Mead (//) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% ABV to more than 18%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage's fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
Mead was produced in ancient times throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, and has played an important role in the mythology of some peoples. In Norse mythology, for example, the Mead of Poetry was crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir and turned the drinker into a poet or scholar.
The terms "mead" and "honey-wine" are often used synonymously. Some cultures, though, differentiate honey-wine from mead. For example, Hungarians hold that while mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast (barm), honey-wine is watered honey fermented with pomace of grapes or other fruits.
Pottery vessels dating from 7000 BCE discovered in northern China have shown chemical signatures consistent with the presence of honey, rice, and organic compounds associated with fermentation. In Europe, it is first described from residual samples found in ceramics of the Bell Beaker Culture (c. 2800–1800 BCE).
The earliest surviving description of mead is possibly the soma mentioned in the hymns of the Rigveda, one of the sacred books of the historical Vedic religion and (later) Hinduism dated around 1700–1100 BCE. During the Golden Age of ancient Greece, mead was said to be the preferred drink. Aristotle (384–322 BCE) discussed mead in his Meteorologica and elsewhere, while Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) called mead militites in his Naturalis Historia and differentiated wine sweetened with honey or "honey-wine" from mead. The Hispanic-Roman naturalist Columella gave a recipe for mead in De re rustica, about 60 CE.
Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a [Roman] pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.
There is a poem attributed to the Welsh bard Taliesin, who lived around 550 CE, called the Kanu y med or "Song of Mead". The legendary drinking, feasting and boasting of warriors in the mead hall is echoed in the mead hall Din Eidyn (modern-day Edinburgh) as depicted in the poem Y Gododdin, attributed to the poet Aneirin who would have been a contemporary of Taliesin. In the Old English epic poem Beowulf, the Danish warriors drank mead. In both Insular Celtic and Germanic poetry, mead was the primary heroic or divine drink, see Mead of poetry.
Mead (Old Irish mid) was a popular drink in medieval Ireland. Beekeeping was brought around the 5th century, traditionally attributed to Modomnoc, and mead came with it. A banquet hall on the Hill of Tara was known as Tech Mid Chuarda ("house of the circling of mead"). Mead was often infused with hazelnuts. Many other legends of saints mention mead, as does that of the Children of Lir.
Later, taxation and regulations governing the ingredients of alcoholic beverages led to commercial mead becoming a more obscure beverage until recently. Some monasteries kept up the traditions of mead-making as a by-product of beekeeping, especially in areas where grapes could not be grown.
The English mead – "fermented honey drink" – derives from the Old English meodu or medu, and Proto-Germanic, *meduz. Its cognates include Old Norse mjǫðr, Middle Dutch mede, and Old High German metu, and the ancient Irish queen Medb, among others.
Meads will often ferment well at the same temperatures in which wine is fermented, and the yeast used in mead making is often identical to that used in wine making (particularly those used in the preparation of white wines). Many home mead makers choose to use wine yeasts to make their meads.
By measuring the specific gravity of the mead once before fermentation and throughout the fermentation process using a hydrometer or refractometer, mead makers can determine the proportion of alcohol by volume that will appear in the final product. This also serves to troubleshoot a "stuck" batch, one where the fermentation process has been halted prematurely by dormant or dried yeast.
With many different styles of mead possible, there are many different processes employed, although many producers will use techniques recognisable from wine-making. One such example is to rack the product into a second container, once fermentation slows down significantly. these are known as primary and secondary fermentation, respectively. Some larger commercial fermenters are designed to allow both primary and secondary fermentation to happen inside of the same vessel. Racking is done for two reasons: it lets the mead sit away from the remains of the yeast cells (lees) that have died during the fermentation process. Second, this lets the mead have time to clear. The cloudiness could have been caused by either yeast or suspended protein molecules. There is also the possibility that the pectin from any fruit that is used could have set which gives the mead a cloudy look. The cloudiness can be cleared up by either "cold breaking," which is leaving the mead in a cold environment overnight, or using a fining material, such as sparkolloid, bentonite, egg white, or isinglass. If the mead maker wishes to backsweeten the product or prevent it from oxidizing, potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate are added. After the mead clears, it is bottled and distributed.
