Honey, water, and sometimes other components like fruit, spices, grains, and hops are fermented to create the alcoholic beverage, mead. It has an ABV of 3.5% all the way up to 20%.
Mead is distinguished from other alcoholic drinks in that the majority of its fermentable sugar comes from honey. You can get it flat, carbonated, or sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
In this post, we’ll get to know this “drink of the gods” and why it has been enjoyed all over the world for thousands of years.
What is a Mead Drink?
Honey wine is often used interchangeably with mead, despite the fact that wine is traditionally understood to be fermented grape nectar or a variety of other fruits.
Plus, certain cultures produce honey wines that are different from mead.
Hungary’s honey wine, for instance, is made by fermenting grape or fruit pomace that has been sweetened with honey.
Mead was a staple of ancient cultures across Europe, Africa, and Asia. It even had a place in the legends of some communities.
The Mead of Poetry, for instance, would transform any drinker into a poet or scholar because it was made from the lifeblood of Kvasir. Epic.
A Brief History: What Was Mead Made From?
Although its history is blanketed in mystery, it is believed that the ancient Greeks used a honey and water concoction as a ritual offering to the goddess Aphrodite.
It is believed that mead was used as a celebratory beverage after battles and long journeys by the Nordic Vikings.
Historians now believe that it was first consumed by African tribes ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 years ago when honeybees living in hollowed-out tree trunks began producing a sweet liquid that was consumed by the locals.
Honey wine, or mead as it was called in early England, was traditionally served at weddings and was supposed to improve mood and digestion in the Middle Ages. It was often infused with herbs!
After being hitched, newlyweds were traditionally encouraged to imbibe in mead to increase their chances of starting a family.
How Mead is Made
Mead, like other alcoholic drinks, is fermented. To make alcohol, yeast is added to honey after it has been diluted with water.
Once this first fermentation is complete, the mead is put into another fermentation tank for further clarifying.
Although it may sound easy, mead production may actually be quite sophisticated, much like wine. Honey, like wine grapes, displays a wide diversity of flavor profiles based on the type of flower pollen used in its production.
While the idea of a honey wine may conjure images of sweetness, mead can be brewed in a variety of styles, including dry, semi-sweet, and effervescent.
There are a wide variety of methods used to manufacture mead due to the wide variety of styles possible, yet many producers will apply methods that are familiar from winemaking.
After fermentation has slowed to a crawl, the product can be racked into a new container. Primary fermentation and secondary fermentation are the terms used to describe these processes.
The primary and secondary fermentation processes can be carried out in the same bigger commercial fermenter.
Types of Meads
Traditional mead is the most popular type of this fermented drink, and it consists of nothing more complicated than honey, water, and yeast.
However, there are other sub-types that are distinguished by the incorporation of additional components, including fruits, grains, and spices.
Melomel refers to a type of mead that incorporates fruit juices. This type includes the sub-types Pyment (mead made with grape juice) and Cyser (mead made with apple juice).
Metheglin is an aromatic type that incorporates herbs and spices. Specifically, Hippocras meads fall within this type (Pyment with herbs and spices).
Braggot is a fermented beverage made from both honey and wheat, making it similar to both beer and mead.
Acerglyn modifies the classic mead by adding maple syrup to it.
Bochet is a mead with caramelized honey added to it, which gives it a nutty flavor.
Due to its widespread distribution, mead and its many permutations are made and enjoyed in nearly every region of the globe.
In Ethiopia, Gesho Root, taken from a native plant, is added to the mead to create Te’j.
In Russia, people drink mead of a higher quality known as Medovukha.
In both Spain and France, you can find variants that are diluted with water and called Hydromel.
Quality American meads are plentiful because of the thriving craft beverage industry in the United States.
With the proliferation of new meaderies, this time-honored drink is now coming into its own.
When Mead is Typically Drunk or Used
At Christmastime, many people enjoy drinking mulled mead, a beverage made by warming mead with spices (and sometimes different fruits), and a hot poker.
While not all meads are as sweet as the original honey, there are some that are sweet enough to be served as dessert wines. Some manufacturers even make sparkling meads to go with meals.
When distilled to a higher proof, mead takes on the characteristics of brandy or liqueur and is occasionally even mistaken for mead-flavored whiskey.
Much like applejack is prepared from cider, “honey jack” can be made by partially freezing an amount of mead and filtering the ice out of the liquid (a technique known as freeze distillation).
What Does Mead Taste Like?
Well, mead tastes amazing.
However, it differs in flavor and quality depending on the manufacturer and the method used to make it.
Mead comes in a wide variety of tastes, alcohol percentages, and calorie counts. There is a wide range of alcohol content in mead, making it suitable both as a light aperitif and as a refreshing beverage to sip on a sweltering day.
You might be hesitant to try mead since you’ve heard that some people don’t care for its sweetness.
It’s true that some meads can be rather sweet, although this characteristic varies greatly between different varieties.
It’s possible to make mead in every conceivable style, from extremely sweet mead varieties to dry, austere meads.
Countless variables can contribute to a brew’s overall flavor. Since honey is its main flavoring agent, there should be a consistent honey flavor throughout.
Honey has a flavor all its own, thanks to seasonal changes in blooming, temperature, precipitation, and even soil composition.
Ingredients (sometimes called adjuncts) such as fruits and spices, the yeast used, and the maturing procedure can all contribute to the mead’s overall flavor and aroma.
