At the mention to others that our wine is made out of our raw honey the response tends to be, “Oh, you make Mead!” Well not exactly, we actually make what’s considered a Cyser. Now in order to understand the difference between a mead and a Cyser one must know the meaning and history of Mead. What is Mead exactly? Mead is a delicious honey wine that is made from fermented honey in lieu of grapes, along with water and yeast. With St. Patty’s day coming up why not reach for the golden Mead/Cyser instead of that green beer like you always do?
With honey being the oldest and most accessible natural sugar in the world it is no surprise that Mead itself dates back to 8,000 years ago and is thought to be one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known to man. It originated on the ancient island of Crete, being deemed the drink of the Gods. Honey, mead, and the bees in general all hold a special root in our ancestor’s descriptions of humankind’s relationship with the sacred.. All three things- bees, honey, and mead- were known in ancient times to bestow immortality to the gods, giving them long life, health, strength, and a deepening of consciousness and awareness which they called “The Mead of Inspiration”. Mead is thought to have many magical and spiritual properties and also can be connected to ancient poetry as well.
Mead is made wherever honey can be found, and many indigenous cultures still make meads throughout Central and South America and Africa as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. The ancient Greeks called mead, Ambrosia, or Nectar and was thought to descend from the Heavens as dew, before being gathered in by the bees. The middle ages took mead to different heights. The importance afforded to mead can be seen in the fact that the King’s mead cellar was under the direct care of the Steward of the household, who was the chief officer of the court. And, payment for mead makers was as high as one third of the mead made for the customer. Unfortunately, during this same time the demand by the church for beeswax candles helped the decline of mead-making by creating an economic incentive to rob the beehives of their honey laden wax.
In Norse/Aryan mythology a draught of mead, delivered by the beautiful divine maidens, was the reward for warriors that reached Valhalla. And, the Norse god of poetry, Brage, is said to have drunk mead from a Brage-beaker, later to be called the “bragging cup”. In fact the mythology of mead exists in our culture today, unnoticed by most. The very term “honeymoon” comes from the ancient tradition of giving bridal couples a moons worth of honey–wine. This was long ago thought to ensure a fruitful union. However in English history “Honeymoon” is supposedly traceable to the practice of a bride's father presenting her with enough mead for a month-long celebration in honor of the marriage.
The foundation of mead history is rich and wonderful and the exchange of mead is littered throughout history and literature. Even Plato was found speaking and relating to mead in his writings, “Plenty drunk with nectar, for wine was not yet invented.”
In time with the discovery of grapes as being less expensive, mead hit a huge decline in production in South Europe where wine production flourished. In the North however, where vine fruit were less available, the popularity of mead continued in such areas as Scotland and Ireland. Heather Mead was very popular in these areas and was first used in
Mead and then in beers and ales as they became more common to the masses.
Throughout time mead has become increasingly desolate due to several factors;
1: honey is and has been more expensive than fruit or malt sugar sources.
2: Good tasting quality mead is hard to find for many are cheap honey flavored wine
3: No one knows what it is
4: It’s thicker in consistency like light syrup.
Mead can have a wide range of flavors, depending on the source of the honey, additives called "adjuncts" or "gruit" (including fruit and spices), yeast employed during fermentation, and aging procedure. Consumers must bear in mind that some producers have marketed white wine with added honey as mead, often spelling it "meade." Blended varieties of mead can be known by either style represented. For instance, mead made with cinnamon and apples can be referred to as a cinnamon cyser or as an apple metheglin.
Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some can even be considered as dessert wines. Drier meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads, which (like champagne) can make for a delightful celebratory toast. There are a number of faux-meads, which are actually cheap wines with large amounts of honey.
Historically, meads would have been fermented by wild yeasts and bacteria 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. Mead can also be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength. Krupnik is a sweet Polish liqueur made through just such a process.
Varieties of mead are included below and have been pulled from the American Mead Making Association official website:
Braggot - Braggot (also called bracket or brackett) marks the invention of Ale. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt - with or without hops added.
Black mead - A name sometimes given to the blend of honey and black currants.
Cyser - Cyser is a blend of honey and apple juice fermented together. See also cider.
Great mead - Any mead that is intended to be aged several years, like vintage wine. The designation is meant to distinguish this type of mead from "short mead".
Hydromel - Hydromel literally means "water-honey" in Greek. It is also the French name for mead. It is also used as a name for a very light or low-alcohol mead.
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.
Metheglin - Metheglin starts with traditional mead but has herbs and spices added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins were originally employed as folk medicines.
Morat - Morat blends honey and mulberries.
Oxymel - Another historical mead recipe, blending honey with wine vinegar.
Perry - Perry-mead blends honey with milled, ripe pears.
Pyment - Pyment blends honey and red or white grapes. Pyment made with white grape juice is sometimes called "white mead."
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 from the fortified dessert wine Sherry (which is sometimes sweetened after fermentation, and in England once bore the nickname of "sack".)
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.
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 does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life-cycle, a mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. will require a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes to produce an acceptable finished product.)