Mead, also known as "honey wine," has a fascinating history that goes way back. It's believed to be one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to humanity. The ancient civilizations, from the Egyptians to the Greeks and Vikings, all had their versions of mead. It was considered a drink of the gods and was often associated with myths and legends. Making mead was a natural process, where honey, water, and sometimes fruits or spices were fermented together. With time, it became a symbol of celebration and tradition in various cultures, used in ceremonies, weddings, and feasts. Over the centuries, the popularity of mead fluctuated, but in recent years, there's been a resurgence of interest in this ancient drink, with modern craft meaderies experimenting with different flavors and styles, bringing the magic of mead back to life for a whole new generation of enthusiasts. While mead is often assumed to be sweet, it can range anywhere from the cloyingly sweet, like a dessert wine, to dry, tart, or even sour, depending on the yeast used.
There are many different styles of mead, but here are a few of the basic varieties that you may hear discussed, all of which sound like they've come directly from an alchemist's lab:
- Traditional Mead: Made with honey, water, and yeast. That's it!
- Braggot: A mead made with grains and hops in addition to honey, like a combination of beer and mead. Some bars will create a sort of braggot by mixing an already brewed beer with an already brewed mead, but a proper braggot is brewed together.
- Melomel: These meads use fermented fruit in addition to honey to add notes of fruit to the sweetness of honey.
- Cyser: A type of melomel in which the mead is brewed with apple juice or cider instead of water.
- Pyment: Add in grapes to your traditional mead, and you have pyment. This is also technically a type of melomel.
- Metheglin: Mead brewed with spices. Did you know? The word metheglin comes from the same linguistic root as "medicine" because these spiced meads were thought to have medicinal properties.
- Session Mead: Mead that has a lower percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) than most other meads, no more than 6.5% alcohol.