Due to yearly climate variations, no two meads will ever taste the same, and once it’s gone, that’s it for good. When you find mead that you like, I suggest you stock up!
Does Drinking Mead Have Health Benefits?
Mead had positive connotations for health and energy in ancient societies. After a battle, it was administered to the soldiers so that their wounds would heal faster.
People still think mead has curative powers and that drinking it is good for your health. But there is meager evidence to back up these claims.
The honey used to make mead, and the resulting fermentation product is the modern scientific basis for the beverage’s purported health benefits.
Does Honey Retain its Benefits in Fermented Form?
Honey’s culinary and medicinal uses date back centuries.
Honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and recent scientific studies have shown its powerful antioxidant and antibacterial qualities.
In modern times, it is typically applied topically to heal skin wounds and infections or taken internally to alleviate a cough or sore throat.
Some people argue that since mead is manufactured from honey, it has the same healing benefits as honey. There is, however, little to no substantial evidence to back up this claim.
For the time being, it is not known whether or not fermented honey retains the same therapeutic benefits as unfermented honey.
Is Mead Good For Gut Health?
Because of its possible microbial content, mead is widely valued as a health-tonic.
When taken in sufficient amounts, the live microorganisms known as “probiotics” can improve both immunity and gut health.
Research suggests probiotics may aid in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, allergies, and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. However, our understanding of how they do so is still in its infancy.
Unfortunately, no studies have been conducted to evaluate mead as a source of probiotics or the effects of the beverage on your health.
Moreover, there may be a wide range in the probiotic content of various types of mead. The number of good bacteria present in the finished beverage may change due to the fermentation process and any other ingredients.
Additionally, the alcoholic content of mead may nullify any advantages, as drinking to excess is linked to detrimental effects on the microbiome.
Drinking mead could provide health benefits due to its probiotic component, but this is not yet proven.
Can Mead Cause Allergic Reactions To Those Allergic To Honey?
Most people can drink moderate amounts of mead without any ill effects.
Unless additional ingredients containing gluten are used during the mead fermentation process, mead is naturally gluten-free.
You should still double-check the contents of the mead you intend to drink if you have a gluten allergy to be sure that no gluten-containing components were used in the brewing process.
Some folks, especially those with honey and alcohol allergies or intolerances, may experience severe allergic responses after consuming mead.
Although cases of anaphylaxis caused by honey are extremely rare, they do occur. Mead should be avoided if you have ever experienced a severe allergic response to honey or bee pollen.
Mead contains alcohol; therefore, you shouldn’t drink it if you’re alcohol intolerant or have an allergy to the stuff.
Is Mead Fattening?
The health risks attached to drinking too much mead stem from its high-calorie content.
Mead, like all alcoholic beverages, can raise blood triglycerides, blood pressure, and the risk of obesity and diabetes if consumed in excess.
Mead’s exact calorie count is unknown, although a gram of pure alcohol contains 7 calories.
About 14 grams of alcohol, or 100 calories, can be found in a standard serving of any alcoholic beverage. The calories from the sugar in the mead aren’t factored in here.
Fun Facts About Mead
Mead is referenced a lot in classic literature.
Mead is the drink of the townsfolk and a common aid in The Miller’s Tale for winning the heart of a beautiful woman.
Clearly, Chaucer had a sweet tooth, as he also writes of sweetening his claret with honey.
Even beyond the realm of literature, Mead left its mark. Public mead halls play a significant role in the epic poem “Beowulf.”
The monster Grendel attacks the rowdy mead hall Heorot, prompting Beowulf to go to war.
The meeting place and home of the monarch in the kingdom of Rohan was a mead hall, so even J.R.R. Tolkien was on board with the mead craze in Middle Earth.
The mead hall was a place of immense authority and importance, furnished lavishly with a straw ceiling that glistened like gold from afar.
The Queen liked mead.
After a long day, Queen Elizabeth II had been known to relax with a glass of her favorite mead, which she liked with rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and sweet briar.
Mead might be an aphrodisiac.
As much as folks love oysters, mead was the first widely recognized aphrodisiac. Indeed, the name “honeymoon” originates with the medieval custom of imbibing honey wine for a full moon cycle following a wedding.
It was said that the golden essence would bless the couple with plentiful offspring.
As a result of the importance placed on this mead-based insurance policy, many fathers would include a month’s supply of mead in their daughter’s dowry.
The craft mead scene is bustling.
Modern drinkers have discovered that mead is just as tasty as it was for ancient seafaring Vikings and mummy-clad aristocracy.
Nearly 250 meaderies have opened up in the United States, and there are festivals dedicated to the traditional drink. There is even an American Mead Makers Association.
Continued enthusiasm in artisanal brewing and distilling appears to be guaranteeing a comeback for this beautiful beverage.
Do you want to plunge straight into the honeypot? In the same vein as basic beer kits, you may try your hand at making mead using a do-it-yourself starter kit. Fermenting honey is definitely something you can tackle, especially if you’ve brewed beer before.
Related Reading: This is the Best Beer for Brats – Check Them out Here
Final Thoughts About Mead
This alcoholic beverage made from honey has been around for a long time for a good reason: it’s delicious. And with the proliferation of meaderies across the US, you can find this beverage just about anywhere.
Give it a shot and see if you like it!