( ) is an alcoholic beverage
, made from honey
. Its alcoholic content may range from that of a
to that of a strong wine
. It may be still, carbonated, or sparkling; it may
be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Mead is often referred to as "honey
Depending on local traditions and specific recipes, it may be
brewed with spices, fruits, or grain mash. It may be produced by
fermentation of honey with grain mash; mead may also be flavored
to produce a bitter, beer
Mead is independently multicultural. It is known from many sources
of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, although
archaeological evidence of it is ambiguous. Its origins are lost in
prehistory; "it can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented
drinks," Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat has observed, "antedating the
cultivation of the soil." Claude Lévi-Strauss
makes a case
for the invention of mead as a marker of the passage "from nature
The earliest archaeological evidence for the production of mead
dates to around 7000 BC. Pottery vessels containing a mixture of
mead, rice and other fruits along with organic compounds of
fermentation were found in Northern China. In Europe, it is first
attested in residual samples found in the characteristic ceramics
of the Bell Beaker Culture
The earliest surviving description of mead is in the hymns of the
, one of the sacred books of the
historical Vedic religion
and (later) Hinduism
dated around 1700–1100
BC. During the Golden Age
of Ancient Greece
, mead was said to be the
preferred drink. Aristotle
discussed mead in his Meteorologica
while Pliny the Elder
called mead militites
in his Naturalis Historia
differentiated wine sweetened with honey or "honey-wine" from mead.
The Spanish-Roman naturalist Columella
gave a recipe for mead in De re
, about AD 60.
Around AD 550, the Brythonic
speaking bard Taliesin
wrote the or "Song of Mead." The legendary
drinking, feasting and boasting of warriors in the mead hall is echoed in the mead hall Dyn
Eidyn (modern day Edinburgh), and in the epic poem Y
Gododdin, both dated around AD 700.
In the Nordic
The Northmen drank
Honey mead.Mead was the historical beverage par excellence
and commonly brewed by the Germanic
in Northern Europe
Later, heavy taxation and regulations governing the ingredients of
alcoholic beverages led to commercial mead becoming a more obscure
beverage until recently. Some monasteries
kept up the old traditions of mead-making as a by-product of
, especially in areas where
could not be grown.
The English word mead derives from the Old
, from Proto-Germanic meduz
. Slavic med / miod
, which means
both "honey" and "mead," (Slovak, Serbian, Macedonian, Croatian:
, Polish 'miód' pronounce [mju:t]
- honey, mead) and Baltic
, which means "mead," also derive from the same
root (cf. Welsh
medd, Old Irish
mid, and Sanskrit
Mead was also popular in Central
and in the Baltic states
mead is called ( ),
meaning "drinkable honey." In Russia mead
remained popular as medovukha and sbiten long after its decline in the West.
Sbiten is often mentioned in the works of 19th-century Russian
writers, including Gogol
Finland a sweet mead called (cognate
with zymurgy) is still an essential seasonal
brew connected with the Finnish Vappu (May Day)
It is usually spiced by adding both the pulp and
rind of a lemon
. During secondary fermentation
are added to control the amount of sugars and
to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption; they will rise
to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready.
Ethiopian mead is called tej (ጠጅ,
) and is usually home-made.
It is flavored with the powdered
leaves and bark of gesho
, a hop-like bittering agent
which is a species of
. A sweeter, less-alcoholic
version called berz
, aged for a shorter time, is also
made. The traditional vessel for drinking tej
is a rounded
vase-shaped container called a berele
Mead known as iQhilika is traditionally prepared by the Xhosa
Mead can have a wide range of flavors, depending on the source of
the honey, additives (also known as "adjuncts" or "gruit
"), including fruit and spices, the yeast
employed during fermentation, and aging procedure. Mead can be
difficult to find commercially. Some producers have marketed white
wine with added honey as mead, often spelling it "meade." This is
closer in style to a Hypocras
varieties of mead may be known by either style represented. For
instance, a mead made with cinnamon and apples may be referred to
as either a cinnamon cyser or an apple metheglin.
A mead that also contains spices
), or herbs
), is called a metheglin
A mead that contains fruit (such as raspberry
) is called a
, which was also used as a means of
, keeping summer
produce for the winter. A mead that is fermented with grape juice
is called a pyment
mead is a popular drink at
Christmas time, where mead is flavored with spices (and sometimes
various fruits) and warmed, traditionally by having a hot poker
plunged into it.
Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original
honey, and some may even be considered as dessert wines. Drier
meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads.
There are a number of faux-meads, which are actually cheap wines
with large amounts of honey added, to produce a cloyingly sweet
Historically, meads were fermented by wild yeasts
in the below quoted recipe) residing on the skins of the fruit or
within the honey itself. Wild yeasts generally provide inconsistent
results, and in modern times various brewing interests have
isolated the strains now in use. Certain strains have gradually
become associated with certain styles of mead. Mostly, these are
strains that are also used in beer or wine production. However,
several commercial labs, such as White Labs, WYeast, Vierka, have
developed yeast strains specifically for mead.
Mead can be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength. Krupnik
is a sweet Polish liqueur made through such
a process. A version of this called "honey jack" can be made by
partly freezing a quantity of mead and pouring off the liquid
without the ice crystals (a process known as freeze
), in the same way that applejack
is made from cider
- Acan A Native Mexican version of mead.
- Acerglyn — A mead made with honey and
- Braggot — Braggot (also called bracket or
brackett). Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey
and malt — with or without hops added. Welsh origin
- Black mead — A name sometimes given to
the blend of honey and blackcurrants.
- Capsicumel is a mead flavored with chile
- Chouchenn is a kind of
mead made in Brittany.
- Cyser — A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together; see also cider.
- Czwórniak — A Polish mead, made using
three units of water for each unit of honey
- Dandaghare — Dandaghare
is a unique mead from Nepal that
combines the goodness of honey with select Himalayan herbs and spices. It has been brewed
since 1972 by visionary entrepreneur Jhalak Thapa in the beautiful
city of Pokhara.
- Dwójniak — A Polish mead, made using
equal amounts of water and honey
- Great mead — Any mead that is intended to
be aged several years. The designation is meant to distinguish this
type of mead from "short mead" (see below).
- Gverc or Medovina — Croatian mead
prepared in Samobor and many
other places. The word “gverc” or “gvirc” is from the
German " " and refers to various
spices added to mead.
- Hydromel — Hydromel literally means
"water-honey" in Greek. It is also
the French name for mead. (Compare
with the Spanish hidromiel
and aquamiel, Italian
idromele and Portuguese
hidromel). It is also used as a name for a very light or
- Medica — Slovenian, Croatian, variety of
- Medovina — Czech, Serbian, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Slovak for
mead. Commercially available in Czech Republic, Slovakia and
presumably other Central and Eastern European countries.
- Medovukha —
Eastern Slavic variant (honey-based fermented drink)
- Melomel — Melomel is made from honey and
any fruit. Depending on the fruit-base used, certain melomels may
also be known by more specific names (see cyser, pyment, morat for
- Metheglin — Metheglin starts with
traditional mead but has herbs and/or spices added. Some of the
most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg,
coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins
were originally employed as folk
medicines. The Welsh word for
mead is , and the word "metheglin" derives from , a compound of ,
"healing" + , "liquor."
- Morat — Morat blends
honey and mulberries.
- Mulsum —
Mulsum is not a true mead, but is unfermented honey blended with a
- Omphacomel — A mediæval mead recipe that
blends honey with verjuice; could therefore
be considered a variety of pyment (qv).
- Oxymel — Another historical mead recipe,
blending honey with wine vinegar.
- Pitarrilla — Mayan drink made from a fermented mixture of
wild honey, balché tree bark and fresh
- Pyment — Pyment blends honey and red or
white grapes. Pyment made with white grape juice is sometimes
called "white mead."
- Półtorak — A Polish mead, made using two
units of honey for each unit of water
- Rhodomel — Rhodomel is made from honey,
rose hips, petals or rose attar and water.
- Sack mead — This refers to mead that is
made with more copious amounts of honey than usual. The finished
product retains an extremely high specific gravity and elevated levels of
sweetness. It derives its name, according to one theory, from the
fortified dessert wine Sherry
(which is sometimes sweetened after fermentation and in England
once bore the nickname of "sack"); another theory is that the term
derived from the Japanese drink sake, being
introduced by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
- Short mead — Also called "quick mead." A
type of mead recipe that is meant to age quickly, for immediate
consumption. Because of the techniques used in its creation, short
mead shares some qualities found in cider (or even light ale): primarily that it is effervescent, and often has a cidery taste. It
can also be champagne-like.
