• PATRONS: Did you know we've a chat function for you now? Look to the bottom of the screen, you can chat, set up rooms, talk to each other individually or in groups! Click 'Chat' at the right side of the chat window to open the chat up.
  • Love Gotmead and want to see it grow? Then consider supporting the site and becoming a Patron! If you're logged in, click on your username to the right of the menu to see how as little as $30/year can get you access to the patron areas and the patron Facebook group and to support Gotmead!
  • We now have a Patron-exclusive Facebook group! Patrons my join at The Gotmead Patron Group. You MUST answer the questions, providing your Patron membership, when you request to join so I can verify your Patron membership. If the questions aren't answered, the request will be turned down.

Why isn't mead more mainstream?

African Bronze Honey - 50% off for GotMead members

BrewinNColorado

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Jan 4, 2008
173
2
0
Boulder County, Colorado
The other day while driving home from work and passing several wine stores, I started pondering why mead isn't more mainstream then what it presently is. With there being (to my knowledge) over 150 different meaderies in the U.S and around the world, why isn't mead more mainstream?

Could it be because of...

meaderies are small so don't have a marketing budget?
laws make it harder to market?
general public is more accustomed to wine and unwilling to try new products?
mead doesn't fit into how consumers are drinking wine?
Wine stores and restaurants are reluctant to add mead for whatever reason.
Or is there something else I missed?

The reason I ask is there are a large number of meaderies and a larger number of home brewers making mead. With that, one would think that there would be a larger variety of mead on the shelf and served in restaurants. When I go into the larger wine stores in my area, there are only a few local meads on the shelf and none of the restaurants serve mead. Is this true in your areas as well?

With the very limited selection, it is really difficult to try different meads, and I cannot bring myself to order online.

What are your thoughts on what we (home brewers) can do to change this?

Thanks!
Michael
 

fatbloke

good egg/snappy dresser.....
GotMead Patron
Meads dropped out of favour during the industrial revolution, because it was mainly a local brew and as places attracted people, they found it safer to drink "small beer" as the water was made safe/drinkable by the brewing process.

Obviously that excludes places with a long history of mead making.

Mead as we know it now, is more to do with the historical rediscovery. Plus the use of wine making techniques.

The re-enactment people and stuff like Harry Potter, have done a lot to spread the word, but it could help if someone had a decent marketing budget.........
 

AToE

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 8, 2009
4,066
3
0
Calgary AB Canada
That's a pretty complex question, and I can't answer why mead fell out of popularity in most of Europe over the last couple hundred years - and the fact that it's been "gone" so long is a huge part of why it's not popular now.

Also, pound for pound honey is about the most expensive type of sugar you can possibly ferment other than maple syrup (I'm sure a few others too). So pricing is a huge problem, though many meaderies have gotten the prices down (but as far as I've seen nobody's managed to get the price down on dry meads that require longer than a couple months of aging, and those are likely to be the ones to convert wine drinkers in my opinion).

Also, many commerical meaderies offer meads that are frankly just awfull to most people's tastes, and once people decide they hate mead they're generally pretty stubborn. Either the meads are too sweet, or spiced in an unpleasant way, but I have never met a single person who's had commercial mead bought in north america that's liked it. (Granted I'm tucked away in Canada where our mead selection is even lower, but seriously - every single person I've ever mentioned mead to that even knew what it was said "yuck, that stuff is terrible" (other than those who had it in Europe, even them said it was too sweet though)).


#1 thing is that people don't know about it because it's been essentially gone for the last hundreds of years. That's a huge hill to climb frankly.
 

Tiwas

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 30, 2011
366
0
0
Oslo, Norway
Speaking of Europe, all I can say is that it used to be punishable by death for a farmer for not brewing his or her own brew. Then it became punishable by death to brew mead, as it was a heathen drink. So...punishable by death not brewing, punishable by death for brewing mead, and no grapes...Kind of computes ;)
 

Braxton

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 29, 2010
188
1
0
Twin Cities
Yeah, I've often thought that the expense of honey is probably the biggest issue. But then again they've managed somehow to carve out a tiny wine industry here in Minnesota, where the climate is quite inhospitable to grapes, through massive research and investment.

On the other hand, isn't is cool that mead isn't mainstream? One of the things that I love about Gotmead is that homegrown research into mead techniques and ingredients is so alive. With beer or wine it feels like everything has been solved or developed already by the big companies. Mead is still mysterious to me.
 

