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The Next Big Thing in Alcohol That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Whether you’re a true alcohol aficionado, a devout happy hour goer, or just a weekend sipper, we all want to be up on the next big thing. So as the craft beer craze wanes, the hard seltzer fad goes soft, and the bourbon resurgence recedes, what’s next on the horizon for liquor lovers?

Mead, The Worlds Oldest Alcohol.

Want to try some?

That’s right. The newest entrant on the alcohol scene is a 9,000-year-old drink created by chance when rainwater in a beehive fermented with the help of airborne yeast. After that happy accident occurred, mead production got more sophisticated, and it became the drink of choice among the greatest civilizations in history—from the Vikings to the Mayans, the Greeks to the Romans.

So what’s taken mead so long to have its modern moment? Maybe it’s the weight of all that history. Maybe it’s the images of plump kings sipping it from golden goblets. Or possibly it’s the misconception that mead is simply a concoction of honey, water, and yeast that lacks the variety and nuance of wine and beer.

But mead is finally shedding its air of antiquity and proving itself to be a worthy addition to cocktail hour, mealtime, and after-dinner drinking.  In the United States hundreds of meaderies were popping up across the pre-covid-19. In fact mead was the fastest growing alcohol category. Today there are over 500 commercial meadies in the United States. With a new meadery opening every 3 days in the United States! Across the rest of the work, the rate is a new meadery opening every 7 days!

A new meadery opens every 3 days in the US!

Then through the lockdowns many people have turned to trying their hand at homemade mead-making, further adding to the popularity. Here in Australia Facebook Groups like Australian Mead Makers are pushing 3,000 members and Mead Australia has been establishing – a not profit organisation designed to promote, support and further Mead and the Mead Industry in Australia.

Today, Australia has around 30 commercial meaderies in operation. Though many winemakers and brewers are trying their hand at producing meads. For example Lou Chalmer from Yume (see range here) whose range of pet nat style ambrosias are creating them a cult following or Kye Livingstone at Harcourt Valley who produces a ginger beer that is actually a ginger mead.

Mead, Alcohol Made from Honey.

What is mead? Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting honey. Usually this includes honey, water and yeast:

What is Mead? Honey, water and yeast!
What is Mead? Honey, water and yeast!

Is mead more like beer or wine?

Mead is more like wine in terms of process, but no grapes are used in the mead fermentation. Mead is typically made solely from honey, water and yeast. The beer process requires boiling of grains, honey is only warmed to make mixing easier.

How do you make mead?

Mead is a fairly straightforward process, much like wine, but there’s lots of room for error in each step. Typically you take honey, mix with warm water and add yeast. The ratio of honey to water will determine the alcohol percentage (as well as the aggressiveness of the yeast). Once the fermentation is complete, more honey or fruit is added to add complexity.

So why is it going to be the next big thing?

Below are 3 of the reasons why we believe that mead has what it takes to be the next big thing.

1. Variety is the spice of life

If there’s one thing people demand of their alcoholic drinks these days it’s variety. We revel in the endless variations of wines, whiskeys, and ales from around the world, always on the lookout for undiscovered gems and sublime flavors that surprise and delight.

Probably the No. 1 mead fallacy is that there’s essentially one type: super sweet and strong, the kind you might find at a castle gift shop in merry old England. But to call that “typical” mead is like calling a goon bag of Shiraz (erm… I mean boxed wine) a “typical” wine.

There are actually dozens of types of mead, including braggot made with both honey and barley malt, cyser made with apples, metheglin made with spice, and acerglyn made with maple syrup. And within each type there are even more varieties that can be concocted with different ingredients, including herbs like thyme and rosemary or fruit like blueberries and oranges. Mead can be semidry or dry, sparkling or still, high in alcohol content or low, depending on the process used. Sugar ferments into alcohol, the more sugar the more alcohol. Honey is incredibly dense with sugar so it makes a great starting point for mead. With alcohol percentages ranking from 4% all the way up to 20% for some barrel aged meads, it can be a great Sunday arvo BBQ drink or a heavy hitter.

With unlimited combinations, from traditional styles celebrating the terroir of the honey from which it is produced to mindbending combinations with depth and complexity their is a lifetime of experimentation available to both the producer and drinker.

2. Mead has a spectrum of sweetness

When people hear that mead is made from honey they usually think it will be an overly sweet or strictly sweet drink, but that’s not always the case and is in fact one of the biggest myths about mead.

Honey itself varies greatly in sweetness level, as do the yeasts used in mead making, and this impacts the final product’s sweetness. Of course, the differences in the honey’s flavor—such as orange blossom, marri, clover, yellow box, and wildflower—also affect the taste. The level of sweetness is determined by the fermentation process as well. Semi-dry and dry meads are generally fermented longer, so the yeast can essentially eat away all the sugars, while sweeter ones require a halt of fermentation process.

Often the sweetness you might taste in a sweet mead is from the “back-sweetening”. Back-sweetening is adding honey back in after the fermentation is already complete. This allows us to control the sweetness level of mead, if no honey is added back in, then the mead will be very dry with little residual sweetness.

Educating people has a long way to go, but as we get liquid on lips we are confident that people will be one over as we match them to the taste that hits their prefered flavour profile.

3. Drink mead straight or as a mixer

With the rise of craft cocktail culture, in which bartenders have become amateur chemists creating complex mixtures with arcane ingredients, mead has emerged as a real player. 

For example, sangria works great with mead rather than red wine. And drinks that require an orange liqueur, such as a margarita, can use a mead infused with orange or even pineapple instead of triple sec or Cointreau. If you’re making a rum cocktail like a mojito or a Mai Tai, you can use mead instead of rum. As the low alcohol trend continues these substitutions are offering a great way to provide customers with great tasting modern drinks based on old fashioned favourites. One of our favourite basic mixes is a spritzer with mead, club soda, with a dash of bitters and lemon juice.

Similarly, most top cocktail makers now favour honey syrup over a traditional sugar syrup as it adds a depth of flavour and complexity to drinks.

Mead is Trendy… but more importantly, tasty

 While we predict a real mead renaissance over the next few years, we’re pretty sure it won’t be just a passing fancy. Mead has staying power. (Did somebody say 9,000 years old?) And it’s doubtful the drink that fueled the Vikings’ explorations, the Mayan’s architectural feats, and the Roman empire will fade away any time soon.

That said, don’t try mead for its trendiness—try it for its taste!

If you’d like to try some mead for yourself you can order online from us today (6 bottle minimum) and have it delivered to your front door! For venue owners and managers please reach out to us at info@honey-mead.com.au so we can arrange a tasting with you and your team.

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