By Jake Tegtman
Mead, also known as “honey wine,” has been around for thousands of years. It’s a delicious drink that many people have heard of, but relatively few have actually tried. Part of the appeal of the drink is how far back it can be dated. There is Chinese pottery dating back to 7,000 BC with evidence to suggest that the container held mead. Numerous cultures around the world have indulged in it (Vikings, ancient Greece, China). In fact, mead is so ingrained in human history that it predates both wine and beer (beer showed up around 5,000 BC). Mead fell out of mainstream culture in the West for a long time, but in recent years, it’s been making a comeback in popularity.
Mead is Honey Wine
In case you’d like to try it for yourself, the simplest way to think of mead is “honey wine.” The basic ingredients are, after all, honey, water, and yeast. When the mixture ferments, like wine or beer, it becomes alcoholic. The strength of mead is typically greater than beer, with an ABV (alcoholic beverage content) between 5-25%.
You’d think that all meads are sweet-tasting, since they’re made with honey. However, that’s not always the case. Meads that are “unflavored” (made just using the basic three ingredients) can either be sweet, dry, or semi-dry. The location and type of honey used for the mead has a large influence on taste, but honey wine doesn’t always taste like honey. One obvious thing worth pointing out is that mead made with 100% pure, raw, even organic honey, really pays off in taste and experience. Clover honey is very common. As is orange blossom, wildflower, and buckwheat honey.
Mead can also be made with added ingredients, and meaderies today have gone a long way in developing new, great-tasting mixtures and flavors. Traditionally, braggot mead is mixed with beer. Melomel mead has fruits added in. And metheglin includes various herbs or spices. There are now many companies that offer tastes like apricot mead, blackberry, chocolate cherry, peach, raspberry, and more. Cinnamon, or whole cloves can also be added (think a mulled wine taste). Mixing in malted barley and other beers is also quite common, and can make for great combinations.
Where can you find Mead?
Twenty years ago, mead could be somewhat difficult to find. It wasn’t carried in a lot of bars or stores, and was probably enjoyed more by those who appreciate the drink’s history. Today, the landscape is quite different. There are currently over 500 meaderies located all over the United States. Many of these also ship nationally, making mead available to almost everyone in most liquor stores. Ask around your town for the nearest Meadery, or do an online search, and chances are good you’ll find a nearby business.
For another idea of how common mead is becoming nowadays, consider that between 2011 – 2014, mead sales grew 130% in the U.S. And that was before “Game of Thrones” aired on T.V. which increased interest even further. Note that mead isn’t any more expensive than most wine or beer, either. It’s just one new experience to add to your drink list.
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