Get the buzz on mead with Phil!
Welcome to Mead 101 with Nectar Creek. Now that Nectar Creek is officially a part of the Forbidden Fruit family, we are excited to be back in full force! Today we are going to talk mead. Why is this beverage a great choice to quench your thirst, you might ask? To answer that – we are going to give you the basics of mead with a little Q & A action.
Q: What the hell is mead anyways? I’ve only heard of it from my weird uncle and Beowulf?
A: Mead is its own category of fermented alcoholic beverages, made primarily from fermented honey. In general, alcoholic beverage categories are defined by where the fermented are sugars derive from. For example, wine comes from fruit (we primarily think of that being grapes), cider comes from apples, beer comes from grain, and mead comes from honey.
The world of mead varieties and flavors are vast. There are thousands, if not millions, of nectar-producing plants that bees can collect from and turn into honey. Each one of those plants makes unique nectar, and that results in unique honey that can create a different mead. On top of nature’s bountiful honey, the combinations of fruit, spices, and production techniques make the category of mead and different types nearly endless.
Q: Honey seems pretty important to mead, can you tell me a little more about it?
A: Honey, commonly referred to as liquid gold, is a pretty amazing substance. There is the theory that plants evolved to create nectar as a sweet reward to insect and bird pollinators for helping spread pollen between flowers for plants to reproduce. It just so happens that that nectar is a slightly sweet liquid that makes for the perfect carbohydrate for a honey bees diet. Honey Bees collect nectar from flowers and concentrate the nectar into honey so they can store it as food to eat during the times of the year when flowers are not blooming.
Just like making syrup from maple sap, it takes almost 50 gallons of nectar to make 1 gallon of honey. Lucky for us, bees commonly make more honey than needed to sustain their hive, allowing beekeepers to collect a little bit from each of their hives and sell it to us to turn into delicious mead.
Some of our favorite facts about honey are:
1) It can last forever. We are still discovering honey that Egyptians collected thousands of years ago in tombs, and it has not re-fermented or spoiled.
2) Honey is antimicrobial and can help treat wounds due to the presence of an enzyme called glucose oxidase that catalyzes glucose to produce hydrogen peroxide.
Q: I heard mead is the oldest alcoholic drink, is that true?
A: At Nectar Creek, we are not anthropologists or historians, but we do enjoy sharing time with friends and family while putting back a few drinks and exchanging stories. While we can’t confirm or deny that mead is the oldest ever drink, we do have a pretty cool story that someone once shared with us that seems like it could be real.
Way back, many years ago, when people lived more simply, it is said that there were people who lived in caves and came out now and then to collect honey in the comb from wild beehives in cliffside holes or caverns on the side of large trees. One time someone collected this honey into an earthenware crock and forgot to bring it into their cave with them.
Days, maybe months, went by, and then the cave people remembered their earthenware crock of honey and went back to get it. Upon being reunited with this crock, they noticed that the honey was slightly more runny than it was when they collected it and had a somewhat fermented aroma. It turns out the rain had filled the crock and the diluted honey, which was fermented by wild yeast. The cave people enjoyed this honey together and were officially (so the story goes) the first-ever humans to enjoy an alcoholic drink, and then they danced around a fire.
Q: Wow, mead seems really cool. How do you make it?
A: As is noted above, some have made mead in abstract ways utilizing nature in every way. At Nectar Creek, we are pretty proud of our detailed mead making progress using cutting edge science, the best modern equipment, and artfully thought out creativity.
The beginning of every batch of mead starts with blending unfiltered honey and cold water into a slurry that we call ‘must.’ Then add just the right amount of yeast to kick off our slow and cold fermentation to make sure that we are making a super clean drink that highlights the characteristics of the honey, just like it was inside a beehive. While the mead is fermenting away, we sometimes add whole fruit or real spices to compliment the flavors of the honey. Some of our favorite additions are citrus in our Nectarade or locally roasted coffee that we use in Top Bar.
Once the mead has completed fermentation, we commonly (but not always) run it through our super hi-tech filter that takes out the sediments but leaves all the flavors and aromas. Now that we have our bright, filtered mead, we add a little bit of co2 for carbonation, conduct extensive sensory and scientific analysis to make sure it is ready to be packaged for the people.
Once we have concluded the mead is complete, we run it through our packaging line so that it is in a keg, can, or bottle and ready for picking up with a friend and enjoying in all the right moments.
Q: A friend told me mead is always sweet because it is made from honey… why?
A: That’s interesting that your friend told you that. We think they’re wrong, let me tell you why.
Perception is everything, and our pallets and brain commonly perceive and lead us to think that anything that has honey or honey-like characteristics is sweet since honey itself is quite high in sugar.
Mead, on the other hand, is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the sugars that are in honey. Our good friends, the yeast, eat most of the sugar and turn it into glorious alcohol for us to imbibe in. While some meads do have a lot of residual sugar and are sweet, here at Nectar Creek, we focus on making super balanced styles of mead that have great honey and fruit or spice character but just the right amount of sweetness, which we think, isn’t that much.