What is mead? A brief history of the drink
Mead is a drink made from fermented honey and water. It is often called “honey wine” because of its similarity to wine in taste and alcohol content. Unlike wine – which requires a certain climate to grow grapes – mead can be made pretty much anywhere there’s a source of honey.
Mead is believed to be the oldest fermented drink on earth. When you drink mead, you’re drinking the same thing ancient Greeks, Chinese, and, yes, Vikings used to drink. According to Eater, Vikings hold mead to an especially high regard because of a legend called “Poetic Mead”, which contained the blood of an all-knowing man called Kvasir. The blood-laced mead gifts its drinker with the intelligence of the wise man.
Mead was also popular in Ireland! The Spruce shares that everyone from peasants to monks to High Kings enjoyed the drink, and that it is believed that the word “honeymoon” originated from mead-drinkers. See, in Ireland, it’s a tradition for newlyweds to drink honey on the full moon!
Is mead making a comeback?
As more meaderies crop up here and abroad, we think it’s right to say that mead is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. And you can thank the “craft” drink trend for that!
Brian Rutzen of the Northman Cider Pub & Bistro told Forbes that, “In many ways, it is the happy medium between a cider and a cocktail. The wild flavour combinations could even lend themselves as welcome additions to creative new cocktail recipes”.
Even former Disney child actor Dylan Sprouse (Cole Sprouse’s twin) is a mead-maker! His meadery is called All-Wise. While unconfirmed, we bet that’s a nod to the legend of Kvasir!
Are there different kinds of mead?
Yes! There are dozens of different kinds of meads, depending on what is added into the mix. For example, mead mixed with maple syrup is called “acerglyn”, while mead brewed with hops (the same stuff beer is made of) is called “braggot”. Some meads are spiced with herbs like ginger, cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon. These are called metheglin!
How is mead made?
Mead is relatively easy to homebrew. But it’s not for the faint of heart; if you make it wrong, the mixture might end up poisonous!
Mead is typically made with honey, water, yeast, and an air-tight vessel. The process starts with sterilisation, which prevents mead from either poisoning you or turning sour – which entirely negates the point of making mead!
NOTE: There is some debate about whether it’s okay to use distilled water when making mead. Some believe that distilled water doesn’t contain enough minerals for the yeast to grow, while others say there isn’t much of a difference.
Boil the water and honey in a vat. The amount of honey you mix in changes the taste of your mead. More honey means a sweeter taste! Raw honey also enhances the sweetness.
Let the mixture cool before proceeding to the next step.
Pour the cooled mixture into an air-tight container. Add in your yeast and sit back and wait for it to ferment. After several weeks, “rack” or siphon out the liquid and transfer into a separate container.
5 mead brands you should try (and where to buy them)
Maxwell’s is probably the most well-known Aussie mead out there. They’ve had over 50 years of mead production under their belt, after all. They offer four varieties: sparkling mead (described as a cross between “ginger beer and cider”), spiced mead, liqueur mead, and the classic honey mead.
Maxwell’s Meads can be bought at Dan Murphy’s for $AUD17.99 per 750mL bottle.
The Land once claimed that Stone Dog’s meadery was “taking the mead world by storm”. And it’s easy to see why. With the owner’s combined passion and creativity, Stone Dog produces unique flavours, such as the Casual Profanity mead that is made with scotch thistle honey, the malty Triple IPA Braggot, and the Odin’s Reserve which is made with caramelised honey.
As if honey wine didn’t sound good enough, Stone Dog makes it even more scrumptious!
Bee Mead has the distinction of being Australia’s first sparkling mead. They offer three delicious flavours – Original Manuka Honey, Honey & Ginger, and Honey & Spice. The latter has got “intense cinnamon and delicate nutmeg” in the mix, which, according to some fans, tastes just like Christmas!
Bee Mead can be purchased from Dan Murphy’s at $AUD4.99 per 330 mL bottle.
As its name suggests, Sunlight Liquor produces bright and sunny drinks that are, according to their site, “ideally suited to the Australian climate and lifestyle”. Drawing inspiration from craft beers and gins, Sunlight Liquor sells two fun flavours – the sparkling rosé-inspired Gums & Roses and the zesty Sparkling Orange Blossom.
Check out their website for a list of stockists.
Arum’s founder, Louis Costa, blends his skill at winemaking with his love for mead. The result is a premium mead of the highest calibre. Similar to Sunlight Liquor’s Gums & Roses, Aurum has a Sparkling Rosé Mead that is “co-fermented with native rosella and strawberry gum leaf”. If you’re looking for something subtler and closer to white wine, try their Still White, which is made with lemon zest, white flowers, and lightly grilled macadamia nuts.