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What is Mead? The Forgotten Wine.

February 15, 2021
theforgottenwine

The one of the oldest alcoholic beverages around, mead, rarely spoken about these days but why not? This underrated beverage is wonderful and we want to bring it back! Afterall, it's a huge part of our world history! Many cultures have brewed and enjoyed mead for many decades. With our modern brewing technology, mead is even tastier than ever and here's everything you need to know about mead for you to enjoy this historic beverage.


What is Mead?

In the simplest terms, it's honey wine. You can tell it is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages because it is so simple, just honey and water fermented by yeast. Complexity is often added to mead by adding fruits, grains, spices, and hops. While it is often quite sweet, it is different from dessert wines or fortified wines. You can learn more about fortified wines in this article.


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Is Mead Beer? Or is Mead Wine?

Well, they're similar to both but not exactly either, which is why we call it mead. Mead tends to have a higher alcohol content than beer. Like craft beer, it has a lot of flexibility to change and manipulate the flavor profile through the addition of fruits, hops, various grains, and spices. Meaderies, where mead is made have turned the beverage into their own special artisanal craft.

Substyles of mead, like braggot, mix mead with beer or hops, giving it more of a beer quality but other substyles, like Great Mead, is meant to be aged like wine. Mead is a versatile and flexible base for a wide range of flavors, which allows beer and wine drinkers to both enjoy this beverage.

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How Strong is Mead?

Mead can be deceivingly strong because the sweetness deceives us into believing that the ABV isn't high; however, meads have one of the largest ABV ranges of an alcoholic beverage! Mead ABV can range from 3-20%, which gives you many options for enjoying this historic beverage. Meads with ABV between 3% to 7% are considered a session mead, whereas traditional meads are between 7% to 14% ABV, and 14% to 20% are considered sack meads, which are thick and sweet cordial beverages. Essentially, meads can be as light as a pilsner or lager or as strong as a fortified wine, offering many options to suit your taste.

Substyles of mead, like braggot, mix mead with beer or hops, giving it more of a beer quality but other substyles, like Great Mead, is meant to be aged like wine. Mead is a versatile and flexible base for a wide range of flavors, which allows beer and wine drinkers to both enjoy this beverage.

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How is Mead Made?

Meadmakers start by diluting honey with water and sugar, so the honey isn't too dense and they allow this mixture to ferment. Any flavor additions, like fruit or spice, will be added in after dilution but before the fermentation process starts. Fruits and fruit juices are often used to replace some or all of the water needed to make the dilution happen.

Like the well known "wort" that occurs during beer brewing, a "must" is the essential diluted honey mixture. This mixture is often heated to kill off unwanted bacteria; however not all meadmakers do this because some believe it will destroy some of the delicate flavors in the honey. Since honey has antibacterial properties, this heating of the must is not necessarily an essential step.

Then, yeast is added for fermentation, as well as oxygen and a nutrient blend because honey and water alone doesn't have all the nutrients yeast needs to convert the sugars to alcohol. Once fermentation is complete, the mead needs to aged anywhere from a few months to a few years before being sold.

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What Does Mead Taste Like?

There are a variety of factors that affect the sweetness, dryness, and alcohol content of a mead. How diluted the honey is, what kind of yeast is used, and the fermentation temperature all go into making each mead unique. In general, meads have a distinct taste but due to the additions of fruits, spices, and other ingredients, it can taste like fruit wine, white wine, and even a hard cider.

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How to Store Mead

Mead should be stored, like wine, in a cool dry place and away from sunlight to protect it from degradation of flavors. Since it is considered a wine, you should treat it as such, protecting it from factors that will ruin it. You can read our article on Top 5 Factors That Ruin A Wine As It Ages to learn more. Since many people don't tend to have a large mead collection, a wine refrigerator is an ideal storage solution because it is designed to protect aging beverages. A wine refrigerator offers temperature control, humidity control, and a UV filtered glass door all of which is essential for preserving the quality and delicate flavors in your mead. Check the top rated wine refrigerators by professionals in our article here.

Protect All Your Wines

From wines to meads, fermented beverages are delicate and need to be stored properly. If you have any questions about wine or other beverage storage, contact our experts at 800-710-9939.