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Mead: Heavenly Honey Wine
There is a growing number of bars and restaurants offering mead alongside wine and beer. Explore Groupon’s examination of one of mankind’s oldest thirst quenchers.
The Greek god Dionysus has a reputation as an oenophile, but myth holds that in the era before viniculture, he was lord of honey. The party-loving deity would have surely appreciated the sweetener’s intoxicating power when turned into mead, a drink so old that its exact age and origins are nearly impossible to pin down. The core components are as simple as you might expect for an element of prehistoric cuisine: water and honey, fermented with yeast to create a potion marked by astringent sweetness and often a subtle effervescence. Mead today can range from syrupy to riesling-like, and some producers use hops for balance. Although its flavor palette may converge with beer, mead shares many similarities with wine: it tends to range from 8% to 18% alcohol by volume, and it’s often aged in wooden barrels for several years before serving.
Mead has had plenty of time to wax and wane in popularity. Readers of Beowulf will remember it as a centerpiece of carousing in Hrothgar’s hall. Catholic monasteries in the Middle Ages often doubled as apiaries to keep monks supplied with candlewax, and the steady flow of honey they produced made mead accessible across the social hierarchy. Although it’s currently enjoying a renaissance in the United States—the Huffington Post reported in 2011 that domestic mead producers had increased threefold since 2001—mead has remained more consistently in fashion in other parts of the world. Areas of Russia have a strong tradition of home mead-making, and the Ethiopian honey wine known as tej is a close cousin.