Mead is experiencing a resurgence in the United States and, if you want to try it, you can whip up a batch at home.
Produced from the mixture of honey, water and yeast, mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. Long before wine and beer, there was mead.
The first archaeological evidence of honey mead was around 7000 B.C. Literature aficionados might remember mead as the drink of choice of the Danish warriors in the classic tale "Beowulf," and in fact, mead was often referenced as the hero’s drink of choice in other literature as well.
In Greece, mead was thought to be a holy drink — the "drink of the gods" — and was believed to have mystical properties. In Europe, mead was used as medicine and was mixed with various herbs and spices to combat certain ailments. Its popularity had waned in areas where grapes were readily available with which to make wine, but has since been making a comeback as an alternative to wine.
After a few months of brewing, you can have bottles of your very own mead. (Photo: Madison Scott-Clary [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)
So you want to channel your inner meadmaker and bottle your own? Here’s how:
- Start with some very simple ingredients: honey, water, and yeast. Of course then you’ll also need some tools for home-brewing your own mead: a brewing kit, a large plastic pail, glass carboys, a big pot, and a meadmaking book to answer all of your questions about brewing your own mead.
- Make sure all your tools have been sanitized completely. This means either boiling them in hot water or washing them with a special winemaking sanitizer or bleach mixture, then rinsing them. The reason sanitizing your tools is so important? Even the smallest amount of bacteria can spoil an entire batch of mead.
- To make a 6 gallon batch of mead, boil 1.5 gallons of water in a large pot, and then add about 1.5 gallons of honey to it once it's off the stove. (Some people suggest adding the honey directly to the pot of boiling water, but others argue that this method will ruin any floral accents of the mead.) At this point, you can also add fruit or herbs to flavor your mead differently. You can add cut-up fruit directly to the mixture or put herbs in a muslin bag before adding them to the batch.
- Add three more gallons of cool water — either filtered or spring water so that it doesn’t have chlorine in it. Measure the temperature of the water and add the yeast when it’s between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Just as in baking, if the water is too hot or too cold, then the yeast won’t activate and the fermenting process will not occur. Some meadmakers also suggest adding yeast energizer to boost the nutrient content.
- Using a hydrometer at this point will help you decipher the alcohol content of your mead. Then stir lightly to mix it up, and seal the top. If you’re using a plastic pail or a glass jug, you’ll need an airlock on top that lets air escape once the fermenting process has begun, which will start about 24 hours from the start of the process.
- The mixture should ferment for about a month, at which time you can begin the process of “racking” or siphoning the mixture into a second container leaving sediment in the bottom of the first container. Then cover again with an airlock, and let the mead sit for another month or even longer. This time, you can siphon the mead into bottles and cork them.
It may seem daunting at first, but as any do-it-yourselfer knows — even the most complicated tasks are only a YouTube video away. Here's a video to help you navigate the meadmaking process: