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Sip & Savor: Mead

Sep 19, 2011 11:59PM ● By Anonymous

Evidence of mead dates back to approximately 7,000 B.C. It was popular in Ancient Greece, where well-known philosophers Aristotle and Pliny the Elder were rumored to indulge. If you paid attention in high school, you might remember discussion of mead in Beowulf, that English epic poem you were supposed to read for class. Vikings loved it, but since then—well, you probably haven’t seen it anywhere other than the Renaissance Faire.

However, an increasing number of Meaderies have been established, and they are giving the historic beverage a bit of a—dare we say it?—a renaissance. David Myers, an Owings Mills native, opened Redstone Meadery in Boulder, Colorado, 10 years ago, after years of being a home brewer (of both beer and mead). Redstone is now the largest craft meadery in the United States, and Myers gives us a look into the world of honey wine.

Types. Traditionally, mead is made simply with honey, water, and yeast, and maybe a bit of acid to balance the sweetness. However, “One of the biggest misconceptions in the marketplace is that mead is considered a singular beverage,” Myers says. “Mead is a wideranging beverage, it can be dry or sweet, sparkling or still, high or low in alcohol.” Add spices such as cloves or cinnamon, and you’ve made Metheglin. The addition of fruit or fruit juices creates Melomel.

Just as with wine, the taste of mead can vary from very dry to very sweet based on the initial amount of honey used and how it ferments. Different types of honey makes different types of mead, just as different types of grapes make varieties of wine. The quality of the honey matters, too, when it comes to the end result—the more processed the honey is, the less depth and character it will lend to the mead. In other words, that honey bear won’t make the most delicious mead.

Myths. As with anything that’s been around for a long, long time, a bounty of myths surround mead. For example, the term “honeymoon” derives from the practice of drinking honey-based mead for a month—for a “moon”—after the wedding. This was said to ensure a baby boy would soon be on the way.

Making Your Own. With the right equipment, you can make your own mead at home. It requires wine-making equipment, about 16–18 pounds of honey, and a lot of patience—from start to finish, the road to making a decent-tasting mead could take up to a year. Myers also recommends looking for good-quality, local honey to work with, and perhaps some nice fruits to add. For directions on how to make your own batch of mead at home, visit the food section of

Drinking. While drinking lager, you might “Cheers” to friends and drinking companions. Over wine, “salute” is appropriate. But when drinking mead, you must “Wassail,” a word that come from Old Norse and means, “be healthy.” So, wassail, let’s raise our glasses to the renaissance of mead.

Mead in Maryland
There is only one meadery in Maryland: Orchid Cellar in Middleton, near Frederick. The winery, which is part of the Frederick Wine Trail, opens its doors for tastings from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.