Photo © Meghan Calder – Heeman’s
Mead has been compared to cider, wine or even beer, but in reality, it stands alone. It is a very broad and diverse alcoholic honey-based beverage.
Mead is an ancient drink, often with a medieval reputation, and frequently cited as the first alcoholic beverage. To make mead, mix local, straight-from-the-hive Ontario honey with high-quality water (add some yeast if so desired) and let it delicately ferment. That makes it sound like it’s easy, but there’s definitely an art to it.
The meadmaker, known as a mazer, can use fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, grains and flowers to create a multitude of flavour combinations. There are so many factors that can influence how a mead is developed, much like anything else you’d encounter in the alcohol beverage industry. To think that there is just “one mead” is incorrect.
- Traditional mead is simply honey and water.
- A mead that adds fruit is called a melomel.
- Mead that is made with barley malt is called a braggot.
- A pyment is a mead made with added grapes.
- A mead mixed with apples is known as a cyser.
- Metheglin is a mead made with spices and/or herbs.
- Bochet is a type of mead made from honey that has been caramelized (Yum!).
- A mead that is less than 7.5 per cent in alcohol is deemed a session mead (best served chilled in good company).
Every production of mead is inspired by: The Honey!
Bees in Ontario forage many acres of varying flowers, plants, and crops, which provide different nectars that result in a variety of colours, aromas and sweetness levels of honey. If you’ve ever tried a clover honey and then a buckwheat honey, you’d know the differences are abundant! The aroma each honey provides can affect how the mead will taste. What smells ‘right’ to one may be ‘wrong’ to another. The level of sweetness will influence if the mead is comparative to a dessert wine or a dry wine. So, finding your preferred mead can take a few samplings.
Meads can be still (no bubbles), slightly carbonated or highly carbonated, which will affect mouthfeel. Carbonation adds body or can cut the sweetness. Aging mead will add dimensions to the flavour. Young meads are typically lower in alcohol content, whereas aged meads may have a higher level of alcohol.
So now that you know what mead is, and that it’s created in many ways, here’s the important information. The best way to enjoy it!
Maybe start by making mead cocktails with friends and serve them on ice. Enjoy a chilled session mead on the beach or at a BBQ. A drier mead for a social supper can be served at “cellar” temperature. Spiced or semi-sweet meads are best enjoyed at room temperature. Warm up a sweet mead to accompany a delicious meal as dessert. Mull a sweeter mead to sip by the fireplace on a cold night. Sweet meads are great with sharp cheeses, like blue cheese. Session meads are great with pizza.
Find great local mead in Ontario!
Check out Backed By Bees (Burlington), Heeman’s (Thorndale), Honey Pie Hives & Herbals (Prince Edward County), Lost Meadows Meadery (Simcoe County), Millefleurs Meadworks (Prince Edward County), Munro Honey & Meadery (Alvinston), Ontario Honey Creations (Mulmur), Ridge Meadery (Richmond Hill), and Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery (Beamsville).
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The OBA undertakes its own honey bee health research, but also reviews and incorporates research and recommendations from other reputable sources into programs, strategies and materials to ensure beekeepers in Ontario are using the most up-to-date and effective beekeeping practices.