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Oct 25, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 26
A drink for Knights of the Roundtable

March 1, 2001

Mead is sometimes called honey wine, so you've probably figured out it isn't beer. The fact is that the meadmaking process has more in common with winemaking than brewing. However, you'll sometimes find it served at brewpubs, many homebrewers also make their own mead, and we think that the resurgence of interest in mead was led by homebrewers. That makes it interesting to the venturesome beer drinker.

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Mead is probably the oldest fermented beverage, and has been celebrated in verse for centuries. The word honeymoon is derived from the Baylonian tradition of giving newlyweds anough mead to last a lunar month and to promote fertility. You'll often find mead mentioned in the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. To many of you mead may still seem legendary, because you have never even seen it. You're not going to find it on many grocery store shelves or even at your local liquor store.

There are about 40 commerical producers of mead in the United States and Canada. Most of them are wineries but some make mead exclusively, and there are a few brewpubs and breweries that turn out the occasional mead. You'll also find imported meads at some wine and specialty beer stores. Failing that, locate a homebrew club near you and attend a meeting. You'll surely meet a member who might offer you a sample of mead, and -- better yet -- teach you how to brew your own.

Making mead can be as simple or as complicated as you want, but this isn't the place to explain. The basic ingredients are honey, water and yeast (simpler even than beer). Of course there are scores of different honeys, then you can throw in spices, fruits and a variety of other ingredients. In the Southwest, for instance, many meadmakers use prickly pear cactus or green chiles.

There are enough different beers out there to keep us all busy for a long time, but if you find yourself wanting something different after a long afternoon of jousting, then a mead may hit the spot.

Should you come across mead in a friendly brewpub or beer store here's an idea of what you will find behind the various styles:

- Traditional mead: honey, water, and yeast, plus a small amount of acid (to balance the sweetness).
- Metheglin: mead with added herbs or spices, such as cloves or cinnamon.
- Melomel: mead made with the addition of fruit or fruit juice.
- Cyser: melomel made with apples or apple juice.
- Pyment: melomel made with grapes or grape juice.
- Hippocras: spiced pyment.
- Sack: a name for stronger meads made with more honey than usual.

Tasting notes

MONTY PYTHON'S HOLY (GR)AIL
Brewed by the Black Sheep Brewing in England

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

Peachy color. Earthy English hop aroma and palate; rich nutty, malt bakground; then sappy dryness in a quite bitter finish. Big flavours. Warming finish. This beer was brewed for the 30th anniversary of the TV show. 4.7 abv.

TRIPLE WHITE SAGE
Brewed by Craftsman Brewing Co., Pasadena, Calif.

Stephen Beaumont's tasting notes:

The aroma of the White Sage is enormous, a product of the addition of wild white sage picked from the abundantly-covered local hills by Craftsman brewer/owner Mark Jilg. This herbal character, underscored with a hint of mint, continues in the body of the beer, with some light alcohol and apricot notes providing the supporting flavour chorus. At the finish, a refreshing note of bitterness comes into play along with a slightly resiny character reminiscent of rosemary. The overall effect is not only greatly intriguing, but also delightfully satisfying.

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