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Grainfather Blog - Week 162: The Wonderful World of Mead - Part 1

By Sam Loader - Resident Brewer 17/08/2018 09:01 Comments

Mead1

Mead is most commonly thought of as the oldest form of alcoholic beverage and was most likely discovered by early humans coming across a broken beehive after rain. The honey was diluted by the rain and exposed to yeast, which resulted in the production of alcohol by fermentation. When these early humans drank the sweet liquid, they found that it gives them a ‘buzz’ – no pun intended. 

The earliest confirmed mead was found by testing the residues found in Chinese pottery dating back to 7000BC, but mead has been enjoyed by many of the famous civilisations throughout human history. The ancient Greeks gave it to the warriors of Germanic and Celtic origins. However, when taxation and monitization of the ingredients of alcoholic beverages came into effect meads became more of a rare and obscure beverage.

Honey while high in sugar is low in nutrients and many kinds of honey have mild antibacterial properties, and because of these factors, it is difficult for yeast to ferment honey over other sources of sugars like grapes or barley. As a result, it is very easy for meads to end up tasting more like nail polish remover or lighter fluid, than the refreshing, sophisticated beverage it is intended to be.

There has been a major revival of mead all over the world with many meaderies opening and producing great mead in the last few years. These meaderies are producing many different kinds of meads, therefore, knowing the major categories of meads will help to make an informed decision when buying the delicious golden liquid.

Traditional meads

Traditional meads feature the character of blended honey (wildflower honey) or a blend of honeys (orange blossom and manuka honey mead). Varietal meads feature the distinctive character of certain honeys e.g. orange blossom honey mead.

Dry mead

Similar in balance, body, finish and flavour intensity to a dry white wine, with a pleasant mixture of subtle honey character, soft fruity esters, and clean alcohol. Complexity, harmony, and balance of sensory elements are most desirable, with no inconsistencies in colour, aroma, flavour or aftertaste. The proper balance of sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and honey character is the essential final measure of any mead.

Semi-sweet mead

Similar in balance, body, finish and flavour intensity to a semi-sweet (or medium-dry) white wine, with a pleasant mixture of honey character, light sweetness, soft fruity esters, and clean alcohol. Complexity, harmony, and balance of sensory elements are most desirable, with no inconsistencies in colour, aroma, flavour or aftertaste. The proper balance of sweetness, acidity, alcohol and honey character is the essential final measure of any mead.

Sweet mead

Similar in balance, body, finish and flavour intensity to a well-made dessert wine (such as Sauternes), with a pleasant mixture of honey character, residual sweetness, soft fruity esters and clean alcohol. Complexity, harmony, and balance of sensory elements are most desirable, with no inconsistencies in colour, aroma, flavour or aftertaste. The proper balance of sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and honey character is the essential final measure of any mead.

 

Further mead styles will be discussed next week along with how to brew mead!

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