Mead (/miːd/, from Old English medu) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage's fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
Mead was produced in ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, and has played an important role in the mythology of some peoples. In Norse mythology, for example, the Mead of Poetry was crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir and turned the drinker into a poet or scholar.
The terms "mead" and "honey-wine" often are used synonymously. Some cultures, though, differentiate honey-wine from mead. For example, Hungarians hold that while mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast (barm), honey-wine is watered honey fermented by recrement of grapes or other fruits.
Pottery vessels dating from 7000 BC discovered in northern China have shown chemical signatures consistent with the presence of honey, rice, and organic compounds associated with fermentation. In Europe, it is first described from residual samples found in ceramics of the Bell Beaker Culture (c. 2800–1800 BCE).
The earliest surviving description of mead is possibly the soma mentioned in the hymns of the Rigveda, one of the sacred books of the historical Vedic religion and (later) Hinduism dated around 1700–1100 BC. During the Golden Age of ancient Greece, mead was said to be the preferred drink.Dionysus%3A%20Archetypal%20Image%20]] Columella De re rustica
Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a [Roman] pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.
There is a poem attributed to the Brythonic-speaking (Welsh) bard Taliesin, who lived around 550 CE, called the Kanu y med or "Song of Mead". uted to the poet Aneirin who would have been a contemporary of Taliesin. In the Old English epic poem Beowulf, the Danish warriors drank mead. In both Insular Celtic and Germanic poetry, mead was the primary heroic or divine drink, see Mead of poetry.
Meads will often ferment well at the same temperatures in which wine is fermented, and the yeast used in mead making is often identical to that used in wine making (particularly those used in the preparation of white wines). Many home mead makers choose to use wine yeasts to make their meads.
By measuring the specific gravity of the mead once before fermentation and throughout the fermentation process by means of a hydrometer or refractometer, mead makers can determine the proportion of alcohol by volume that will appear in the final product. This also serves another purpose. By measuring specific gravity throughout fermentation, a mead maker can quickly troubleshoot a "stuck" batch, one where the fermentation process has been halted prematurely.
After primary fermentation slows down significantly the mead is then racked into a second container.
This is known as secondary fermentation.
Some larger commercial fermenters are designed to allow both primary and secondary fermentation to happen inside of the same vessel.
Racking is done for two reasons: it lets the mead sit away from the remains of the yeast cells (lees) that have died during the fermentation process. Second, this lets the mead have time to clear. If the mead maker wishes to backsweeten the product or prevent it from oxidizing, potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate are added. After the mead clears, it is bottled and distributed.
Mead can have a wide range of flavors depending on the source of the honey, additives (also known as "adjuncts" or "gruit") including fruit and spices, the yeast employed during fermentation, and the aging procedure. Some producers have marketed white wine sweetened and flavored with honey after fermentation as mead, sometimes spelling it "meade." This is closer in style to a hypocras. Blended varieties of mead may be known by the style represented; for instance, a mead made with cinnamon and apples may be referred to as either a cinnamon cyser or an apple metheglin.
A mead that also contains spices (such as cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg), or herbs (such as meadowsweet, hops, or even lavender or chamomile), is called a metheglin /mɪˈθɛɡlɪn/.*The%20Pengui]]*The%20Pengui]]The%20Pengui]]
Mulled mead is a popular drink at Christmas time, where mead is flavored with spices (and sometimes various fruits) and warmed, traditionally by having a hot poker plunged into it.
Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some may even be considered as dessert wines.
Drier meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads.
There are faux-meads, which are actually wines with honey added after fermentation as a sweetener and flavoring.
Historically, meads were fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria (as noted in the recipe quoted above) residing on the skins of the fruit or within the honey itself. Wild yeasts can produce inconsistent results. Yeast companies have isolated strains of yeast which produce consistently appealing products. Brewers, winemakers and mead makers commonly use them for fermentation, including yeast strains identified specifically for mead fermentation. These are strains that have been selected because of their characteristic of preserving delicate honey flavors and aromas.
