What is Mead
Mead is any alcoholic drink created by fermenting honey and water.
However the confusion starts in that there is no set legal definition on what mead should be, and currently no UK Mead Makers Association setting standards.
This has led to many commercial meads being created by not using honey at all, this is due to honey being the most expensive ingredient. Many are essentially just flavoured honey alcohols making them characteristically very sweet.
Real mead however does not have to be very sweet, as with our meads we ferment our honey, which removes the sweetness from the honey, leaving a beautiful depth to the drink, effectively everthing about the honey that isn’t sweet, its like smelling an empty honey jar, with notes of beeswax, pollen and propolis.
Producers of real mead are a rareity in the UK currently, but we are please to say we are part of a growing number of small real mead producers in the UK.
What is Mead Made From
As you’ve probably already gleaned, real mead is made from honey, by mixing the honey with spring water, at this point yeast converst the sugars in the honey converting them into alcohol. It is as simple as that, or is it ?
Mead is such a diverse alcohol that it can be made at a low alcohol level, high alcohol, with or without additions of flavourings, herbs, spices etc etc, the list goes on. For our meads, we allow the honey to do the talking, which after all as a fundemental ingredient we feel that the honey shouldn’t be drowned out by any overpowering flavours. Coupled with a second fermentation inside the bottle our mead is completely unique as is the first mead in the UK to be made by the traditional method.
Mead or Honey Wine ?
Many UK producers of mead actually start the process with a grape or wine base and then backsweeten with honey and call this a mead. However it is not technically a real mead. This is where the term honey wine would come in, as really an alcoholic drink made from grapes/ wine and backsweetened with honey is technically a ‘honey wine’.
Rest assured, our mead is a real mead, made with our own real honey, and not a ‘honey wine’.
Is Mead Gluten Free ?
YES! One of the main reasons people drink mead in preference to a lot of wines and other alcohol is that mead is gluten free. This is due to honey being used to ferment to create the alcohol rather than any grains.
So if you have been looking for a gluten free alternative, look no further!
It must be said however not all meads are created equaly, and many mead producers use a plethora of ingredients in their brewing and fermentation so it is always worth checking if the mead you are drinking is gluten free. Rest assured if you’re drinking Northumberland Honey Co Sparkling Mead this is most certainly gluten free.
What does mead taste like?
Of course you’ll want to know what mead tastes like. To find that out the only way is to pop open a cork and find out!
Expect lovely honey aromas on the nose, a subtle honey taste to start with building on the finish. Our meads are a perfect balance of gentle acidity and gentle sweetness, with most of our varieties actually being classified as brut with very low residual sugar!
In general there is no simple answer to what mead tastes like, there are so many different styles and varieties out there, ranging from honey beer type varieties, to traditional method Sparkling varieties like ours. Coupled with this there are even some meads labelled up as mead that are not real meads anyway!
In terms of our production, all our meads are very much like a Champagne or Sparkling wine, but with the added benefit of the taste being slightly less acidic than their wine alternatives, and having lovely honey notes and aromas.
History of Mead
Mead is thought to be the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, having essentially first been discovered by some honey getting wet. The natural yeasts then started a fermentation. This is essentially the same process when raw honey gets moisture into it, as the honey isn’t pasteurised there is a chance the natural yeasts will get going and start converting the sugar in honey into alcohol.
Mead has a great depth of history, from not only being thought of as a sacred drink, but also being linked to the Gods commonly associated with Vikings.
Overtime however mead was consumed less, essentially due to the rareity of honey, and the difficulty in producing honey for the common man. Honey was increasingly reserved for the hierachy, monasteries and Royal households. To this day, honey is still the most expensive ingredient in mead, and as such the quality of the honey used is a key marker of the quality of the mead.
Most recently mead has seen a resurgance in popularity, in part due to it’s exposure on TV, including Game of Thrones, The Vikings, and of course local producers being featured on farming and lifestyle programmes like BBC CountryFile, The Farmers’ Country Showdown and Robson Greens walking Hadrians Wall.