What is Mead? Mead is the product of yeast converting honey and water into alcohol. The first question is usually “What does it taste like?” In it’s base form, it tastes like the flowers that the bees were pollinating; but the constituents of mead flavor do not stop there. Yeast and fermentation methods provide completely different flavors. A myriad of additives ranging from fruit to rare spices can also contribute. Frankly, mead can taste like anything you envision!
Mead is not always sweet, contrary to many people’s opinion. It can be as dry as can be, or sweet, with all sweetness levels in between.
Since the processes, yeasts, and equipment are mostly the same as those used in wine making, Mead is sometimes called Honey Wine; this is a misnomer since the base ingredient is honey, making it unique and therefore requiring a different name. A Pastrami sandwich is just meat between two slices of bread, but you would not call it a hamburger.
There are various ways of changing the flavor, strength, or body of a Mead to meet your individual preference. By adjusting the amount of honey and/or the type of yeast used, you can make the Mead sweet, semi-sweet or dry. The different varietals of honey available (see Appendix 1) will also change the flavor and aroma, as will the yeast strain.
It is possible to create different flavors by adding ingredients such as fruit or spices into the Must, or by putting them into the Mead when fermentation has stopped. The variety of ingredients you can add is as vast, restricted only by your imagination and availability. Don’t be dissuaded from trying something even if it has not been used before. Follow your own taste buds and give it a go. There is much gold in the unknown.
When you start to add additional ingredients, the name changes although it is still Mead. The following are the main styles of Mead and the ingredients used to make them:
- Mead – made with honey, water and yeast
- Session Mead – A low ABV mead; Also known as a hydromel
- Sack Mead – a sweeter Mead, with more honey and high ABV.
- Melomel – with fruit or fruit juice
- Metheglin – with spices and extracts
- Acerglyn – with maple syrup
- Morat – with mulberries
- Pyment – with both honey and grapes
- Hippocras – with honey, grapes, and spices
- Cyser – honey and apples or apple cider (apple juice in Europe) Can also be made with peach, cherry or pear cider
- Braggot – honey, malt and sometimes hops; sort of a Mead-beer hybrid
- Oxymel – Mead mixed with wine vinegar
- Rhodomel – honey with Attar, a rose petal distillate, or rose petals or hips
- Capsicumel – honey with hot peppers
- Omphacomel – Mead and Verjuice, the juice of unripe grapes
- T’ej – honey with Gesho and/or Kitel. It is the national drink of Ethiopia, and has a unique, wonderful taste.
- Weirdomels – Honey with a mixture of ingredients from multiple categories above.
Once you have decided what Mead you would like to make, you must select the honey variety and any additional ingredients you will be using.