Mead can also be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength.
A version called "honey jack" can be made by partly freezing a quantity of mead and straining the ice out of the liquid (a process known as freeze distillation), in the same way that applejack is made from cider.
In Finland, a sweet mead called sima (cognate with the root of zymurgy) is still an essential seasonal fermented product connected with the Finnish Vappu (May Day) festival. It is usually spiced by adding both the pulp and rind of a lemon. During secondary fermentation, raisins are added to control the amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption; they will rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready. However, the sugar used in modern practice is typically brown sugar, not honey.
Ethiopian mead is called tej (ጠጅ, [ˈtʼədʒ]) and is usually home-made. It is flavored with the powdered leaves and bark of gesho, a hop-like bittering agent which is a species of buckthorn. A sweeter, less-alcoholic version called berz, aged for a shorter time, is also made. The traditional vessel for drinking tej is a rounded vase-shaped container called a berele.
List of mead variants
Acerglyn: A mead made with honey and maple syrup.
Bais: A native mead from the Mandaya and Manobo people of eastern Mindanao in the Philippines. It is made from honey and water fermented for at least five days to a month or more.
Balché: A native Mexican version of mead.
Bilbemel: A mead made with blueberries, blueberry juice, or sometimes used for a varietal mead that uses blueberry blossom honey.
Black mead: A name sometimes given to the blend of honey and blackcurrants.
Blue mead: A type of mead where fungal spores are added during first fermentation, lending a blue tint to the final product.
Bochet: A mead where the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water. Yields toffee, caramel, chocolate and toasted marshmallow flavors.
Bochetomel: A Bochet style mead that also contains fruit such as elderberries, black raspberries and blackberries.
Braggot: Also called bracket or brackett.
Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added.
Welsh origin (bragawd).
Capsicumel: A mead flavored with chilli peppers, the peppers may be hot or mild.
Chouchenn: A kind of mead made in Brittany.
Cyser: A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together; cider
Czwórniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using three units of water for each unit of honey.
Dwójniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using equal amounts of water and honey.
Great mead: Any mead that uses greater than normal amounts of honey.
Can be intended to be aged several years.
Gverc or Medovina: Croatian mead prepared in Samobor and many other places. The word "gverc" or "gvirc' is from the German "Gewürze" and refers to various spices added to mead.
Hydromel: Name derived from the Greek hydromeli, i.e. literally "water-honey" (see also melikraton and hydromelon). It is also the French name for mead hydromel. (See also and compare with the Italian idromele and Spanish hidromiel and aguamiel, the Catalan hidromel and aiguamel, Galician aguamel, and Portuguese hidromel
Medovina: Czech, Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Slovak for mead. Commercially available in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and presumably other Central and Eastern-European countries.
Melomel: Melomel is made from honey and any fruit.
Depending on the fruit base used, certain melomels may also be known by more specific names (see cyser, pyment, and morat for examples).
Possibly from the Greek melomeli, literally "apple-honey" or "treefruit-honey" (see also melimelon).
Metheglin: Metheglin is traditional mead with herbs or spices added.
Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins were originally employed as folk medicines. The Welsh word for mead is medd, and the word "metheglin" derives from meddyglyn, a compound of meddyg, "healing" + llyn, "liquor".
Midus: Lithuanian for mead, made of natural bee honey and berry juice. Infused with carnation blossoms, acorns, poplar buds, juniper berries and other herbs. Generally between 8% and 17% alcohol, it is also distilled to produce mead nectar vor mead balsam, with some of the varieties having as much as 75% of alcohol.
Mõdu: An Estonian traditional fermented drink with a taste of honey and an alcohol content of 4.0%
Morat: Morat blends honey and mulberries.
Mulsum: Mulsum is not a true mead, but is unfermented honey blended with a high-alcohol wine.