JayH

NewBee
Registered Member
May 9, 2006
355
3
0
Corrales, NM
In 2009 the last year I could find numbers for, the average cost of grain for a brewery in the US was $600-$900 per ton; the major difference being packaging.

If you figure for a standard British style session beer as a home brewer I’m using somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds for a 5 gallon batch. A professional system will have a far greater efficiency then I do, so just for fun figure it at about 3 lbs a gallon. That comes out to somewhere depending upon style etc. of around $1.50 a gallon for your fermentable sugars.

The best price I can get on orange blossom honey (by chance I just priced this a couple of days ago) is around $1.95 a pound if I’m willing to buy in a 55 gallon drum and around $1.93 a pound if I buy a tote (250 gallons).

If you figure between 2.5 and 3 pounds of honey is required for each gallon of mead, you start to see the problem; you’re spending around 4 times as much for your fermentable sugars as you will with beer. It makes beer much easier to brew at a profit. And this does not even take into consideration the cost of aging the mead etc.

On the other hand Grape juice will run you anywhere from around $7.00 a gallon up to as much as $16-$25 a gallon for a good must, at least this is the price they one place quoted me, I admit to not having done real in depth research.

So if we compare mead to beer there is no way to be price competitive, but compared to wine mead could be very competitive price wise.

One side note, my source for honey warned me to expect it to go up another 50 cents a gallon over the next 6 months or so.
 

AToE

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 8, 2009
4,066
3
0
Calgary AB Canada
Grape juice for wine is seriously that expensive? I never would have thought that in a million years (when you say "good must" what price range (retail) per bottle are we talking about? A 15$ bottle, or a $50 bottle etc?).
 

fatbloke

good egg/snappy dresser.....
GotMead Patron
So, given that there's a few different perspectives there, all of them valid, albeit for different reasons, it sort of explains why, in different locations, it faded off and went out of fashion.....

Effectively, our meads, might have historical roots, but for the most part, it's a whole new drink to most.

The economic elements that JayH highlights, just add to why it's hard to make the financial case for mead. Of course, there's quite a few both here and elsewhere who're having a damn good go at "earning a wage" from mead, but without it being easy for a large scale commercial operation, it's always likely to be an uphill struggle........

Not forgetting, just as the likes of us lot learning how/teaching others/being enthusiastic about meads, you have the problem of CCD. While it's a problem for us, as it has the potential to make the cost of the raw material sky rocket, it's a bigger issue for agriculture/horticulture.....

regards

fatbloke
 

Tiwas

NewBee
Registered Member
Jan 30, 2011
366
0
0
Oslo, Norway
AToE: You see the difference in prices when you compare your thought to my initial one of "honey is really that cheap??"

;)
 

newbee17

NewBee
Registered Member
Mar 7, 2011
1
0
0
dublin,ireland
In 2009 the last year I could find numbers for, the average cost of grain for a brewery in the US was $600-$900 per ton; the major difference being packaging.

If you figure for a standard British style session beer as a home brewer I’m using somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds for a 5 gallon batch. A professional system will have a far greater efficiency then I do, so just for fun figure it at about 3 lbs a gallon. That comes out to somewhere depending upon style etc. of around $1.50 a gallon for your fermentable sugars.

The best price I can get on orange blossom honey (by chance I just priced this a couple of days ago) is around $1.95 a pound if I’m willing to buy in a 55 gallon drum and around $1.93 a pound if I buy a tote (250 gallons).

If you figure between 2.5 and 3 pounds of honey is required for each gallon of mead, you start to see the problem; you’re spending around 4 times as much for your fermentable sugars as you will with beer. It makes beer much easier to brew at a profit. And this does not even take into consideration the cost of aging the mead etc.

On the other hand Grape juice will run you anywhere from around $7.00 a gallon up to as much as $16-$25 a gallon for a good must, at least this is the price they one place quoted me, I admit to not having done real in depth research.

So if we compare mead to beer there is no way to be price competitive, but compared to wine mead could be very competitive price wise.


One side note, my source for honey warned me to expect it to go up another 50 cents a gallon over the next 6 months or so.


