The History of Mead

Mead is a honey-based fermented beverage that has been produced and enjoyed since before the dawn of recorded history. Because of its antiquity, mead has acquired an almost magical reputation in our mythologies. For example, the term “honeymoon” is intertwined with the custom of drinking honey-based mead for a month (moon) after the wedding; this practice was said to ensure baby boys. Mead making was once the province of a select, trained guild. Now, it is open to all who have the patience and skill. You are continuing this long and honored tradition. Welcome aboard and enjoy.

The Types of Mead


Mead is classified not by the kind of honey from which it is made, but by what else may be added to it for flavoring:

“Traditional” mead is made with only honey, water, and yeast, plus perhaps a small amount of acid (to balance the sweetness).
“Metheglin” is mead made with added herbs or spices, such as cloves or cinnamon. (The word is an English transliteration of the Welsh word “meddyglyn”, meaning “medicine”. Historically, medicinal herbs were infused into a sweet mead to make them more palatable.)
“Melomel” is mead made with the addition of fruit or fruit juice to traditional mead. Melomel may also contain spices, as Metheglin does.
“Cyser” is a particular Melomel made with apples or apple juice.
“Pyment” may have two interpretations: a Melomel made with grapes or grape juice, or a wine sweetened with honey.
“Hippocras” is a spiced Pyment.
“Sack” is a name (or an adjective) for stronger meads made with more honey than usual, and therefore more likely to be somewhat sweet.

There are various other seldom-heard terms: “hydromel” (weak, literally “watered” mead), “rhodomel” (mead with rose petals), “omphacomel” (left as exercise to the interested student), and so on.

Depending on the initial amount of honey, and how attenuative (effective at fermenting sugars) the yeast is, the final mead may vary from quite dry and austere like some white wines, to very sweet.

Depending on the bottling process, the mead may be “sparkling” (carbonated) or “still” (no bubbles).

This entry was posted in Home Brewing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *