Ever wonder what potent concoction the Vikings used to bolster themselves while they traversed the seas? What was Aristotle drinking from his goblet, or what? The simple honeybee, along with the beverage it has helped make for millennia, holds the key.
Possibly the ancestor of all alcoholic beverages, mead has enjoyed audiences across history, from humble working folk to soldiers and pirates and even royalty. And while its popularity waned in recent centuries, the modern era has seen a resurgence in this ancient, golden-hued drink.
This article will provide you with all you need to know on what is mead, its history, taste, and a comparison of mead vs beer.
Table of Contents
- What Is Mead?
- What Is Mead Made From?
- What Does Mead Taste Like?
- History of Mead
- How Much Alcohol Is in Mead?
- Is Mead Healthy?
- Craft Mead Popularity
- Mead vs Beer: Difference Between Mead and Beer
- FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What Is Mead?
Mead is essentially honey wine. Mead can be flavoured with fruits, grains, spices, hops, and water, but its official definition calls it “an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water.”
It falls into a separate category of its own, in between wine and beer. It would be sipped similarly to beer, wine, or cider. But not all meads are made the same way, and some of them aren’t even true meads at all!
What Is Mead Made From?
Honey and water are combined to create real mead, which is subsequently fermented either with or without additional yeast. To add a range of diverse flavours, certain natural flavourings could be added to the procedure, but that is it!
Many UK companies that advertise that they make mead really start with wine or another alcoholic beverage and then flavour it with honey. This particular variety of “mead” is more appropriately referred to as “honey wine.” We don’t mean to imply that honey wine is an unpleasant beverage, but rather to let everyone know that this is NOT true mead.
Unfortunately, unlike in Europe, mead is not protected in the UK. Since there are currently no rules that forbid manufacturers from calling their beverages mead, this just serves to further perplex the consumer!
A mead’s honey aroma indicates that honey or honey flavouring was added at the end of the brewing process. Back-sweetening is the process of preventing the mead from fermenting again in the bottle without the use of stabilisers, which are chemicals.
On the topic of ingredients, check out our What Is Beer Made Of guide!
What Does Mead Taste Like?
Although frequently asked, this question is difficult to answer. Mead’s flavour will vary based on how it is made and what ingredients are added. The straightforward response is that a typical, authentic mead tastes like a medium-sweet wine with a texture resembling sherry and a distinct honey flavour.
However, the type of honey used to make mead (early or late season honey, specialised pollen honey like clover or hawthorn, etc.) will also affect how it tastes and looks. Before you take into account any fruits or spices that have been added, this.
Only a pathetic tenth of a teaspoon of honey is produced daily by a single honeybee. Each drop is valuable because most meads require up to two litres of the sweet substance. The type of honey used affects the overall flavour of the mead and can change depending on the specific nectar and pollen diet of a honey bee.
While mild honey like orange blossom, clover, or acacia are typically used in traditional mead, heavier spiced meads go well with wildflower, blackberry, and buckwheat honey.
Mead flavour can be incredibly diverse. Different types of mead might be described as sweet, dry, still, or effervescent. The farther you ascend the mead family tree, though, the more weird cousins you’ll encounter.
You are already familiar with metheglin, but don’t overlook melomel, a mead that also includes fruit juices like blackberries and raspberries. Acerglyn, a mead created with maple syrup, braggot, a mead/beer hybrid brewed with hops or barley, rhodomel, a very old style laced with roses, and countless others are also available.
History of Mead
Since it was originally mentioned thousands of years ago, mead is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages.
Evidence of mead fermentation that predates both wine and beer has been found in Chinese ceramics from 7000 BCE. Early foragers probably drank the contents of a rainwater-flooded beehive that had organically fermented with the aid of airborne yeast when they made the first batch of mead.
Many people thought it to be a sacred drink, the drink of the Gods, sent from the Heavens as dew and gathered by the bees. The Mayans, the Vikings, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans all enjoyed mead once it was known how to make it.