Wish i could get honey for that price i have to pay nearly 7euro for 2lbs and the only honey i can get is supermarket brands
 

JayH

NewBee
Registered Member
May 9, 2006
355
3
0
Corrales, NM
Grape juice for wine is seriously that expensive? I never would have thought that in a million years (when you say "good must" what price range (retail) per bottle are we talking about? A 15$ bottle, or a $50 bottle etc?).
That is the price for a must if you are making bottles of wine in the $25 and up range. The $7.00 a gallon is going to leave with a $8-12 bottle of wine. This assumes of course that you know what you are doing to start with.


For those of you in other parts of the world, the only reason it is that cheap is because I'm lucky enough to be near a large wholesaler of honey and I buy a lot. My last purchase of honey from them was 900 lbs. (not all for me, but 240 lbs of did find its way home). I was comparing pricing that one would expect to get if working in Southern California on a commercial basis. While not as expensive as yours, if you buy just a couple of pounds at a time it is far more expensive than that. I believe it is in the $5-8lb range in stores around here.
 

AToE

NewBee
Registered Member
Jun 8, 2009
4,066
3
0
Calgary AB Canada
Even 7$ per gallon is far more expensive than I would have expected for a $15 dollar wine, that's about $1.40 cost per bottle just for the grapes alone. I guess that wrecked that misconception of mine!

That does put mead closer to the same price bracket for fermentables even on a smaller scale, though aging is still an issue cost-wise anyways.

So we're back to it simply being nearly completely unknown, and my comments about a large amount of commercial mead being (if not necessarily "bad") contrary to popular taste (either due to sweetness or extreme spicing).

EDIT: Does anyone know what price range of wine sells best? I would imagine $10-$15 per bottle is the biggest seller, thats the range everyone I know buys in anyways, not the bottom of the barrel cheap, but not hard on the wallet either.
 

wayneb

Lifetime Patron
Lifetime GotMead Patron
Actually, a few years back I read in some pro winemaking publication or another (can't remember which one), that the optimum price point for many wines was around $15/bottle. Prices much lower than that conveyed the impression of low-quality to the majority of the public, but prices much higher than that limited the market to "high end" only buyers.

Of course, this was all before the economic downturn of the past few years....
 
Well, not that I have much research to back my claim:

In America there's a large group whom have a prejudice against anything seen as "unprocessed" hippy [expletive redacted]. Even craft beers are in underdog in America. Budweiser, Miller, and Coors account for roughly 90% (95%?) of all beer sales in America. This is thanks in very large part to the the Prohibition of Alcohol, and the laws that passed that create a distribution network that supports the winner takes most situation. (See documentary "Beer Wars" for more).

Albeit this was probably just the Coup de Grace for any meaderies of that era. I don't have any statistics for that time frame, but compare the decade prior to the decade after prohibition [legitimate] breweries had gone from numbering in the hundreds to just under 50; and by the 80s that number was less than 10 do to branding.

It is my opinion that (at least in America) that the average consumer does not trust anything that's not a mainstream brand, and is therefore not willing to try anything novel unless a brand name endorses it. The average Joe Schmoe wouldn't like mead unless it was endorsed by Budweiser...

Which leads me to my second point: If you travel too far out of the Amateur Brewing Circle, (again, at least in America) Meads are associated with basement dwelling, renaissance fair going, 40 year old virgins at worst; and weed smoking hippies at best.

Most people don't care to look just past the surface to see the underlaying awesomeness of craft beers and meads. Our drinking culture, distribution, and advertising supports drinking cheap, strong, and mostly bland alcohols in order to get [expletive redacted]'D UP!

Though, on a bright note:
Price may not be too huge a hurdle, craft beers have taken off in the last decade, and if the mead industry can find the same enterprising spirit, they may must be able to carve out a sizeable niche in the market and become mainstream.
After all, the market has proven there is a exponentially growing niche for premium intoxicants.

Anyway, that's my two cents
 

mfalenski

NewBee
Registered Member
I think there are more than a few factors that are keeping mead "down"... Inaccessibility, dislike, and ignorance to name but a few. I know there are no meads for sale in the PA wine stores that are worth anything. If someone does stumble upon one like Bunratty or Chaucers it changes their idea of mead for the worse. I was talking to a winery manager and she said she tried to make mead once and that it was a slimy gross mess that she dumped down the drain. She said she had no idea what she was doing, but do you still think that taints her perception of mead? Most definitely so. I have been at wine tasting and homebrew events that people attempted mead and a majority of it was awful. People who have never had it before think that’s how it’s supposed to taste and don’t try it again when offered. I had to beg people to try mine at a tasting event last fall, and when they tried it most of the reactions were of surprise. “I had mead before, and it didn’t taste like this!” There needs to be a public (re)education on mead. I always tell people that it’s the oldest fermented beverage that no one’s ever heard of.
 

mccann51

NewBee
Registered Member
Nov 8, 2010
637
2
0
Southwestern USA
I agree with you're point, Sigristrl. That said, the craft beer industry is growing, while the BMC beers are not, so I think this conception is being challenged in more culturally-rich areas.

