Scientists believe that the first alcoholic beverage ever made was a combination of honey, and perhaps grains, that wild yeast and bacteria fermented spontaneously. Someone along the way decided to drink said beverage and voila!
This honey wine/ beer mashup was nothing akin to our modern understanding of mead or beer, but it was the foundation of some of the greatest beverages known to man. Over many years, the two have become distinct beverages. That’s probably because the official term for such a hybrid of beer and mead is braggot, and anything that rhymes with maggot was clearly not meant to be popular.
Mead is an ancient beverage made from just honey, water, and yeast. Modern versions can be sweet or dry, still or sparkling. It can be punched up with fruit or fruit juice (to make melomel), hops (to make miodomel), herbs (to make metheglin), or barley (to make braggot). Mead is very easy to brew—you simply mix the three ingredients and wait.
Like beer, mead is sometimes flavored with fruits, spices, grains or hops. But it’s generally higher in alcohol than beer and more in line with grape wine—typically between eight and 20 percent ABV. Also like wine, mead is produced in a variety of sweetness levels, from bone dry to lusciously sweet and can be still or sparkling.
A ubiquitous alcoholic beverage, everyone—ancient Greeks, Africans, and Chinese—all drank mead as far back as 3000 BCE. Mead holds particular importance in Norse mythology, especially in the legend of a fabled beverage with magical powers known as “Poetic Mead.” As the story goes,mythological gods created a man named Norseman Kvasir who was so wise he could answer any question. When he was eventually killed, his blood was mixed with honey, and whoever drank this honey-blood mead took on Kvasir’s power of intelligence. And it’s likely this myth that inspired Danish craft mead producer Dansk Mjod to make its Viking Blod Mead, which is flavored and colored red from hibiscus.
Mead is frequently consumed in Eastern Europe and Russia. Pretty much any country that produced honey has a history of mead production and appreciation.
Outside of Europe, Mead has been and continues to be popular in Ethiopia, where it’s referred to as tej. Customarily a home-brewed beverage, tej is usually flavored with powdered leaves of the gesho plant, an African shrub which imparts a slightly bitter flavor and preserves the drink, like hops do for beer.
Instructions for How to Make Mead
Now the part that you all have been waiting for, the steps involved in making your first batch of mead. You will start out making sure all your equipment is clean and sanitized. Anything that touches the must(unfermented honey and water mixture) should be sanitized.
Put a gallon of water into your stainless steel pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
After boiling for 10 minutes remove pot from heat and add yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, and honey.
Stir the pot until the honey and water have mixed completely.
Hold the must at that temperature(around 170 degrees) for 10 Minutes.
Chill the must down to 80 degrees.
Take a hydrometer reading.
Pitch(add) your yeast into the must, stir vigorously for 5 minutes.
Place the lid on your fermenter with the air lock attached. Fermentation should begin about 24 to 48 hours.
2 to 3 weeks later(or when fermentation is done) rack mead into a sanitized carboy.
Let it sit another 3 to 4 weeks.
Rack for the final time into another sanitized carboy and let it sit until the mead is clear(another 2 to 3 months).
Now that you have finished making your mead it’s time to bottle. For a still mead you will need to add potassium sorbate to stabilize. Mix the sorbate through out your entire batch then bottle. For a sparkling mead DO NOT add potassium sorbate. Use champagne style bottles for carbonated mead.
Here comes the hard part, letting the mead mature or age in the bottle. Mead will improve dramatically with age. Leaving it sit for 6 months to 1 year before opening is ideal. Be patient and it will really pay off. Enjoy!