FERMENTATION of a mixture of honey and water produces an alcoholic beverage known historically as Mead. With the addition of fruit and spice; mead has been referred to as: melomel, metheglin, pyment, cyser and many other unique names. Given the many variables in ingredient, mead offers an incredible pallet of flavor profiles.
MEAD can be found historically, through the ages, in every human culture. In the days of old, meads, melomels and Metheglins played a major role in not only celebrations, such as ‘the honeymoon’, but were also prescribed as remedies for ailments ranging from the Bronchitis to Alzheimer’s.
HONEY is the prime ingredient that sets mead apart from other fermented beverages. While viniferous grape wine is fermented from the fructose sugars extracted from the grape and beer is fermented from maltose sugars converted from starches in barley, honey comes from the nectar of flowers and contains a variety of sugars and other compounds that give it a complexity unsurpassed. The actual composition of honey varies based on the floral source that the bees harvest from. Thus, each honey is a signature of the ‘flora’ of the region from which it originates as well as the season from which it was produced. Honey is composed primarily of monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. However, honey also contains numerous other types of “higher” sugars (Oligosaccharides), as well as acids, proteins, minerals, pigments, flavor and aroma substances, sugar alcohols, colloids and vitamins. Some of the disaccharides identified by analysis are maltose, sucrose, kojibiose, turanose, isomaltose, and maltulose.
A well crafted mead will account for the attributes of the honey from which it was made. The distinctive flavors and aromas of the honey from which it was derived may be preserved and even enhanced. The sundry nature of honey allows the mead maker to compose elixirs using an array of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, enhancing even further the character and complexity of mead.
When fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices are added to mead, they are known by other names, depending upon what is used. For example:
Pyment – grapes
Cyser – apples or pears
Melomel – peaches, cherries, elderberries and most other fruits
Metheglin – herb or spice