The word ‘mead’ originates from the Old English word “medu” or “meodu”. And unless you take particular interest in liquors of the past era or like to observe classic works of literature very keenly, chances are that you might not have heard of mead. It’s a beverage that ancient Greeks referred to as “nectar of the gods”
What is mead? How is it made? It is typically made by brewing honey with water but there are several variations depending on the ingredients used. Yes, the same honey you use with your favourite breakfast pancakes! You can get mead that’s crafted using fruits, grains, spices, etc. Some very well-liked meads are brewed using maple syrup (yet another pancake topping!), apple, rose, barley, etc. And then there are further distinctions based on how strong the mead is and the type of honey used. The variations are practically endless with several regional recipes used, too.
The Rich Tapestry of Mead
Legends say that when the mighty Vikings traversed the depths of the oceans, mead was their beverage of choice. It had its effect in the Eastern territories, too - a group of archeologists found pottery dating back to the 7000 BC used for mead fermentation in China. In fact, the list of references to the nectar of the Gods is practically endless:
There are several references to mead throughout Norse mythology, with the earliest mentions being found in the Rigveda, an important scripture in now-Hinduism. Some recipes of mead dating back to around 60 CE in the Roman civilization have been found, too. Various pieces of classic literature mention mead including Welsh and Old English poems.
It is said that the ancient royals loved mead. And given its royal history, it’s only appropriate that it is the beverage of choice for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, too. She has her favourite recipe with several aromatics which can really add an interesting twist to this classic beverage.
With so much heritage, clearly mead is no ordinary beverage, then!
Is Mead Good For You?
Many ancient scriptures recommend mead as a home remedy for various ailments. It’s believed that drinking some mead can help you relieve an upset tummy or if you’re just feeling a little under the weather. Roman scriptures believed that mead is the key to a healthy life. In fact, some varieties of mead, metheglin, use special spices and herbs to give it claimed medicinal properties. Generally speaking, it’s been found that mead can help with:
Oh, and please note that while mead certainly has its fair share of health benefits, if you are suffering from a certain disease, don’t substitute your medicine with a glass of mead. It’s important to understand that even though mead is healthy and can have medicinal properties, that alone does not make it a miraculous healing potion. And, of course, consuming alcohol is inherently going to carry its own risks which you need to be aware of.
But it’s quite clear that out of the plethora of choices available in the market these days, mead is definitely one of the more healthier options. It’s the beverage you’d drink if you’re the sort of person who prefers to have the best of both worlds: flavour and fitness.
Mead Buying Guide
Before we jump right into our top picks, it’s important to understand why a mead is good and how you can choose the perfect one for you. After all, preferences can be very subjective!
So for starters, there are two broad varieties of mead - traditional and flavoured. Traditional mead, as the name suggests, are made with the basic ingredients, i.e., honey, water and yeast. Flavoured meads contain other ingredients such as fruits, aromatics or spices.
If you like the taste of honey or want to try what a simple mead tastes like, traditional meads are your best bet. However, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous or want a mead that’s got a bit of an edge to it, go the flavoured route. For those starting out, traditional mead is probably a good pick because it’ll help you understand the base flavours of mead. Once you’re comfortable with those you could try other meads.
Think of it like this - if you want to try a good coffee roast, would you make a fancy mocha or pumpkin spice latte to dilute the taste or would you rather go the simple coffee route?
The next thing you should keep in mind is the sweetness of the mead. This is most relevant for traditional meads, but flavoured ones can be sweet or dry too. What you’re looking for here is completely up to you. If you prefer sweeter drinks, go with a mead that is, well, sweeter! We personally prefer a more balanced mead because it prevents one flavour profile from overpowering the beverage.
And if you’re opting for a flavoured mead, keep in mind what flavour you prefer. Meads can be crafted using berries, grapes, rhubarb, spices, tropical fruits and a lot more. The way you can choose between the bevy of flavoured meads is by opting for a good neutral base and going with an ingredient you like by itself. For example, we’re big fans of rhubarb which makes it one of our top picks.
And finally, one of the most overlooked criteria while picking the perfect mead - alcohol content. Meads can vary from 4.5% ABV to well over 20% ABV. To put that into perspective, that’s anywhere between a typical beer to twice that of the average wine. So yea, mead can be a good beverage to sip on but it can also pack quite a punch. Of course, which ABV you prefer entirely depends on you. We personally look for a medium to high ABV beverage.
So keeping all those things in mind, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. With so much to keep in mind, it surely sounds like a daunting task to pick the right one. Well, fret not. We’ve compiled a list of some really good meads that we love, and we’ve made it a point to keep this list as balanced as possible. This means regardless of your preference, you’ll probably find a mead that you really, really like here!
5 Meads to Buy Now
Given just how diverse mead can be, it really is very difficult to fit in our top picks in a short list of five. But you can be assured that this list covers most commonly found types of mead and should be a good starting point to your mead journey.
Is Mead the next big thing?
Mead is probably one of the most historically rich beverages out there and can be crafted with a virtually endless selection of flavours. There really is one for everyone. And with recent research and traditional scriptures pointing towards its health benefits, it is far from unhealthy, too.
Now at this point, you might be wondering - “If you claim mead is THIS unique and special, why have I rarely ever heard of it?”
There’s a simple answer to that (very valid) question: availability. Up until recently, the availability of mead was quite low given the lower sales. However, with sales climbing very steadily every year and more local mead breweries coming up, that gap has been bridged. In fact, mead is becoming so popular these days that you could order your favourite bottles from the comfort of your home!
We’re always curious about your mead experience. Let us know in the comments what your favourite meads are, and how your first mead experience was!
Happy Mead drinkin’!