Traditionally, mead is fermented with three basic ingredients: honey, yeast, and water, or from a mixture of honey and water with hops, fruit, spices and grains.
People do tend to confuse mead with beer or wine, and I have heard many people refer to mead as ' Honey Wine ' but there are some important differences to be aware of . Unlike beer, mead skips the boiling stage and goes directly to fermentation. And while this part of the process is also true for wine, the composition of mead is completely different. Instead of using grapes, mead production involves combining honey with water, along with optional spices, fruits, hops and grains. Also, instead of using the ale yeast commonly utilized in brewing, mead integrates a variety of the yeasts used for wine and champagne production. And like wine, mead is also left to age comparatively longer than beer – for an average of 2 to 3 years.
Another difference between beer, wine, and mead is alcohol content. The Alcohol content of meads ranges between 3.5% to 20 % ABV, depending on the fermentation, whereas wine and beer typically have a much lower ABV.
Essentially, the easiest way to distinguish mead from beer and wine is by its fermentable sugar source: if it’s primarily honey, then it’s mead; whereas for beer and wine, it would be grains or grapes, respectively.
Mead pre-dates both beer and wine by not hundreds, but thousands of years. Historian, journalist, and writer Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat even went so far as to say mead could be regarded as “the ancestor of all fermented drinks, antedating even the cultivation of the soil” – and there is some evidence to support this.
In Northern China, pottery vessels containing the chemical signatures of honey, rice, and other fruits, along with organic compounds of fermentation, were dated to approximately 7,000 BC.
In Europe, it is first recorded in samples found in ceramics dating from 2,800 to 1,800 BC. The ancient Greeks thought of mead as “the nectar of the gods,” and made use it in a variety of religious rituals. As mead production became popularized across the globe, it was drunk by such diverse cultures as the Vikings, Mayans, and Egyptians. As previously noted, mead is sometimes referred to as “Honey Wine,” and mead is even credited for the term “honeymoon,” as it was historically served at weddings and gifted to newlyweds. The couple would drink it for a “moon”, or month, after their wedding ceremony, as it was believed to enhance fertility.
Beyond traces found in earthenware and other artifacts around the world, mead has also been referenced in literature throughout history – from the epic poem Beowulf to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. More recently, mead is seen consumed by characters in the Harry Potter novels and the TV series Game of Thrones.
Since there is an incredible variety of honey produced in the world, and a huge variety of secondary ingredients used in Mead production.there is an incredible variety of different meads available, ranging from still,or sparkling; to dry, semi-sweet, or sweet; and thick or light.
There are also a number of distinctive styles, which add to its diversity. The most common is melomel, which is created with the addition of fruit; and metheglin, which refers to a mead combined with spices. There are other varieties including some that are served heated (mulled mead), or those made with caramelized honey (bochet), and others mixed with maple syrup.
However you choose to enjoy it, it’s clear that mead is experiencing a steady renaissance.
We will be adding Mead to some of our new gift boxes so watch this space!