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.
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
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.
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
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.