A quick history lesson: the first bottle of mead is said to have been produced in the 12th century. This drink was widespread among the people of countries where grapevines were not flourishing, (i.e. Scandinavia, Gaul, Teutonic Europe, and Greece). It was similar to a sparkling table wine when it became popular and was used in the Middle Ages.
Did you know: The word Honeymoon is a result of an old custom where newlyweds would drink mead for a month after they were married. If the mead was “appropriate”, nine months later they would be blessed with a baby boy.
Mead is a honey wine not to be confused with wine with honey added. It is an interesting type of wine, which can give you an amazingly fascinating winemaking experience.
Since honey has several different flavors, colors, aromas, and sweetness, the mead that you make will vary. It can be somewhat light, sweet, dry or bold and robust flavored. Depending on what time of the year, when the honey was gathered, the brewing process, and what you add to your mead (fruits, spices, herbs, or even peppers) will determine the outcome of your mead.
Varieties of Mead
Traditional Mead – made with honey and water only
Melomel or Mulsum – mead with fruit or fruit juices (with the exception of grapes) added
Pyment – made with grapes added
Cyser – apple juice is added to mead
Metheglin – spices are added
Hippocras – mead with fruit and spices
Sack Mead – made sweeter by adding additional honey to mixture
Sack Metheglin – very sweet and spiced
Hydromel – watered down mead
Braggot – (part beer) uses malted grain and honey
Mead brandy – distilled mead with extra honey added
Getting thirsty? Ready to get a bottle? If you want to try it before you get into the DIY, you can actually buy mead at a Renaissance Festival (if the event is available). For those of you who are not into the “knights in shining armor & ladies of the court”, you can call on a local winery. If your local winery does not have exactly what you’re looking for, you can order online. There are several locations on the web.
For all of you, who are true to the cause – DIY, you can generally buy the clover spun or wildflower honey at your local grocer. For some of the more exotic choices alfalfa, orange blossom, buckwheat, etc., check your local health food store or a gourmet store. For all of you, who are ever so fortunate, call on your local beekeeper. This would be your least costliness option (you will need large quantities) and the raw honey would probably be the freshest. Typically, home brewers will make 5 gallons batches.
The three main ingredients of mead are honey, water, and yeast. Note: most mead makers suggest using spring or bottled water. They do not recommend using distilled water because it lacks the proper minerals to work with the yeast.
A Simple Recipe for Sweet Mead
• 18 lbs of Honey
• 4 gallons of spring or bottled water
• 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
• 2 teaspoons of yeast energizer
• 2 packages of wine yeast
(Note: For medium mead, use 15 lbs honey, 5 teaspoons yeast nutrient and 5 teaspoons of yeast energizer instead of amounts for sweet mead)
Steps for making Mead
1. Clean and sanitize all equipment and containers properly
2. Make the honey-water mixture
3. Add the yeast/yeast starter
4. Ferment until you can no longer see any signs of air bubbles
5. Rack as many times as needed to get the desired clarity
6. Age(at temperature around 60º) until you determine it is ready
7. Bottle, cap or cork