Primary fermentation usually takes 28 to 56 days, after which the must is placed in a secondary fermentation vessel for 6 to 9 months of aging. Durations of primary and secondary fermentation producing satisfactory mead may vary considerably according to numerous factors, such as floral origin of the honey and its natural sugar and microorganism contents, must water percentage, pH, additives used, and strain of yeast, among others. Although supplementation of the must with non-nitrogen based salts, or vitamins has been tested to improve mead qualities, no evidence suggests that adding micronutrients reduced fermentation time or improved quality. Cell immobilization methods, however, proved effective for enhancing mead quality.
Mead can have a wide range of flavors depending on the source of the honey, additives (also known as "adjuncts" or "gruit") including fruit and spices, the yeast employed during fermentation, and the aging procedure. Some producers have erroneously marketed white wine sweetened and flavored with honey after fermentation as mead, sometimes spelling it "meade." This is closer in style to a hypocras. Blended varieties of mead may be known by the style represented; for instance, a mead made with cinnamon and apples may be referred to as either a cinnamon cyser or an apple metheglin.
A mead that contains fruit (such as raspberry, blackberry or strawberry) is called a melomel, which was also used as a means of food preservation, keeping summer produce for the winter. A mead that is fermented with grape juice is called a pyment.
Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some may even be considered as dessert wines. Drier meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads.
There are faux-meads, which are actually wines with honey added after fermentation as a sweetener and flavoring.
Historically, meads were fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria (as noted in the recipe quoted above) residing on the skins of the fruit or within the honey itself. Wild yeasts can produce inconsistent results. Yeast companies have isolated strains of yeast which produce consistently appealing products. Brewers, winemakers and mead makers commonly use them for fermentation, including yeast strains identified specifically for mead fermentation. These are strains that have been selected because of their characteristic of preserving delicate honey flavors and aromas.
Mead can also be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength. A version called "honey jack" can be made by partly freezing a quantity of mead and straining the ice out of the liquid (a process known as freeze distillation), in the same way that applejack is made from cider.
In Finland, a sweet mead called sima is connected with the Finnish Vappu festival (although in modern practice, brown sugar is often used in place of honey). During secondary fermentation, added raisins augment the amount of sugar available to the yeast and indicate readiness for consumption, rising to the top of the bottle when sufficiently depleted. Sima is commonly served with both the pulp and rind of a lemon.
Ethiopian mead is called tej (ጠጅ, [ˈtʼədʒ]) and is usually home-made. It is flavored with the powdered leaves and bark of gesho, a hop-like bittering agent which is a species of buckthorn. A sweeter, less-alcoholic version called berz, aged for a shorter time, is also made. The traditional vessel for drinking tej is a rounded vase-shaped container called a berele.
In the United States, mead is enjoying a resurgence, starting with small home meaderies and now with a number of small commercial meaderies. As mead becomes more widely available, it is seeing increased attention and exposure from the news media.
List of mead variantsEdit
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- Acerglyn: A mead made with honey and maple syrup.
- Bais: A native mead from the Mandaya and Manobo people of eastern Mindanao in the Philippines. It is made from honey and water fermented for at least five days to a month or more.
- Balché: A native Mexican version of mead.
- Bilbemel: A mead made with blueberries, blueberry juice, or sometimes used for a varietal mead that uses blueberry blossom honey.
- Black mead: A name sometimes given to the blend of honey and blackcurrants.
- Blue mead: A type of mead where fungal spores are added during first fermentation, lending a blue tint to the final product.
- Bochet: A mead where the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water. Yields toffee, caramel, chocolate and toasted marshmallow flavors.
- Bochetomel: A Bochet style mead that also contains fruit such as elderberries, black raspberries and blackberries.
- Braggot: Also called bracket or brackett. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added. Welsh origin (bragawd).
- Capsicumel: A mead flavored with chilli peppers, the peppers may be hot or mild.
- Chouchenn: A kind of mead made in Brittany.
- Cyser: A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together; see also cider.
- Czwórniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using three units of water for each unit of honey.
- Dandaghare: A mead from Nepal, combines honey with Himalayan herbs and spices. It has been produced since 1972 in the city of Pokhara.
- Dwójniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using equal amounts of water and honey.
- Great mead: Any mead that uses greater than normal amounts of honey. Can be intended to be aged several years.
- Gverc or Medovina: Croatian mead prepared in Samobor and many other places. The word "gverc" or "gvirc' is from the German "Gewürze" and refers to various spices added to mead.
