Mead is likely one of the most storied alcoholic beverages in history. This fermented and sweet beverage can be found dotting the pages of Greek and Viking mythology and documented throughout history as a well-beloved beverage.
Mead is often referred to as honey wine. But the truth is, mead is a little more complicated than that. Mead rides a fine line between beer, wine, cider, and being in a category all its own. In this article, we’ll delve into the history of this deliciously sweet beverage and get you on your way to making your own one-gallon batch.
What Is Mead?
The base of mead is comprised of honey and yeast-fermented water. However, the taste of mead can vary enormously because of all of the other elements that are added by brewers of this sweet drink. Depending on who is brewing the mead, it can be flavored by a large variety of things like grain, hops, spices, and fruits.
Mead generally carries a higher alcohol content than beer and wine. Beer averages typically between four to twelve percent alcohol volume, and wine has an average of about ten percent alcohol volume with some more robust wines like port going all the way to 34 percent. All of this being said, mead can also fall into a wide alcohol volume range of between three to twenty percent. Mead brews with between three and seven percent alcohol volume are categorized as session brews, mead with seven to fourteen percent alcohol volume is standard brew, and mead with fourteen to twenty percent alcohol volume is a sack brew.
For some, mead is even considered a healthier drink, although it’s irrefutably sweet. According to some research, honey carries quite a bit of health benefits; therefore, mead could possibly deliver some of these benefits. Honey is thought to provide significant antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits to those who consume it. It is important to note that there is no firm evidence yet of the health benefits of mead.
The History of Mead and Mead Today
Mead has a long and notable history that stretches all the way back to 3,000 B.C.E. Mead was enjoyed as a beverage long before beer and wine were even invented. It’s believed that the history of mead first began in China. However, it wasn’t long before it moved on to Viking, Greek, Russian, Ethiopian, Polish, and Roman cultures.
Mead became deeply embedded in many cultures. You’d be hard-pressed today to find a Greek mythology book that doesn’t mention mead being drunk by the gods and goddesses. Mead is even attributed to potentially being the base for the term honeymoon, due to the drink being thought to help with couples conceiving children. Mead is also mentioned in the Bible and in relevant literature written by Aristotle and other authors.
While mead carried an enormous influence on the drinking habits of people worldwide, it eventually lost much of its popularity once the 1700s hit and sugar was more widely available. However, in the United States, mead began seeing an increase in demand around the 1960s. While mead doesn’t carry the same weight in the U.S. that beer, wine, and other liquors do, it is regularly made by meaderies located around the country.
One-Gallon Mead Recipe
If you’re sold on the mead concept and excited to brew your own, we’ve procured an excellent recipe for you to try on your own below. Once you get this process down, there’s almost no limit to how you can tweak the process and ingredients to truly make this delicious drink all your own.
- Food-safe sanitizing solution
- Large pot
- One gallon glass jug with airtight locking lid
- Large funnel
- Large spoon with a long handle
- Siphon and tubing
- Glass drinking bottles
- Bottle filler
- Filtered water
- One large orange, sliced
- 1/2 package of wine yeast
- One cup of strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries
- One generous handful of raisins
- Three pounds of honey
- Begin by sanitizing all jars, bottles, pots, and equipment being used to make your mead. Sanitization is vital for health reasons, but also because un-sanitized equipment can affect the fermentation process.
- In your large pot, heat 1/2 gallon of purified water until its hot. Avoid boiling the water.
- Stir honey into your water until it dissolves completely, and then remove from heat.
- Add all fruit pieces to your glass jug, and then use your funnel to pour the water and honey mixture into your glass jug. If there is any room left in your jug at the top, add a little cool water, but be sure to leave about two inches of room. Mix everything by gently shaking the jug with the lid in place.
- Add your yeast to the jug mixture, and then replace the cap and continue shaking to mix for about three minutes. It’s important that the yeast is well-distributed throughout the bottle.
- Make sure your jug is properly air sealed, and then place it into a dark area within your home to rest and begin the fermenting process. Allow the fermenting to take place over the next six weeks. You can tell that the mead fermenting process is complete once it has stopped bubbling.
- Using your siphon tubing and bottle filler, fill each glass bottle with your mead concoction. You can either drink immediately or continue to age your mead in the bottles for more enhanced flavor.
Not Interested In Making Your Own?
If you want to drink mead but aren’t interested in making your own right now, there are seasoned brewers of the delicious drink that you can purchase from. Below are a few of our favorite mead brands for your consideration:
- Chaucer’s Mead – Chaucer’s Mead uses fresh and raw honey to produce its variation, which essentially amounts to a robust but basic version of the sweet beverage. Drinkers of Chaucer’s can either enjoy the mead cold during the summer or warm it with their own mixture of spices and fruit as desired during the fall and winter months.
- Charm City Original Dry Mead – Charm City has a few different variations of mead, but we recommend getting started with their crisp and classic Original Dry Mead. This mead is comprised of fresh wildflower honey and carries delicious citrus notes. However, if you’re looking for mead with some enhanced flavor, Charm City has a range of offerings from Elderberry to Mango and more.
- Meadery of the Rockies Chocolate Raspberry Honey Wine – If you’re looking for something entirely different, the Chocolate Raspberry Honey Wine offered by Meadery of the Rockies is a real treasure. This mead is a very sweet and indulgent beverage that is filled with notes of chocolate and raspberries.
- Meridian Hive Discovery Mead – Meridian Hive is another meadery that has an exceptional line of mead for purchase. However, the Discovery Mead offering is a true testament to the journey that was taken by this brewer to perfect the brewing of mead. This sweet beverage is filled with notes of orange blossom encapsulated with a very notable crisp and dry sweetness.
- Moonlight Meadery Desire – Desire is one of the more fruity meads you’ll come across. This beverage is filled with flavors of fresh back cherries, blueberries, currants, and sweet honey. If you’re looking for mead with a more complex and balanced flavor, Desire is definitely one to try.
- Redstone Meadery Honey Wine – Redstone Meadery’s Honey Wine is a very balanced and medium-sweet mead offering that will please most palates. Orange blossom and honeycomb flavors fill every glass of this beverage, which can easily be enjoyed either chilled or at room temperature at any time of the year.
- Dansk Mjod Viking Blod – Viking Blod mead by Dansk Mjod is a hop-forward offering that’s developed a following all its own over the years. If you’re looking for a more bold mead with plenty of spice and dry-hopped flavor, Viking Blod is definitely the one for you.
- Superstition Meadery Peanut Butter Jelly Crime – The name of this mead offering gives away how unique it is. Superstition describes its Peanut Butter Jelly Crime mead as “a PB&J sandwich in a bottle.” Ratebeer has also rated this mead as one of the top fifty in the entire world. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the enticing deep purple color of this mead, and then upon the first sip, you’ll be hit with intense flavors of jam and sweet peanut butter. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, however, Superstition has a very wide variety to choose from.
- Nectar Creek Waggle – Nectar Creek’s Waggle mead is perfect for those looking for a balanced and refreshing option. Waggle is lower on the alcohol volume, perfectly crisp, and filled with soft notes of ripe fruit and wildflower honey.
- Ribe Mjod – This Viking-inspired mead is definitely not one to miss. Strong notes of apple, pear, and honey come forward in this mead, which also offers a high 19 percent alcohol volume.