Renaissance Fairs and Mead
My first experience with mead was at a Renaissance Fair. (yes, in full disclosure, I have attended a Renaissance Fair – actually two!) The fairs were “interesting.” I watched as grown men dressed up in tights to joust each other and women dressed in corset taught dresses walked around serving food and beverages. I observed jesters making people laugh and a Queen knight the children. I was baffled (and still am) by the obsession with giant turkey legs, and, I tasted mead….
What is Mead?
In simplest terms, mead is honey wine. The honey, similar to the wine we are more familiar with, is fermented by yeast, and is often be flavored with fruits, spices and even sometimes hops! Think of it as somewhere in the middle of beer and wine. It is extremely diverse, and seems to be only limited by the imagination of the mead maker.
There are meads that have spices, fruits and even vegetables added to them and they each have a different subcategory. Acerglyn mead incorporates maple syrup. Hippocras uses spices. Malted grain mead is called Braggot and Melomel adds fruit for additional flavor. There is even mead, Pyment, that is made with grape or
grape juice, or to a grape wine that has honey added. This is just a sampling of the subcategories, but it shows that there is a mead for every palate.
The History of Mead
It may be portrayed as the medieval drink of choice, however the true beginning of mead dates back significantly further. The original “recipe,” simply fermented honey and water, is historically the first alcoholic beverage and is documented as far back as 3,000 BCE.
There are many stories of its beginnings, but the one I loved the most involves magical powers. In this legend, Norseman Kvasir was a human created by the gods. While alive, as the story goes, he was so wise, there was no question he couldn’t answer. When he was ultimately killed, his blood was mixed with honey and the resulting “Poetic Mead” provided Kvasir’s intelligence to whoever imbibed.
A less magical history involves the accident, which is typically how most things are discovered. There are actually two versions of the same story. Both involve a rainstorm, but one involves a honey pot and the other a honey hive. The first, not so exciting, is simply someone stumbled upon the contents of a beehive that had been left out in the rain, and the honey inside had fermented. A more inspiring story occurred when rain found its way into a honey pot in China’s Henan province in the seventh millennium B.C. No matter what story you resonate with the most (I like Norseman Kvasir the best) on how mead came to be, since then, it has been found in the history of the Greeks, Romans, Poles, Russians, and Ethiopians. And of course the Vikings, where it has a huge pop culture connection with.
A little while ago, I received an email that stated “Introducing the best meads you’ve never had.” How fantastic of a intro is that? It peaked my interest and I had to open. Beacon Meadery is a local producer of mead on the North Fork of Long Island. The meadery was established by two men who both grew up in homes that appreciated the relationship between food and wine. Justin Feldstein and Chris Parles were introduced to the wines of the Old World at a young age. They grew up gaining an appreciation for what quality wines can offer.
Understanding what a great beverage can and should be, Chris and Justin joined forces to create Beacon Meadery. Their goal is to show when you focus on proportion, elegance and structure, a wine lover can become a mead lover.
Beacon Meadery, focuses on still meads with an alcohol content between of 12-16% ABV. They pride themselves on obtaining high quality honey and fruit an applying just enough science to the process to ensure an exceptional product worthy of the Norse gods. They produce meads as if they are wines, where many other mead makers align themselves with craft beer.
Sharing the Mead Love
Although mead is becoming more common, it isn’t top of conversation as of yet. So, when I received the samples, I decided to bring them along to a neighborhood gathering to share and give a little more exposure. A group of my neighbors and myself belong to what we call a “Cooking Club.” We rotate who hosts the party, a theme is provided and everyone brings their own beverage and a food dish to share.
Beacon Meadery’s portfolio includes a raspberry, blueberry and black currant mead. Both the raspberry and black currant are sold in 375ml while the blueberry is available in 750ml.
As I opened the bottles, my neighbors were a bit skeptical. No one had ever had mead before. They asked what they should expect. I never tell people what they should taste, but I explained to them that mead is produced from honey and let their palates decide for themselves.
Raspberry Mead (SRP: $21.99)
👀 medium tawny
👃🏻 pronounced aromas raspberry, honey and hint of menthol
👄 medium sweetness, medium acidity, medium tannin on the finish, medium alcohol, full body pronounced flavors of raspberry, spice, stone and honey
💭 long finish, 15.5% ABV, bottled in 2019
Black Currant Mead (SRP: $21.99)
👀 medium purple
👃🏻 pronounced aromas black cherry
👄 sweet but a hint of tartness and not out of balance, high acidity, medium tannin on the finish, medium alcohol, full body pronounced flavors of raspberry, spice, stone and honey
💭 long finish, 14.5% ABV, bottled in 2019
Blueberry Mead ( SRP: $27.99)
👃🏻 pronounced aromas blueberry, citrus and honey
👄 medium sweet, medium flavors of dark cherry, blueberry and citrus, high acidity, medium tannin on the finish, medium alcohol, full body
💭 long finish, 13% ABV, bottled in 2019
Overall, as you can tell from all the smiles, these meads definitely pleased! They were a huge hit with my neighbors and myself and as the evening progressed, the bottles emptied. These meads would be at home in any wine lovers’ glass. Beacon Meadery currently self distributes through their website.
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