What is Mead?
A short history of the world’s oldest alcoholic drink
Mead, or honey wine, is an ancient form of winemaking, with roots throughout Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia. Brewed from honey, historians believe it is the oldest alcoholic beverage, pre-dating both beer and wine.
Considered the sacred drink of royalty, poets and gods, from Mount Olympus to Valhalla, it is said to gift those who drink it with immortality, poetry, strength, passion, and wit.
Early mead brewers used fruit, spices and hops to mask unpleasant flavors that occurred in their mead, and to stretch costly honey. As heavier and heavier doses of the adjuncts were introduced, the drink evolved. Eventually it was enhanced by grape juice and became the wine we’re familiar with today. Hops flavored mead became what we know as ale or beer.
Mead fell out of favor for much the same reason that it was favored. As a raw natural product, honey was subject to wildly varying qualities. Seasonal conditions could affect the kinds of sugars encompassed in the honey, meteorological conditions could affect the intensity of the sugar, and the raw nature of both the honey and the water left the mead subject to numerous contaminates. As the existence of yeast, and the cause of fermentation, was not understood until the time of Pasteur in the mid 1800’s, fermentation was, by matter of fact, an act of random chance.
If random chance started an off flavor of yeast in the mead first, then the resulting product would not be an enjoyable drink. Consequently, six months to two years of fermentation and aging could be an utter waste of time. Honey was generally boiled to sterilize the honey and speed the fermentation process. However, boiling also caused a caramelization of the honey. These difficulties made the more sterile nature of the grapes natural package, and the heat tolerant nature of beer a far more consistently rewarding process.
Our goal at Sky River Mead is to reintroduce the world to exquisite mead and honey wine. By partnering with Cornell University, we have reduced the 6-month to 2-year fermentation and aging cycle necessary for typical meads to create a consistently crisp, clean and beautiful drink. All without damaging the color and flavor of the honey brought about by heating. As a result, our meads are lighter and dryer than their ancient counterparts.
We receive the highest quality honeys thanks to our relationships with regional bee keepers. Honey is handled with great care from the bee to the bottle. This yields a mead that retains the honeyed essence of its foundation: the melon and fruit tree notes and the floral nose.
Come experience Sky River Mead with us. Our mead selection includes a true dry mead, Sky River Dry, to a traditional dessert sweet mead, Sky River Solas. Other meads you can enjoy include: Rose Blossom, NW Hopped, Raspberry, Blackberry, Grape, Ginger and Cherry-Vanilla.
Our meads are typically served slightly chilled. Yet in the winter, Sky River’s Sweet, Sweet Brochet, and Solas meads are luscious when served gently warmed with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom.
Visit our Mead Shop to see over a dozen mead and honey wine selections.