If you’ve ever been to the Renaissance Fair, you’ve probably tried mead (in fact, if you’ve survived the better part of a day at the Renaissance Fair with one or more children, you probably needed some mead).
Mead is made by fermenting honey and water; grain mash may be added during production, and the final product may be flavored with fruit, spices, hops or just about anything that happens to be around at the time. It is as old as humanity itself, and has been described as “the ancestor of all fermented drinks.” For thousands of years, it was the only fermented drink consumed. Dozens of variations exist, depending on the country of origin. As the popularity of wine increased, mead tended to decline, until it was regarded a quaint historical curiosity.
In the past decade, though, mead consumption has tripled in the U.S. There are now slightly more than 150 meaderies in this country. Some produce mead exclusively, while others treat it as an add-on to their business in spirits or beer. The International Mead Festival (sometimes known as the Mazer Cup), sponsored by the International Mead Association, takes place every year in Boulder, Colorado. The event showcases the wide variety of mead styles available, according to David Myers of Redstone Meadery, who will host this year’s event: “Mead can be dry or sweet, still or sparkling…it can stand alone or, just like grape wine and beer, compliment food at the dinner table.”
While the Redstone Meadery’s Reserve isn’t cheap ($50 for a 500-ml bottle), they also turn out a line of Nectars (Black Raspberry, Boysenberry, sunshine and Nectar of the Hops) for around $15. Chaucer’s Mead, procued in California and probably the best-selling U.S., sells for $13. Here in Florida, the Empire Winery and Distillery of New Port Richey makes American Royal Mead Honey Wine ($22), a rich dessert wine with no added sulfites.