Ancient Mead Makes a Comeback
What is mead?
While most people may know that beer is an age-old beverage brewed by fermenting grains, and wine is an alcoholic drink made of fermented grapes, but not many may have heard of mead made from honey. In Europe, honey is fermented to produce this beverage. Simply put, it is honey wine, also called “Nectar of the gods,” or “Drink of Love”.
Honey wine is the first alcoholic drink brewed by men, earlier than wine or beer, with alcohol level varying between 7% to 15%. It was told that honey wine could have been produced by chance during the Stone Age when honey became wet from rain and wild yeast in the air settled into the mixture. For centuries, honey wine has been renowned as an ‘aphrodisiac’ (agent which heightens sexual drive) and the word “honeymoon” is believed to be derived from the ancient European custom of having newly-weds drink honey wine for a whole moon (month) in order to increase their fertility and therefore their chances of a happy and fulfilled marriage.
Honey wine is also taken as a health tonic drink as it has a good level of antioxidants from honey. Honey wine-making is as easy as brewing beer, however, the fermentation of honey wine takes much longer than the fermentation of beer. Honey wine can take up to two or three years to reach full maturity.
The popularity of honey wine has waxed and waned in the last centuries, especially during the times when honey became scarce and expensive, it fell into even greater obscurity. This ancient brew was seen by most people as an old-fashioned beverage. However, interestingly it has been reported that this sweet exotic wine is making a comeback and is currently on the rise throughout the world. Making their own mead at home has become a new buzz amongst beverage hobbyists and many others are beginning to pay attention and becoming enticed to it.
Traditional honey wine whether sweet, dry, sparkling or still is simply made of honey, water, and yeast. Today, it comes in a dazzling array of flavors, depending the type of honey, the brewing process you use, and the additions like fruit (e.g. blue berry and cherry), herbs, spices, malt, and even peppers you use!
When fruits, spices, or herbs are added, honey wine takes on a totally different character and a new name, which could be Melomel (made with fruit juices), Pyment (made with grape juice), Cyser (made with apple juice), Metheglin (made with herbs or spices or both), and Hippocras (pyment made with herbs and/or spices), or Braggot (honey-ale made with fermented honey and grains). Choosing which floral varieties of honey to use is a decision of taste and the type of honey wine desired. Stronger honeys like buckwheat go well with sweeter, heavy or spiced honey wines and milder honeys like acacia with delicate flavors work well for traditional or fruit honey wines.
Did you know that honey is aphrodisiac and can boost your libido? Full account in: Honey is an Aphrodisiac.
Resources on Mead and Mead-making
If you are looking for resource on honey wine and honey wine-making, here is a great educational read by Ken Schramm — The Compleat Meadmaker (Click on book). It relates the history of honey wine, explains how honey is made into wine and even comes with a collection of award-winning recipes.