Mead. The very word conjures up images of burly men with names like Lars and Sigurd drinking from large pewter tankards or perhaps the skulls of their latest conquests. Made from honey, mead is probably one of the oldest known fermented beverages as records prove that it was made by nearly every major culture including the Egyptians, Romans, Mayans, and Aztecs.
Honey has long been associated with fertility, and mead is no exception. In fact, the term honeymoon is derived from a ritual of drinking mead soon after marriage to ensure the birth of a son. The couple would consume mead for one month after the wedding (mead -> honey, month -> moon). Mead is truly the drink of myth and legend.
Mead is essentially fermented honey water and thus simpler to make than beer. However, the simplicity of mead means that the flavor depends entirely on the quality of the honey. The variability of honey crops means that mead is not normally commercially available. In the land of mead, the homebrewer is king.
Mead does present some interesting challenges and decisions for the homebrewer. Honey lacks the yeast nutrients for a nice, fast fermentation. Fermentation may take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year, but nutrients can be added to decrease the fermentation time to about 6 weeks. Luckily, mead ferments at room temperature and can be kept for years. Many people have created batches of mead upon the birth of a new daughter to be enjoyed on her wedding day.
I recently brewed my first batch of mead and a batch of cherry mead as well. Next time, I’ll go through the mead making process.