Mead: A Taste From the Old World

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Today’s artisans are known for having a fondness for the past and many passionate brewers are bringing back some old traditions to the tap. It seems as if there is a new microbrewery on every street corner. New brewers are dedicated to preserving the tradition of our world’s oldest alcoholic beverage.

What is Mead?

Mead is also referred to as honey wine. It is fermenting at it’s finest. With a history dating back thousands of years, mead has played a role in human history. Chances are it was discovered by accident and what a happy accident it must have been–that first introduction to the intoxicating effects of alcohol. The love for mead extends back to Norse, Greek, Polish, Russian, Finnish, and even Ethiopian descent. Mead has been an ancient influence around the world–and with those traditions, mead became steeped into cultures–influencing new words like “honeymoon”, an old English word used to encompass the act of a father doting a month’s worth of mead to his daughter to kick off the marriage. How’s that for celebrating?

How’s it made?

Mead essentially highlights humans relationships with bees. Viewed as messengers of the gods by many European cultures, bees were appreciated for their production of sweet honey–a true gift. Prior to the discovery and spread of grapes which were used for wine making, many cultures combined honey and water with a concoction of fruits, herbs, and spices–and then added natural yeasts to the mixture to amp up the fermentation party. Traditionally, meads were part of the dessert offerings, a sweet after dinner drink, but today you can find mead suited to refresh your palate without giving you a toothache. The Oregon Mead and Cider Company brews up mead that is crisp, dry, and sparkling–using locally sourced honey and apples with just a hint of sweetness.

Getting Started

So if you’re looking to try some mead a good place to start is a traditional mead. This will introduce you to the unique flavor of floral and honey. An aromatic difference between wine and beer, traditional mead is complex with a depth of flavor. From there, try your hand at some fruit and spice meads. These will add a boost of flavors that accentuate the honey and can often include unique flavors like pepper, berry, mango, cinnamon, and even hops. A few other meads to seek include braggot–a hybrid of mead and malted barley or sack mead–more sweetened and dessert like version.

Mysterious and ancient, mead is a taste from the old world and traditions survived. Meaderies are popping up all over the country so check to see if there are any in your neck of the woods.

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