- Hydromel: Name derived from the Greek hydromeli, i.e. literally "water-honey" (see also melikraton and hydromelon). It is also the French name for mead. (See also and compare with the Italian idromele and Spanish hidromiel and aguamiel, the Catalan hidromel and aiguamel, Galician aguamel, and Portuguese hidromel). It is also used as a name for a light or low-alcohol mead.
- Kabarawan: An extinct alcoholic drink from the Visayas Islands of the Philippines made with honey and the pounded bark of the Neolitsea villosa
- Medica/Medovica: Slovenian, Croatian and Slovak variety of mead.
- Medovina: Czech, Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Slovak for mead. Commercially available in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and presumably other Central and Eastern-European countries.
- Medovukha: Eastern Slavic variant (honey-based fermented drink).
- Melomel: A type of mead that also contains fruit.
- Metheglin: Metheglin is traditional mead with herbs or spices added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins were originally employed as folk medicines. The Welsh word for mead is medd, and the word "metheglin" derives from meddyglyn, a compound of meddyg, "healing" + llyn, "liquor".
- Midus: Lithuanian for mead, made of natural bee honey and berry juice. Infused with carnation blossoms, acorns, poplar buds, juniper berries and other herbs. Generally between 8% and 17% alcohol, it is also distilled to produce mead nectar or mead balsam, with some of the varieties having as much as 75% of alcohol.
- Mõdu: An Estonian traditional fermented drink with a taste of honey and an alcohol content of 4.0%
- Morat: Morat blends honey and mulberries.
- Mulsum: Mulsum is not a true mead, but is unfermented honey blended with a high-alcohol wine.
- Myod: Traditional Russian mead, historically available in three major varieties:
- aged mead: a mixture of honey and water or berry juices, subject to a very slow (12–50 years) anaerobic fermentation in airtight vessels in a process similar to the traditional balsamic vinegar, creating a rich, complex and high-priced product.
- drinking mead: a kind of honey wine made from diluted honey by traditional fermentation.
- boiled mead: a drink closer to beer, brewed from boiled wort of diluted honey and herbs, very similar to modern medovukha.
- Omphacomel: A mead recipe that blends honey with verjuice; could therefore be considered a variety of pyment (q.v.). From the Greek omphakomeli, literally "unripe-grape-honey".
- Oxymel: Another historical mead recipe, blending honey with wine vinegar. From the Greek ὀξύμελι oxymeli, literally "vinegar-honey" (also oxymelikraton).
- Pitarrilla: Mayan drink made from a fermented mixture of wild honey, balché-tree bark and fresh water.
- Pyment: Contemporary pyment is a melomel made from the fermentation of a blend of grapes and honey and can be considered either a grape mead or honeyed wine. Pyment made with white grapes is sometimes called "white mead". In previous centuries piment was synonymous with Hippocras, a grape wine with honey added post-fermentation.
- Półtorak (TSG): A Polish great mead, made using two units of honey for each unit of water.
- Quick mead: A type of mead recipe that is meant to age quickly, for immediate consumption. Because of the techniques used in its creation, short mead shares some qualities found in cider (or even light ale): primarily that it is effervescent, and often has a cidery taste. It can also be champagne-like.
- Red mead: A form of mead made with redcurrants.
- Rhodomel: Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water. From the Greek ῥοδόμελι rhodomeli, literally "rose-honey".
- Rubamel: A specific type of Melomel made with raspberries.
- Sack mead: This refers to mead that is made with more honey than is typically used. The finished product contains a higher-than-average ethanol concentration (meads at or above 14% ABV are generally considered to be of sack strength) and often retains a high specific gravity and elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads (which have no residual sweetness) can be produced. According to one theory, the name derives from the fortified dessert wine, sherry (which is sometimes sweetened after fermentation) that, in England, once bore the nickname "sack"). Another theory is that the term is a phonetic reduction of "sake" the name of a Japanese beverage that was introduced to the West by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
- Short Mead: A mead made with less honey than usual and intended for immediate consumption.
- Show mead: A term that has come to mean "plain" mead: that which has honey and water as a base, with no fruits, spices, or extra flavorings. Because honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle, a mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. sometimes requires a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes to produce an acceptable finished product. In most competitions, including all those that subscribe to the BJCP style guidelines, as well as the International Mead Fest, the term "traditional mead" refers to this variety (because mead is historically a variable product, these guidelines are a recent expedient, designed to provide a common language for competition judging; style guidelines per se do not apply to commercial or historical examples of this or any other type of mead).