So the important question is: are the meaderies growing? If not, then we must ask why, if so... great.

I think price and - more importantly - availability has been a huge limiting factor for mead production. Tradition (ie pre-industrial) homebrewing of mead is no problem considering the amounts of honey necessary, but if you scale up to mass-production of mead, you're bound to encounter a bottle-neck. Honey production is large, but it's nowhere near barley or grape production. I am conjecturing, but it seems like producing honey on the same scale as either of these two products would be very difficult and time-consuming, and there simply wouldn't be enough ecological "room" for that many bees.
 

wildoates

NewBee
Registered Member
Mar 22, 2009
2,373
4
0
Elk Grove, CA
First off, I'm amazed by the number of people I've run across who don't even know what mead is. Don't people read?! At my first mead tasting party last year, several people begged off because they either hadn't heard of mead at all or had heard that it was some sort of inferior uber sweet wine-like stuff. They weren't interested in trying it until the people who did come raved about how amazing it was, and how varied it could be.

Secondly, I agree that some people just don't trust homebrew or craft potables. A couple of years ago my son and his roomie brought some of their extremely-well crafted home-brewed beer to our family reunion, and a lot of people wouldn't even try it because it was home-brewed and they didn't think it would be any good. They kept on drinking the bud light and other mass-produced beers, sucks to be them, more for the discerning folk in the crowd, too bad, so sad for you. I've had people resist trying my meads for the same reason.

How do we overcome all this? Well as a consumer and homebrewer, I say the heck with them. But if I was a commercial meadery, I'd try to do what Brad and the rest of our pros try to do, which is produce an excellent product and try to get the word out various ways. When we went to the Ren Faire last autumn, Rabbit's Foot had several booths dispensing mead, and they had lines all day long. Clearly the sort of folks that attend Ren Faires know about, enjoy, and are willing to pay top dollar for mead, but the average wine drinkers usually aren't, don't, and won't.

What I'd like to see is a relationship between mead makers and, say BevMo, where a variety of quality mead is featured at the front of the store, Instead of the bottom of the back shelf. I'd like to see the BevMo employees be trained about mead so they can recommend it like they do wine. I'd like to see BevMo offer mead tastings like they do wine and beer tastings, but without a good selection of meads in the shop, well, there's nothing to taste.

And yeah, it's expensive, because the honey's expensive and it takes a long time to make. But if it's marketed wisely, that can be turned into an asset, not a negative.
 

mmclean

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 22, 2010
1,128
1
0
Tennessee Valley
I think price and - more importantly - availability has been a huge limiting factor for mead production. Tradition (ie pre-industrial) homebrewing of mead is no problem considering the amounts of honey necessary, but if you scale up to mass-production of mead, you're bound to encounter a bottle-neck. Honey production is large, but it's nowhere near barley or grape production. I am conjecturing, but it seems like producing honey on the same scale as either of these two products would be very difficult and time-consuming, and there simply wouldn't be enough ecological "room" for that many bees.
You can buy honey by the train tanker full. I don't that will be a limiting factor. The more honey used, the more that will be produced...somewhere.
 

mmclean

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 22, 2010
1,128
1
0
Tennessee Valley
First off, I'm amazed by the number of people I've run across who don't even know what mead is. Don't people read?! At my first mead tasting party last year, several people begged off because they either hadn't heard of mead at all or had heard that it was some sort of inferior uber sweet wine-like stuff. They weren't interested in trying it until the people who did come raved about how amazing it was, and how varied it could be.
I told my friend that I was making mead and he said, "What's that?" So I told him, "Vikings, Mead Halls of Valhalla, Necter of the gods...and he said, "Oh, I didn't know you meant that."

He's working on finnishing up his PhD.
 
African Bronze Honey - 50% off for GotMead members