If you see a mead that is made with fruits you like, start there. Now, it’s important you don’t expect to taste the fruit alone. After all, do wines taste like grapes or a beer made with fruit taste just like it? Of course not, but they are notes that you can taste.
The lesson here is that the taste of a mead recipe has a lot to do with what is mead made from. So, if you’re new to drinking mead then start with a flavor you know you like and move on from there.
Mead Brand Styles
Now that we’ve answered what mead tastes like, we can get into the different brand styles of honey wine. Much like wine or beer, different types have different overall flavors. Think of an IPA vs a lager or a blonde beer. They’re all beer, but taste wildly different. Mead is like beer in that category. So, here are some mead styles to wet your whistle:
Sometimes called a basic mead, this mead recipe is the truest to what the ancients drank. Instead of spiced up with fruits and hops, it entrances its drinkers with the simple elegance of the honey. It’s easy to see why past civilizations called this the “nectar of the gods.”
This mead recipe will remind you of cider and is sometimes called a cider wine. The cyser mead has its roots in the early Christian church and is made from fermented honey and apple cider. Good fall drinks to have around come Halloween or Thanksgiving, for sure.
The grape wine mead recipe, we have the greeks and Romans to thank for this one. If you’re a wine drinker then you may want to start with pyment mead. There is also a white version of pyment that uses white grapes instead. So, if white wine is your thing then perhaps white pyment mead is up your alley.
The spice wine mead recipe comes from the Welsh and was thought to be medicine. Who’s to argue with how good you feel, not all medicine can taste bad…right? This mead uses herbs and spices with the fermented honey rather than fruits and hops. Have an adventure and try some medicine mead.
The fruity mead recipe has a long history of being the favorite drink of kings and in religious ceremonies. This is not the mead for the commoner, at least historically, and now you can taste why. This mead is made with a wide variety of fruits, so if you come across any mead that has fruit in the mix then it falls into the melomel category.
Straight from Scandinavia, this mead recipe comes from grain. It’s the malt mead and is the middle man between mead and ale, so for those dark beer lovers, this is the mead recipe for you. If you’re wondering what it tastes like, think stout all the way.
A Few Mead Facts
You know the history, some of the different categories of mead recipes, and now it’s time to equip you with some trivia. Things taste better when you can appreciate them on a whole other level…or just look smart at a cocktail party or dinner. Anyway, here we go with a few mead facts.
Honey Type and What is Mead Made From?
It was mentioned earlier, but it needs to be driven home. The quality and kind of honey matter. A single bee makes just a twelfth of a teaspoon and mead requires 2 gallons to make. Mead makers, like Hidden Legend Winery, are very choosy about where they get their honey if they don’t make it themselves. Traditional mead uses more mild kinds of honey, like acacia, orange blossom, or clover, but if you see a mead that has wildflower or buckwheat then you’re in for quite the spice!
The Classics and Mead Recipes
Remember some of those classics you read in high school or college? Ever notice what all those characters were drinking? You guessed it, mead! You can find mead all over “Beowulf”, “Canterbury Tales”, even the “Lord of the Rings” series. If it’s medieval, chances are people are getting hopped up on the honey wine.
The Original Aphrodisiac
Forget your oysters, the mead recipe was the original love potion. Remember earlier when it was mentioned that the term “honeymoon” comes from drinking mead for a fruitful union? Well, the bride and groom were expected to drink it for a full lunar cycle after they’ve wed. That’s a lot of mead to include in a dowry, and it often was included in them.
Do It Yourself Mead Recipe
In the past decade or so, the United States has seen a loosening of home brewing laws. Thanks to that, we have a craft beer renaissance that now extends into a mead one. Brewers who enjoy experimenting at home are now opening shops and there are some wild meads coming out. You can even go online and get your own DIY mead making kit. If you’re unfamiliar with mead though, best to start by tasting a mead recipe from an experienced winery.
Where to Buy Mead
A better question to ask, besides “what is mead made from?”, is “where can’t you find it?” There is a renaissance happening across America where mead is flowing as if it was from Olympus itself. You can search for mead companies via the American Mead Makers Association or GotMead or you can look at Hidden Legend. You’re already here, might as well look at all the different meads we have for you.
You can find a wide selection of mead in local liquor stores and, if they don’t have them, just ask them to order some in for you. The store will probably just want some reassurance that the honey wine will sell. It will, of course, because you’re likely to fall in love with it. Remember to start with a flavor profile you’re more likely to enjoy. Just scroll back up to the Mead Brand Styles section to refresh your memory. Some companies even sell sample size meads, so you can try many different types before settling on a bottle to buy.
The Honey Wine Revolution
Isn’t it nice to be looking for an answer to a question like “what is mead made from?” and find everything else you could want to know about the drink? Hopefully, you’ve found that here.
Let’s do a quick recap:
What is mead?
It’s the oldest alcoholic drink currently known and is made from fermented honey, water, and yeast.
Where does mead originate?
It’s best known from the Vikings, but evidence of mead has been found across the planet. The oldest known evidence of mead was found in northern China, dating back to 7000 BCE.
What does mead taste like?
It can be dry to very sweet and everything in between. It depends on the type of honey, spices, and fruit used if any of the last two are. A good rule of thumb is to start with the meads that have flavors you already like.
What are some mead brand styles?
Here are some of the traditional mead styles covered:
- Traditional mead, honey with no spices or fruits
- Cyser mead, honey with cider
- Pyment mead, honey with grape or white grapes
- Metheglin mead, honey with herbs and spices
- Melomel mead, honey with fruits
- Brackett mead, honey with malt. Kind of like a stout.
Where can I buy mead?
Just about everywhere. If your local liquor store doesn’t carry it, ask them to order some for you. You can also look at GotMead or the American Mead Makers Association or go straight to the mead maker. We ship directly, for example.
Well, that just about covers everything under the sun with mead…unless you’re writing a history paper on it. That could cover a lot of ground or even be a book, that’s how old honey wine is. Drinking mead is like participating in royal events across the centuries, even millennia.
You may have come looking for the answer to what is mead made from, but now you know all about it and can appreciate it in more ways than the incredible flavor provides.
Drink well and be safe meaderies!