Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known to man, with roots dating back over 9,000 years. This honey-based beverage was revered in ancient cultures and has seen a resurgence in recent years. Made primarily from honey, water and yeast, mead ranges from dry to very sweet. Here are 15 fascinating facts you may not have known about sweet mead:
15 Things You Didn’t Know About Sweet Mead
- The Origins of Mead
Mead predates both beer and wine, making it one of the oldest fermented drinks. Traces of mead have been found in vessels from 7000 BCE in northern China. Mead was also popular across Europe, Asia and Africa in ancient times.
- Mead – The Drink of the Gods
Mead was associated with immortality and divine power in many ancient cultures. The Greeks called it “nectar of the gods” and it was the drink of choice for Norse gods. Mead is featured in texts like the Sanskrit Rigveda and Homer’s Odyssey.
- Where the Term “Honeymoon” Comes From
The word “honeymoon” originated from the medieval European custom of providing newly married couples with enough mead or “honey drink” to last for one moon or month. This ensured the sweetness of marriage’s early days.
- Just 3 Main Ingredients
True mead contains just three basic components – honey, water and yeast. However, the flavors can vary widely based on the honey and yeast strains used. Additional fruit, spices or grains may be added as well.
- Higher Honey Content Gives Sweetness
Sweet mead gets its signature sweet taste from having a higher proportion of honey to water compared to other meads. Simple unflavored sack meads highlight the pure honey flavors.
- A Wide Range of Sweetness Levels
Mead can range from very dry to very sweet. Sweet mead generally has over 10% residual sugar left after the yeast is done fermenting. The sweetness depends on the yeast, fermentation temperature and duration.
- Honey Choice Impacts Flavor
Subtle, delicate honey flavors are best for mead. Buckwheat, sage and other strongly flavored honeys can overpower the mead’s taste. Mild orange blossom, clover and acacia honeys are common choices.
- Alcohol Content Varies Greatly
Depending on ingredients and fermentation, mead’s alcohol by volume ranges from around 3.5% ABV up to a boozy 20% ABV or above. Standard meads are usually between 8-15% ABV.
- Unique Fermentation Process
Unlike beer or wine, mead lacks nutrients for yeast like amino acids and nitrogen. Nutrients may need to be added to aid fermentation. It also takes longer to ferment fully.
- Age Brings Improvement
Many authorities say sweet mead needs to age 1-3 years after fermentation to taste its best. Complex flavors develop over time and harshness mellows out. Some varieties can age well over 20 years.
- Mead’s Historical Popularity
Mead was popular in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, northern Europe and anywhere honey could be found. Greek and Roman literature makes frequent mention of mead long before wine became available.
- Competition Revives Interest
In the 20th century, mead dipped in popularity but many new meaderies opened in the 2000s. Mazer Cup International Mead Competition formed in 2010, with over 300 entries today.
- Honeymoon Tradition Persists
Couples today are reviving the medieval tradition of drinking mead for their first month of marriage. Mead companies often create special honeymoon batches for weddings.
- New Mead Trend in US and Abroad
Mead is seeing a major resurgence lately, with over 400 meaderies operating in the US. Mead festivals are popping up globally and celebrities like George Clooney are making their own mead labels.
- Sweet Mead Improves Over Time
Well-made sweet mead becomes smoother, more balanced and complex with age. It’s perfect for important occasions and as a unique gift. Try this ancient beverage and discover its rich, flavorful appeal.
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