If you know nothing about the journey Aaron and I have embarked on, know this: it involves drinking healthy quantities of mead. And if you know nothing about mead, well, today is your lucky day.
What is Mead?
Mead, simply put, is water and honey that has been fermented. That’s it! Raw honey contains lots of inactive yeast (pasteurization of honey kills the yeasts), and when mixed with greater than 19% water, the yeasts wake up and join the party by converting the glucose in honey into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In the spirit of simplicity, and my aversion to chemistry, I will leave the science at that. So, much like wine is made from grapes, cider from apples, beer from grains, sake from rice, mead is alcohol made from honey. Got it? Good. Mead often isn’t served in its pure form. Usually it is made with a wide variety of ingredients from the herb, spice and fruit worlds. The list below shows various types of mead and what they are made with. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive; there are dozens of types of mead.
- Cyser – Apples
- Metheglin – Spices or herbs
- Melomel – Fruit (ex. strawberry, currant, rose hip)
- Rhodome l- Rose Petals
- Capsicumel – Chili Peppers
- Bochet – Caramelized Honey
Why haven’t you heard of mead before? Why isn’t mead as popular as other alcohols?
Mead was very popular in northern Europe where grapes could not be grown, but it faded in popularity as low-cost grape wine imports became available. Also, pound for pound, honey is more expensive than sugar, leading to large-scale producers preferring to make sugar-based alcohols.
Isn’t mead sickeningly sweet?
Lots of people come to the meadery with trepidation, thinking mead will be too sweet for their tastes, but never once have I had anyone walk out disappointed with the level of sweetness. I can see their line of thinking, honey = sweet, but a well made mead often tastes much better than their cousin’s first batch of homemade mead. The sweetness of the honey is converted to alcohol by the yeasts, so the only reason for there to be too sweet of a mead is if the mead maker uses too much honey in their honey to water ratio. Since many people don’t care for overly sweet things, Middle Mountain Mead just doesn’t make their meads that sweet.
History and Folklore
One of the many awesome things about mead is how much history there is behind it. It’s thought to be the oldest alcohol known to mankind, and was likely discovered by accident. It’s thought that hunter-gatherers came across an upturned beehive that had filled with water. They drank the sweet water not knowing it had turned to alcohol via fermentation, and subsequently experienced the first intoxication!
Because fermentation wasn’t really understood until the 1800’s, the inebriating effects of mead when first discovered were often associated with mystical and religious qualities. In ancient Greece mead was believed to be the drink of the gods, and was referred to as Ambrosia or Nectar. In Norse mythology it was a reward for warriors who reached Valhalla, and was delivered by beautiful maidens. The Norse god Odin was said to have gained his strength but suckling mead from a goats’ udder as an infant.
“A drink I took of the magick mead…
Then began I to know and to be wise;
To grow and to weave Poems.
– Odin (from the Saga Runahal)
The mythology of mead is evident, even today. The term ‘honeymoon’ comes from the tradition of giving newly wed couples a moon’s worth of mead to encourage offspring.
Middle Mountain Mead
Here at Middle Mountain Mead there are 10 types of mead. Highlights include:
- Green Tea Elixer – Jasmine and Sencha green teas, ginger, ginseng, stinging nettles
- Olde Mead – Pure mead with blueberry honey, elderflower and oaked in a bourbon barrel
- Magick Mead – Lavender and lemon mead liquor
- Black Magick Mead – Black licorice tasting from fennel and anise, black currant and salal berry
- Rosemead – Handpicked rose petals and rosehips
All meads are made onsite in the production room by Darryl, our meadmaker extraordinaire. The lovely tasting room is on the second floor, with an additional third floor patio, just incase the view from the second floor wasn’t spectacular enough. The tasting room is open for business year round, with regular business hours in the summer and by appointment in the winter.
Aaron and I came to this beautiful property for the organic farming, but the mead has won us over as well. It’s wonderful to play just a small part in a business that is bringing mead back into the public eye, and has been doing so for 10 years. I love that they have taken a product so steeped in history and made it into something that surprises people. We won the “organic farming apprenticeship lottery” the day we arrived here at Middle Mountain Mead.
Book: The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz (This is the bible of fermentation, I highly recommend it!)