What is Mead?
Mead (sometimes called honey wine) is an ancient beverage with a rich history which started long before the Middle Ages, in fact as long ago as 7000 BC. Not only that, it has been fermented in over 20 countries and in each has its own cultural name. Pick up a glass of mead and let your imagination take you to a bygone era, whether it be Egyptian, Roman, Viking or Medieval. The resurgence of mead today is indeed the renaissance of the Renaissance.
Many people are under the impression that mead is a beer or ale. Mead is actually a wine and the primary fermentable is honey. In beer the primary fermentable is sugar created from the starches in grains or cereals which are first converted by the malting process. The confusion is likely because of Hollywood’s representation of mead being swilled from tankards, drinking horns or large goblets. Nowadays we prefer to sip mead from wine glasses although popular Medieval re-enactments frequently use well-crafted drinking horns!
One of the benefits of mead is that it comes in many different flavours or styles. Many of these were derived during the Roman and Greek era, hence the names are reminiscent of their Latin background. What follows are the generally accepted groups with their descriptions.
- Traditional – mead made with honey, water and yeast
- Melomel – traditional mead fermented or flavoured with fruit
- Cyser – a melomel made with apples, apple juice or cider
- Pyment – a melomel made with grapes or grape juice
- Hippocras – a pyment made with spices
- Metheglin – a traditional mead flavoured with herbs and.or spices
- Braggot – a mead made with malted grains or cereals