Myod: Traditional Russian mead, historically available in three major varieties: aged mead: a mixture of honey and water or berry juices, subject to a very slow (12–50 years) anaerobic fermentation in airtight vessels in a process similar to the traditional balsamic vinegar, creating a rich, complex and high-priced product. drinking mead: a kind of honey wine made from diluted honey by traditional fermentation. boiled mead: a drink closer to beer, brewed from boiled wort of diluted honey and herbs, very similar to modern medovukha.
Omphacomel: A mead recipe that blends honey with verjuice; could therefore be considered a variety of pyment (q.v.). From the Greek omphakomeli, literally "unripe-grape-honey".
Oxymel: Another historical mead recipe, blending honey with wine vinegar. From the Greek ὀξύμελι oxymeli, literally "vinegar-honey" (also oxymelikraton).
Pitarrilla: Mayan drink made from a fermented mixture of wild honey, balché-tree bark and fresh water.
Pyment: Contemporary pyment is a melomel made from the fermentation of a blend of grapes and honey and can be considered either a grape mead or honeyed wine. Pyment made with white grapes is sometimes called "white mead". In previous centuries piment was synonymous with Hippocras, a grape wine with honey added post-fermentation.
Półtorak (TSG): A Polish great mead, made using two units of honey for each unit of water.
Quick mead: A type of mead recipe that is meant to age quickly, for immediate consumption.
Because of the techniques used in its creation, short mead shares some qualities found in cider (or even light ale): primarily that it is effervescent, and often has a cidery taste. It can also be champagne-like.
Red mead: A form of mead made with redcurrants.
Rhodomel: Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water. From the Greek ῥοδόμελι rhodomeli, literally "rose-honey".
Rubamel: A specific type of Melomel made with raspberries.
Sack mead: This refers to mead that is made with more honey than is typically used.
The finished product contains a higher-than-average ethanol concentration (meads at or above 14% ABV are generally considered to be of sack strength) and often retains a high specific gravity and elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads (which have no residual sweetness) can be produced. According to one theory, the name derives from the fortified dessert wine, sherry (which is sometimes sweetened after fermentation) that, in England, once bore the nickname "sack"). Another theory is that the term is a phonetic reduction of "sake" the name of a Japanese beverage that was introduced to the West by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
Short Mead: A mead made with less honey than usual and intended for immediate consumption.
Show mead: A term which has come to mean "plain" mead: that which has honey and water as a base, with no fruits, spices or extra flavorings.
Since honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle, a mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. will sometimes require a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes to produce an acceptable finished product. In most competitions, including all those that subscribe to the BJCP style guidelines, as well as the International Mead Fest, the term "traditional mead" refers to this variety (because mead is historically a variable product, these guidelines are a recent expedient, designed to provide a common language for competition judging; style guidelines per se do not apply to commercial or historical examples of this or any other type of mead).
Sima: a quick-fermented low-alcoholic Finnish variety, seasoned with lemon and associated with the festival of vappu.
Tapluchʼi: Tapluchʼi, a Georgian name for mead, especially made of honey but it is also a collective name for any kind of drinkable inebriants.
Tej/Mes: Tej/Mes is an Ethiopian and Eritrean mead, fermented with wild yeasts and the addition of gesho
Tella/Suwa: Tella is an Ethiopian and Eritrean style of beer; with the inclusion of honey some recipes are similar to braggot
Trójniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using two units of water for each unit of honey.
Včelovina: Slovak alternative name for mead.
White mead: A mead that is colored white with herbs, fruit or, sometimes, egg whites.
Mead is featured in many Germanic myths and folktales such as Beowulf, as well as in other popular works that draw on these myths. Notable examples include books by J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, T. H. White, and Neil Gaiman. It is often featured in books using a historical Germanic setting and in writings about the Viking age. Mead is mentioned many times in Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel, American Gods; it is referred to as the drink of the gods. In The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini, the protagonist, Eragon, often drinks mead at feasts. It is also referenced in The Kingkiller Chronicle novel series by Patrick Rothfuss. The protagonist Kvothe is known to drink metheglin. The non-existent "Greysdale Mead" is also drunk, although it is merely water. Mead is mentioned many times in Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead
History of alcoholic beverages