Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Part 1: What is Mead?
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made primarily from fermented honey. Like other alcohols, Mead can be made sweet or dry, still or sparkling, low abv or high, and everything in between based on its recipe and fermentation. Mead is naturally gluten-free.
Most people think of the Viking age when Mead is mentioned, but it’s history actually goes back much further. Mead is arguably the oldest fermented beverage. It’s believed that Mead was discovered by hunter/gatherer tribes in Africa, when seasonal rains flooded wild, ground-dwelling bee hives, creating the booziest puddles humans had ever tasted!
Hunter/gatherers evolved to farming communities, and they brought honey and Mead with them. Archaeologists have found Mead in China as far back as 7000 BC. It was served at the hanging gardens of Babylon, and it was a favorite of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder of Ancient Greece.
As civilizations advanced, it became cheaper and easier to make alcohol from grapes and grains, so the rise of wine and beer was also the fall of Mead. Luckily, some traditional methods were preserved, and different cultures around the world continued to make Mead to the modern day.
With the craft beverage boom and a renewed value placed on local/organic/heirloom methods, Mead has enjoyed a resurgence and new popularity. It’s become one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverages in the USA in terms of sales and market share. In 2019, New York State introduced the Farm Meadery license, legitimizing Mead as an industry along with craft beer, cider, wine, and distilled spirits.
Cyser is a hybrid: a specialized form of Mead. Next time, we’ll talk about the other half of Cyser, Hard Cider.