- Show mead — A term which has come to mean
"plain" mead: that which has honey and water as a base, with no
fruits, spices or extra flavorings. Since honey alone often does
not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its
lifecycle, a mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. will sometimes
require a special yeast nutrient and
other enzymes to produce an acceptable
finished product. In most competitions (including all those using
the BJCP style guidelines as well as the
International Mead Fest) the
term "traditional mead" is used for this variety.
- Sima - a
quickly-fermented Finnish variety, seasoned with lemon and
associated with the festival of vappu.
- Tej — Tej is an
Ethiopian mead, fermented with wild yeasts (and bacteria), and with
the addition of gesho. Recipes vary
from family to family, with some recipes leaning towards
braggot with the inclusion of grains.
- Trójniak — A Polish mead, made using two units
of water for each unit of honey.
- International Mead Festival
— Sponsored by the International Mead Association, this festival is
held every year on the weekend closest to Valentine's Day in or near Denver, Colorado. It claims to be the largest and most
prestigious mead festival in the world. Both professional and
home-brewed meads are judged.
- Real Ale Festival in
Chicago, Illinois, includes categories for mead as well as
cider and perry.
- Woodbridge International Mead Festival -
Sponsored by local residents, it claims to be the only mead
festival east of the Mississippi. While there are relatively few
types of mead available, all are home-brewed and go through a
rigorous judging process.
Mead features prominently in several of the works of Neil Gaiman
. Early in the novel American Gods
, the protagonist drinks a
particularly unpleasant round of mead (colorfully described as
tasting of "drunken diabetic's piss
with his new employer Mr. Wednesday
their contract. It is also a favorite drink of the title character
of Gaiman's Sandman
In the novel The
Wolves of Willoughby Chase
, Bonnie and Sylvia are offered metheglin to hearten them
for the walk.
In the Eragon inheritance books mead is the most often drank liquid
(other than water)
In the novel Harry Potter and the Half
by J. K. Rowling
Professor Slughorn shares a bottle of mead with Harry and Ron which
he had originally intended to give to Dumbledore for Christmas; Ron
is nearly killed upon drinking the beverage, which had been
In the Thomas Pynchon
character Pirate Prentice serves homemade banana mead at his
Eckbert Attquiet (a 63 year old medieval re-enactor) eschews the
trappings of modern life, and is diligently inebriated on home-made
mead or melomel throughout Tod Wodicka's
tragicomic novel All Shall be
Well; and All Shall be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall be
Mead is the favorite beverage of the skin-changer Beorn
It's the favorite drink of the dwarf culture on the Christopher Paolini
's Inheritance Cycle
Mead is featured in Beowulf
the main character fights the evil Grendel
at the mead-hall, as well as in its modern parallel novel
. Mead is Beowulf's
beverage of choice while merrymaking in the mead-hall.
In the 1999 film The 13th
, the main character Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, a Muslim
Arab, refuses the Vikings' mead because Allah forbids the partaking
of the fermentation of grain and grape, until he is finally told
that mead is made from honey. However, the film is incorrect due to
the fact that consumption of fermented honey is specifically
prohibited in the Islamic faith as well (the fact that mead is
fermented honey doesn't make a difference because all intoxicants
- Beer is produced by the fermentation of grain, but grain can be
used in mead provided it is strained off immediately. As long as
the primary substance fermented is still honey, the drink is still
- Hops are better known as the bitter ingredient of beer. However, they have also been used in
mead both anciently and in modern times. The Legend of
Frithiof mentions hops: That this formula is still in use is
shown by the recipe for "Real Monastery Mead" in
- Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat (Anthea Bell, tr.) The History
of Food, 2nd ed. 2009:30.
- Lévi-Strauss, J. and D. Weightman, tr. From Honey to
Ashes, London:Cape 1973 (Du miel aux cendres, Paris
- Rigveda Book 5 v.
43:3–4, Book 8 v. 5:6, etc
- Llyfr Taliesin XIX
- Online Etymology Dictionary entry for 'mead'
- Aylett, Mary. Country Wines, Odhams Press, 1953,
- Tayleur, p.291
- Sack in the Oxford Companion to
- 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
- International Mead Festival official website
- Real Ale
Festival official website