By Vicki Martinez
Better than ambrosia—according to Zeus—and best when guzzled from a gourd—says Ragnar Lothbrok—mead (and mead making) is trending among craft beer drinkers and distilleries.
Some attribute the recent resurgence of the ancient elixir to the popularity of Games of Thrones. Practiced mead brewers, like David Myers of Redstone Meadery in Boulder, know that the popularity of mead is historically cyclical. “Once every two to three thousand years, mead comes en vogue,” he jokes.
Myers shares that he has been enjoying a recent surge in sales. He says that mead awareness and interest saw sharp increases in 2020. People stuck at home were willing to try new things, often seeking them out and using the money they were saving on bar tabs. Mead-mosa, anyone? Sparkling nectar mead with OJ. It’s a thing, according to Myers.
Keeping up with the increased demand can be challenging. Unlike most beer breweries that turn batches every two weeks, mead-brewing takes a while. As an example, for Redstone’s Nectar Line (a sparkling mead with 8% alcohol), kettle to shelf is about two and a half months. Their Mountain Honey Wine (a non-carbonated mead, 12% alcohol) sits on the shelf anywhere from six to ten months.
Brewing approximately 30,000 gallons of mead annually, Myers calls his operation small, yet Redstone Meadery is one of the top five craft meaderies in the country.
Fun Tidbits About Mead
• Possibly the oldest boozy libation on earth. Unearthed pottery from China, dating back to 7,000 BC, had trace amounts of “honey-wine” inside.
• With no knowledge of chemical reactions or the properties of yeast, ancient civilizations considered brewing mead to be a form of magic.
• In medieval times, drinking mead from mazers was all the rage. A mazer is a wooden drinking vessel and also the term used to identify the head mead-maker.
• Respected and revered for their mead-brewing prowess—the gift of “brew magic” seemingly bestowed on the fairer sex—Viking women were the primary brewers (aka mazers) in that society.
• Today, you’ll hear Bacchus (also known as Dionysus) referred to as the God of Wine in Roman literature. A little-known fact is that Bacchus was once dubbed the God of Mead.
• Passed down through the generations, the different styles of mead have retained their somewhat archaic names:
Melomel—flavored with added fruit
Pyment—fermented with grapes or grape juice
Cyser—fermented with apple juice
• Myers shares this interesting tidbit: Mead is the original toasting beverage of weddings. It was customary for newlyweds to drink honey wine for one lunar cycle in hopes of garnering good luck to produce baby boys, giving birth to the tradition of the honeymoon.
• August 7, 2021 is International Mead Day!