What Does Mead Taste Like?

When reading about how to brew beer at home, you’ll be learning a lot about mead. One question that pops up time and time again about it is, what does mead taste like?

Mead tastes like honey. This is due to honey being the main ingredient in mead. Mead consists of honey, water, and yeast. So honey will be the main ingredient that produces the majority of its flavor.

However, there are other factors that come into its potential flavor. Continue reading. 

Mead 101

Mead is enjoying a resurgence of a sort right now, but it’s quite an ancient beverage. Referred to as “the nectar of the gods” by the Greeks, mead dates back thousands of years, and is possibly the oldest fermented beverage on earth.

Basically, mead is fermented honey “wine”. In its most basic form, it’s just made with honey, water, and yeast. To make it, you blend honey with water to make a “must,” then add yeast to ferment it, converting the sugar in the honey into alcohol. To keep it from getting too yeasty though, you can add other ingredients to help feed the yeast and temper the flavors.

There are many factors that enter into the flavors of a mead. Just like any other fermented beverage, there is a wide variety of sweetness and dryness to be had, as well as savory, fruity, floral, or herbal aromas and flavors that can be manipulated. These differences depend on its ingredients and how the mead is produced.

Honey, the main ingredient in mead, can have wildly different flavors on its own. Orange blossom honey tastes quite different than buckwheat honey for example, and some mead-brewers branch out into even more exotic honey flavors as the base for their meads, such as avocado blossom honey. Regardless of the variety you use, a quality honey is a good start to a superlative mead.

Once you’ve chosen a good honey you like, there are a wide range of other foods you can add to it to enhance certain flavors, aromas, and qualities of the mead. Spiced, herbal meads are called metheglins, and fruity, sweet meads are called melomels.

If you enjoy jammy wines, perhaps adding fruit or floral notes to your mead is a good idea. You can add your favorite berries, or edible flowers like hibiscus for a unique sweet flavor. Cider lovers might enjoy cyser, which is an apple-based mead.

Beer fans might like to add malted grains to the honey of their mead to give it a malty yeasty kick. Stout drinkers may enjoy a headier, spicier mead, with added ingredients such as cloves or cinnamon. The possibilities for flavor combinations are as endless as your imagination.

Once the honey, water, and yeast have fermented (along with whatever extra ingredients have been added during a second fermentation), the mead is stored and aged. The longer it ages, the more smooth the finished product will be, and meads with a higher alcohol content will need longer aging times than a lower-ABV one. For an added flavor profile, mead can be aged in a wood barrel.

The first thing to notice when you’re tasting mead is its color. Meads can range from a very pale gold to a dark amber as a result of which types of honey and additives are used in its brewing. Its clarity can vary too, depending on how it’s been filtered or stored.

Before taking a sip, make sure you fully experience the aromas of the mead. All of those subtle notes from the origins of the honey, as well as any fruit, grains, or spices that have been added, will be more noticeable in the flavor if you take the time to really breathe them in before tasting.

Finally, when you taste it, don’t just gulp down your mead in a quick quaff. Let it linger in your mouth and savor it a bit to bring all of the varieties of flavor through to your palate. The taste may change a bit with subsequent sips as well, so slow down and enjoy all of the flavors in it. In addition, meads can vary in the way they feel in your mouth. It can be super smooth and silky, lighter or more viscous. The texture and flavors together will make for a unique drinking experience.

Once you’ve done some mead tasting and figured out what characteristics you enjoy, it might be worth playing around with some different recipes and making your own mead. We’re lucky in this day and age that there are so many mead varieties to choose from so that we can figure out what we enjoy. And between the ability to chat up your local craft meadery (or find a mead-making mentor online) and other online information, there are good resources for those wanting to experiment on their own.

Further Reading on What Mead:

  • https://www.charlotteobserver.com/charlottefive/c5-people/article236140178.html
  • https://www.liquor.com/articles/10-facts-about-mead/

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