- Sima: a quick-fermented low-alcoholic Finnish variety, seasoned with lemon and associated with the festival of vappu.
- Tapluchʼi: Tapluchʼi, a Georgian name for mead, especially made of honey but it is also a collective name for any kind of drinkable inebriants.
- Tej/Mes: Tej/Mes is an Ethiopian and Eritrean mead, fermented with wild yeasts and the addition of gesho.
- Traditional mead: synonymous with "show mead," meaning it contains only honey, water, and yeast.
- Trójniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using two units of water for each unit of honey.
- Včelovina: Slovak alternative name for mead.
- White mead: A mead that is colored white with herbs, fruit or, sometimes, egg whites.
Mead is featured in many Germanic myths and folktales such as Beowulf, as well as in other popular works that draw on these myths. Notable examples include books by Fred Minnick, Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, T. H. White, Neil Gaiman, and Rick Riordan. It is often featured in books using a historical Germanic setting and in writings about the Viking Age. Mead is mentioned many times in Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel, American Gods; it is referred to as the drink of the gods. In The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini, the protagonist, Eragon, often drinks mead at feasts. It is also referenced in The Kingkiller Chronicle novel series by Patrick Rothfuss. The protagonist Kvothe is known to drink metheglin. The non-existent "Greysdale Mead" is also drunk, although it is merely water. Mead is mentioned many times in Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead, published in 1976. Mead is mentioned in the movie The 13th Warrior, based on Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead, when it is offered to Ahmad ibn Fadlan (played by actor Antonio Banderas) after a battle, which he refuses because of Islamic law forbidding drinking anything from the fermenting of grapes or wheat. He is informed that the drink is made from honey and thus not forbidden by Islam.
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- Hops are better known as the bitter ingredient of beer. However, they have also been used in mead both ancient and in modern times. The Legend of Frithiof mentions hops: Mohnike, G.C.F. (September 1829 – January 1829). "Tegner's Legend of Frithiof". The Foreign Quarterly Review. London: Treuttel and Würtz, Treuttel, Jun and Richter. III.
He next ... bids ... Halfdan recollect ... that to produce mead hops must be mingled with the honey;That this formula is still in use is shown by the recipe for "Real Monastery Mead" in Molokhovets, Elena (1998). Classic Russian Cooking. Joyce Stetson (trans.). Indiana University Press. p. 474. ISBN 0-253-21210-3.
- Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 328.
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...Therefore to our synopsis: Mead is the general name for all drinks made of honey.
- Rose, Anthony H. (1977). Alcoholic Beverages. Michigan: Academic Press. p. 413.
- Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat (Anthea Bell, tr.) The History of Food, 2nd ed. 2009:30.
- Hornsey, Ian (2003). A History of Beer and Brewing. Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-85404-630-0.
...mead was known in Europe long before wine, although archaeological evidence of it is rather ambiguous. This is principally because the confirmed presence of beeswax or certain types of pollen ... is only indicative of the presence of honey (which could have been used for sweetening some other drink) – not necessarily of the production of mead.
- "The Funerary Feast of King Midas @ the Penn Museum | Remains of a Feast".
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- History of beer in Hungary Archived 28 September 2010 at Archive.today – difference between mead and honey-wine (in Hungarian)
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- Eoghan Odinsson (2010). Northern Lore: A Field Guide to the Northern Mind-Body-Spirit. Eoghan Odinsson. ISBN 978-1452851433.
- Rigveda Book 5 v. 43:3–4, Book 8 v. 5:6, etc
- Kerenyi, Karl (1976). Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life. Princeton University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-691-09863-0.
- Pliny the Elder. Natural History XIV. XII:85 etc.
- about half a liter
- about 1/3 kg
- about ¼ kilograms
- Columella, 60 AD De re rustica
- Llyfr Taliesin XIX
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A Pyment is a melomel made with grapes (generally from juice). Pyments can be red, white, or blush, just as with wine.
- "Mazer Cup Guidelines (commercial)". American MEad Makers Association. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
Pyment: Honeywine made with grapes/grape juice/grape concentrate.
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- Schramm, Ken (2003). The Compleat Meadmaker. Brewers Publications. ISBN 978-0937381809.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article mead.|
Zaerpoor, Chrissie Manion (2017). The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing. Mead Maven Publishing, Yamhill, Oregon. ISBN 978-0-578-18895-9. Minnick, Fred (2018). Mead: The Libations, Legends and Lore. Running Press, Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-7624-6358-9.
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