You may be wondering, what is mead? If mead had the staying power of the Western Canon, kids would be drinking it by the bottle in English Lit and philosophy classes. Glassfuls of mead make notable mention in the writings of Virgil and Plato, The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, The Hobbit, and The Fellowship of the Ring, where Galadriel serves up white mead. The ancient Greeks and Romans drank it, and presumably passed it down to the Celts and Anglo-Saxons.
What Is Mead?
Ranging in alcohol content, shade and body, this flavorful nectar is made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water. Also known as hydromel, it was a staple drink until the late Middle Ages, at which point it gradually receded from the dinner table, replaced by cheaper sugars. Beer and wine have since prevailed, nearly vanquishing mead from local shelves. But given our unabashed love affair with men in iron, popular medieval tropes and the reign of Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft and Thor, mead, affectionately dubbed “honey wine,” may soon have its full day in our 21st century mouths.
While basic mead is made from honey, water, and yeast, seasoned drinkers spice it up with zesty fruit, such as blueberries, and a cocktail of cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, or cinnamon. With ingredients and winemaking supplies on hand, brewers can prepare a few bottles of mead in an hour or two. As with every rich wine, they let it age for a few years or longer.
Today, mead rock stars are few and far between. One newcomer, a homemade mead from Louisville Mead Company, is carried by The Douglas Loop farmers market in Louisville, Kentucky. Its owners, who primarily make beer, dove into the mead market to resuscitate it. “We liked mead but we really couldn’t get it anywhere. And when we could, it was more like a beer but we wanted what the Vikings drank, a traditional honey wine,” says owner Gordon Taulbee. Their flagship wine, Traditional Mead, is often compared to a Pinot Grigio.
West coast meadmakers Frank Golbeck, Joe Colangelo, and Praveen Ramineni, founders of Golden Coast Mead, operate a new production facility in Oceanside, California, sustained by their successful Kickstarter campaign. Their mission: to change the craft-brew landscape and expand mead-making beyond the apartment bathtub of their college years.
To reach a critical mass, these modern day pioneers in the age-old mead business will need breweries around the country bottling warm shades of tasty amber. If we’re ready for it, “Got Mead?” could be the new “Got Milk?” It will just require one main ingredient: equilibrium in local communities with plenty of honey bees.
Let’s toast to sweet mead as the comeback libation of 2017!
By Laurene Williams, HoneyColony Original