March 14, 2018
Mead, the Drink of the Gods
If you are looking for a fermented alcohol beverage that can easily be made using local ingredients here in Vermont, Hard Cider might come to mind. But, there is another option and that is Mead, sometimes referred to as Honey Wine. Mead is an ancient beverage that has roots as far back as 7000 BCE. In fact, Mead is considered the world's oldest alcoholic beverages. Imagine the happy discovery early foragers made when they drank the contents of a rainwater flooded beehive that had fermented naturally thanks to wild yeasts in the air.
And, that really is how simple Mead is: honey mixed with water and fermented. What makes Mead especially fascinating is it's wide range of flavors which comes from the diet of the honeybee at the time the honey is produced. Mead can also be made in different styles from sweet to bone dry and still or flat to sparkling. Modern Mead producers also create variety by adding different juices or fruits or sometimes it is made with maple syrup. There is even a style of Mead called Mead Beer brewed with hops or barley.
Historically Mead can be traced back to the Vikings, Mayans, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. If you are familiar with classic literature, no doubt you have read about Mead or Mead Halls. For example, in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit you will read, "They sat long at the table with their wooden drinking bowls filled with mead."
Mead is higher in alcohol than most beer and is closer to the alcohol content of wine. For that reason, it is typically served in a wine glass. However, recently Mead producers have been making lighter versions of Mead that can have an alcohol content as low as 3.5%. It can be very refreshing on a hot day!
It is easy enough to make Mead at home using local honey. It helps to have some modern day beverage fermenting tools such as a carboy, but a food-grade plastic bucket or fermentation crock will work just as well.
Mead at the Mad River Taste Place
We now have Artesano Mead available for sale at the Taste Place! Look for a tasting coming up in the near future.
You don't have to make your own Mead if you don't want to. In Vermont, we have three Mead producers. Seven Days wrote about two of the three Vermont Mead producers in 2014. There are well over 100 Meadery's throughout the US today up from practically none 20 years ago.
But, why is Mead considered the drink of the Gods? This comes from the ancient Greeks who believed that Mead was dew sent from the heavens and collected by bees. Bees were considered in many European cultures, to be God's messengers and Mead was associated with immortality and magical powers such as strength and wit. It is no wonder that mead infused with herbs and spices were used in early England for medicinal purposes.
Pairing Mead with Food
The same guidelines use for pairing wine with food can be applied to Mead.
- Dry mead goes well with appetizers and dinner. Sweet mead is delicious for dessert.
- Sparkling mead is great for celebrations or on a hot summer day or as a palate cleanser between courses.
- A dry crisp mead would work well with a cheese and charcuterie platter.