National Mead Day was celebrated over the past weekend on Saturday, August 3rd. Unfortunately, I missed getting this post out on that day (due to furniture shopping… which was pretty fun!), but I would still like to capitalize on the opportunity this week to talk about mead and a couple of companies in Maine that are making it.
What is mead, and why would you want to enjoy a glass? Mead, also known as honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting a solution of honey and water. It is generally regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks (which is a good enough justification for me to try it!).
I have always had a passion for history; I suppose on some level, it goes hand-in-hand for any English major. We do read an awful lot of classics. As a result, researching this post was fascinating for me and I could go on about the history of mead at length. Instead, I’ll provide the cliff notes version.
Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, but the earliest known archaeological evidence for the production of mead dates to around 7000 BC. Pottery vessels containing a mixture of mead, rice, and other fruits along with organic compounds of fermentation were found in Northern China. Much later, mead is referenced in the Old English epic poem, Beowulf, as being consumed by the Danish warriors. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Beowulf throughout the course of my education).
The alcohol content of mead can range quite widely, from 8% ABV to 18% (this stat courtesy of Fat Friar’s Meadery website). In addition, it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, and may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling. Flavors may change depending on local tradition or recipes, and it may be flavored with spices, fruit, or hops, which produces a more bitter, beer-like mead. I had no idea mead could be so varied, although I suppose it shouldn’t come as a big surprise – it seems most fermented drinks have wide-ranging styles and flavors. I hope to try a variety of styles of mead very soon.
As you likely know, the great state of Maine is home to a number of craft brewers and wineries (check out the Maine Wine Trail here). It is also home to at least two makers of mead – Fat Friar’s Meadery and Maine Mead Works. Today, my mission is to call both of them, learn about their businesses, what makes their mead unique, hopefully be able to procure some mead (depending on shipping permits and regulations to NC), and then, sometime over the next week or so, report back to you on my findings so that you might venture out to visit them!
Is there anything you’d like to know about mead that I should ask? Questions for the businesses?