Mead (“Tej”) producers across the United States hope to it back to its previous popularity. They’re exploring a wide range of styles, from the basic dry and sweet, to those made with fruit
By Matt Kettmann (Wine Enthusiast) |
Mead (‘tej’) may have been humanity’s first alcoholic experience. Hunter-gatherers of the African savannah could’ve happened upon pools of water in hollowed-out trees that contained the fermented remains of honey-soaked beehives.
Honey wine remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in Ethiopia, one of the planet’s oldest cultures, and mead fills the pages of antiquity. The writings of both Greek philosopher Aristotle and Pliny the Elder of Rome include references to the fermented drink.
However, when cane sugar overtook honey as a popular, less expensive sweetener, honey harvests declined, prices went up, and the byproducts once used to make honey wine all but disappeared. Mead melted into the shadows behind wine, beer and spirits. Today the beverage is largely associated with Middle Age marauders and Game of Thrones.
But mead producers across the United States hope to change that. They’re exploring a wide range of styles, from the basic dry and sweet, to those made with fruit (called melomel), spices (metheglin), wine grapes (pyment) as well as beer (braggot). There’s even a growing Ethiopian-American meadery movement.
I recently sampled 24 meads made by 10 producers. Not surprisingly, honey notes are prominent in most, and there’s not much secondary aroma and flavor development, but cellaring could help. The melomel and metheglin categories show much potential, and they will appeal to those seeking something more complex than honey.
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