What is mead?
What?! You mean that ancient drink, so old no one really knows what is is?! Drunk by.... was it monks? Isn't it made out of honey?
Yes, mead, or honey wine, is the great great great Granddaddy of alcoholic drinks. It has been around arguably longer than humans, has contributed towards the rise and fall of nations, the meanderings of poets, the meeting of lovers and the despair of bees!
Once a great ambrosia that enriched all nations, it’s prevalence now ebbs and flows at the mercy of contemporary inclination.
If you like honey and you like alcohol then you are probably a mead lover whether you know it yet or not.
Mead is made by mixing honey with water and through the natural process of fermentation, the sugars in the honey are converted into alcohol. This natural process will have been frustrating bees since they started making honey, even before the first human looked at a colony of bees, with their intricate hexagonal combs filled with their stores of honey and thought… “that looks tasty. I am going to put my hand in there”.
Bees collect nectar from flowers and take it back to the colony where they mix it with enzymes in their honey stomaches and then deposit it in comb made from wax. They then fan the honey with their wings to dehydrate it so they can cap it and store it for future use. If they can’t reduce the moisture content of the honey to less than 20% then the honey will eventually start to ferment. Natural yeast cells that are present in the nectar will feed on the carbohydrates in the honey and convert them into ethanol and carbon dioxide. It is this ancient, natural process that we use to make our delicious meads.
Imagine the look of surprise on the first of our ancestors to discover mead and keep this in mind the next time you sample a particularly fine honey wine.
Mead was drunk by pretty much everyone who had access to honey including, but not limited to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Vikings, Celts, Picts, Russians, Chinese to name but a few. It is the national drink of Poland and Ethiopia so why don’t we drink it anymore? Well..…we do, and you can too!
Honey has always been a scarce commodity due to the nature of collecting it from bees and its seasonal availability. Today we have a mind boggling plethora of alcoholic drinks and anyone who claims to have tried them all is certainly mistaken. Many of these drinks have been made in fairly recent history following the commercial availability of plant based refined sugar, but even before that, humans were making alcohol out of fruit such as grape wine or apple cider. In reality, we can make alcohol out of anything that contains sugar and many sources are cheaper and easier to obtain than honey. This is one of the reasons mead is not as prevalent in our taverns as it once was.
However, all is not lost. Mead is experiencing an international surge in popularity, possibly helped by its appearance in popular TV programs such as Game of Thrones, Vikings and Harry Potter. It is the fastest growing alcohol sector in the U.S. and is tipped by many to be the next trendy drink in the U.K.
If you want to try some mead but you don’t have a sweet tooth, do not despair. Mead is one of the most versatile drinks. It can be bone dry, sweet as honey, as spicy as a chilli or as fruity as you can imagine. It can be mixed with herbs, spices, grape, grain or simply drunk plain. Pour it over ice, mix it in your coffee, add a splash of tonic or make a cocktail. There is a mead to suit almost every palate and it’s flavours are limited only by our imagination.
Check our next blog post to find out more about honey wine or head over to our online shop to buy some of our delicious mead.