Wine tastings? Yawn. Microbrews? So 2012. The hottest new drink these days is mead, one of the oldest alcoholic beverages on the face of the planet. Made with fermented honey, water and sometimes yeast, mead is like a type of honey wine. Evidence of our ancestors imbibing this golden beverage dates back to 7000 BCE, with ancient Chinese pottery illustrating its production.
Jazzing life up for thousands of years, mead reached its height of popularity in the Middle Ages, when every lord or king had a “Mead Hall” for feasting, entertainment and safety. Mead gives us the word “honeymoon,” as the drink was considered an aphrodisiac. Often part of a bride’s dowry, mead was consumed by medieval newlyweds for one month after their wedding to promote fertility and offspring.
Today, boutique meaderies are bringing back the flavors once favored by characters in "Beowulf." Unlike beer, mead contains no gluten and therefore can be enjoyed by people with celiac disease or wheat sensitivities. With a mysterious personality and “ancient” appeal like quinoa, mead is posed for a big comeback. Currently there are more than 165 craft meaderies in the United States.
Mead might be difficult to find in bars at the moment, until mixologists pick up on the trend. However, you can find bottles of branded mead at most specialty beer or wine stores. Just like other wines, mead is produced in a variety of styles, from still to sparkling and from dry to sweet. The terroir where the mead is produced has a large effect on the taste, based on the different types of flowers that honeybees use to create their golden brew.
Try mead from one of the following producers, and discover the fermented honey beverage that has delighted humanity for centuries. Organic options are popping up here and there by home brewers, but currently there is no commercial outlet for certified organic mead in America.
Rabbit’s Food Meadery (Sunnyvale, CA) – Offering tastings along with a huge selection of honey wine as well as honey cider, this meadery features darker concoctions. Try the braggots, a thick honey brew made with roasted hops.
Nani Moon Mead (Kauai, HI) – Mead gets a tropical twist from this Hawaii producer, the only meaderie on the islands. Using 100 percent locally sourced ingredients, Nani Moon offers chemical- and sulfate-free bottles of fruit-forward mead using tropical ingredients like ginger and spices, all handcrafted in small batches, of course.
Heidrun Meadery (Point Reyes Station, CA) – Focusing on dry, naturally sparkling meads, this California meadery produces varietals that reveal the true flavor and aroma of the honey. Using the traditional French Methode Champenoise to create bubbly libations, Heidrun offers a light and refreshing type of mead.
Moonlight Meadery (Londonderry, NH) – Another meadery that provides tastings as well as tours, this New England producer bottles traditional honey meads, contemporary fruit-flavored varieties and metheglihn, or spiced mead.
Meadery of the Rockies (Palisade, CO) – Colorado’s only meadery uses local Rocky Mountain water to craft wine-like brews that are fresh, crisp and mild. Winning the 2nd highest honor at the 2012 Denver International Wine Competition, this craft meadery offers tastings and discounts on cases.
Image: blue moon vegan