Some people think it came from the African continent before making its way to Europe and the rest of the known world. It is understandable why mead was believed to possess magical qualities. As the population became more urbanised and beekeeping was restricted to royal residences and monasteries, mead began to lose popularity.
Mead has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, in part due to well-known TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Vikings as well as online games like Elder Scrolls and Skyrim.
How Much Alcohol Is in Mead?
Mead can have an alcohol concentration ranging from 3% to 20% ABV. Standard strength is between 7% and 15% ABV, while bag meads, which are thick and syrupy, have between 14% to 20% alcohol by volume. Session meads range in alcohol content from 3% to 7%.
Then there is the ABV difference between wine and mead. Wines come in a variety of styles, thus their alcohol percentage fluctuates. White wines typically have an ABV of 10% or less, whilst red wines begin at 12% and upwards. Shochu, sherry, port, and sake typically have a serving alcohol by volume (ABV) of 17–34%.
Is Mead Healthy?
Ancient societies equated mead with health and energy, and Greek mythology refers to it as “the drink of the gods.” Are those adages still true today? Maybe. Because honey is the main component, mead is thought to provide some health advantages.
According to a study, honey contains potent antioxidant and antibacterial capabilities, according to Healthline. There isn’t enough evidence, though, to prove that fermented honey retains its enchanted qualities.
Furthermore, the fermentation component alone might have health benefits. Probiotics, those beneficial small living organisms, can exist in this naturally fermented beverage, but again, it’s not certain how concentrated or effective they are as other substances that may be present in a particular mead could harm or even eradicate the bacteria.
For mead, there isn’t much information currently in terms of calories. Based on the information from Healthline, you can estimate a very rough starting value: A gramme of pure alcohol contains 7 calories. Any alcoholic beverage has over 100 calories in a serving and roughly 14 grammes of alcohol. This is prior to the mead’s sugar-related calories.
In essence, the verdict is still unclear but at the very least, mead isn’t less healthful than beer, and at the very best, it might have some health benefits.
Craft Mead Popularity
Mead is a popular beverage nowadays, not just among seafaring Vikings and mummified nobility. Today, America has approximately 250 meaderies, and there are even mead festivals held across the nation to celebrate the historic drink. The continuous enthusiasm in craft brewing and distilling seems to guarantee the return of this dazzling beverage.
Meaderies’ adaptability and ability to create mead using a variety of components, including local products and trends, has contributed to mead’s increasing trajectory.
Mead vs Beer: Difference Between Mead and Beer
The difference between mead and beer is simply that mead is mead.Similar to how authentic mead is somewhat a wine but not, mead has characteristics of beer but is not beer.
The fundamental resemblance between beer vs mead is that both contain a wide range of subcategories among more popular kinds, like lager, ale, and stout.
Craft mead and craft brews are incredibly adaptable. When allowed to express their imagination, brewers may create some insanely delicious flavour combinations for both mead and beer.
How does mead’s alcohol by volume compare to beer? Consider it from this angle. A traditional lager or pilsner has an ABV of 4% to 5%. Craft beers often have an ABV of 8–12%.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Mead is not a wine or a beer. Although it has been fermented for a while, it doesn’t taste like beer or wine. Mead is both honey wine and not. Mead is a special beverage made from fermented honey, water, yeast, and a variety of fruits, herbs, spices, and other ingredients. It contains qualities similar to all of these things.
Depending on the type of honey used and the addition of other flavours, mead might be described as a fruity wine, a white wine, or a hard cider. A melomel, a type of mead prepared with fruit, might taste like raspberries or blackberries, for instance. Acerglyn has notes of maple, rhodomels have a rose flavour, and braggots, which are mead-beer blends, have hints of barley and hops.
Mead is not a spirit; it is more usually referred to as honey wine. It does, however, also have things in common with cider and beer. Mead has its own category as a result. Mead may be offered next to unique wines or next to craft brews, depending on where you live.
Mead is not unlawful, no. Mead doesn’t need to be distilled, which is against the law. Making mead at home is entirely OK as long as you don’t sell or exchange it.