What Does Mead Taste Like? A Guide to the Flavors of Honey Wine

What does mead taste like? Mead, also known as honey wine, is a traditional alcoholic beverage that is made by fermenting honey with yeast and water. It predominantly tastes like honey, since this is the main ingredient in the beverage. However, since the fermentation process removes much of the honey’s natural sweetness, the finished product is often a dry crisp flavor. The longer a mead is fermented, the more time the yeast has to eat the sugars in the honey and convert them into alcohol. The length of time that you ferment your mead greatly determines its flavor. 

Learn more about what mead tastes like and how to adjust its flavors by reading below! 

bottle of mead and two glasses

What Are The Different Types Of Mead?

There are two main types of mead: flavored and unflavored varieties. With unflavored meads, honey is the main player, and brewers strive to create a clean mellow flavor that honors this ingredient on its own. Flavored meads combine various ingredients alongside honey to create unique blends.

There are many traditional varieties of flavored mead, including: 

Melomels

fruits on a table

A melomel is made by adding one or more types of fruit to your honey wine. There are specific names for certain traditional blends. The most popular blend is cyser, which is a combination of honey and cider. A pyment is a mixture of honey with grapes. Morat is made by adding mulberries to honey. When making a rubamel, raspberries are added to your mead’s honey. 

Adding fruits to your mead can make the final product taste sweet and jammy, even if most of the sugar has been removed from the honey wine during the fermentation process. This is because, much like wine, the notes of fruit flavoring are associated with a sweet treat and enhance the “experience” of sweetness through our memory of tasting fruits. 

Metheglins

Spices and herbs

In order to make a metheglin, honey wine is combined with herbs and spices during the fermentation process. Sweet and warming spices such as ginger, citrus peels, and vanilla bean will add warmth, richness, and a mild sweetness to the final product. 

More savory flavors can be evoked through the use of coffee, cacao nibs, coriander, hops, and chamomile in a honey mead blend. Meads created with these additives will take on earthy, rich, bitter notes. These types of meads may be ideal for beer drinkers who appreciate an edgier and drier flavor. 

Braggots

Braggots are made by blending honey with barley malt. This creates a very dark and rich final product. The flavor is often floral, mildly spicy, bitter, and sweet. A braggot often provides the heaviest mead flavors and can also have a rich long-lasting mouthfeel, making it a filling and satisfying mead. 

What Does Mead Taste Like When Using Different Types of Honey?

There are several types of honey that vary in color, taste, and aroma. These factors are dependent on the region and conditions that the honey is produced in. Since bees collect pollen from flowers, the characteristics of the flowers largely determine the outcome of the honey. The most common types are clover honey, orange blossom honey, mesquite honey, and tupelo honey.

Clover Honey

Clover honey is a very popular choice for mead-making and drinking. Due to its light and clean flavor, it makes a delicious unflavored mead that stands well on its own. It’s also an excellent base honey for adding flavors to, since its smooth flavor won’t compete with fruits and spices that are added in. 

Orange Blossom Honey

This highly aromatic honey is made from the flowering blossoms of the orange tree. Its flavors can be accentuated by adding orange peels during the fermentation process. This honey is commonly fermented with nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. These traditional flavorings make for an excellent holiday wine. 

Mesquite Honey

Mesquite honey has a strong earthy woody flavor with a slight tang of sweetness. The woody flavor mellows greatly during the mead fermentation process. It works great as a base honey for metheglins and can handle spicier flavors such as cloves, peppers, and chilis that you may add to your mead.

Tupelo honey 

Tupelo honey is very sweet with fruity and floral notes. It is popular in the southern U.S. since tupelo trees commonly grow in the rivers and creeks of the Florida panhandle. This honey makes great unflavored mead and is also very partial to being mixed with other flavorings, making it a very flexible mead-making honey. 

For a more comprehensive list of types of honey as well as my top 5 choices for mead makers, take a look at this article

How Does Yeast Affect The Flavor Of Mead? 

Yeast for mead making

Mead is made with honey and water. Honey, however, does not contain the nutrients needed to support yeast growth. Thus, yeast is added to initiate fermentation. The yeast converts the natural sugars in honey into carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Yeast is critical in the process of mead-making and can significantly affect the flavor of the final product. It can create a dry drink, a sweet dessert mead, a sparkling honey wine, or a flat thick product. 

When selecting the correct yeast for your batch of mead, you will want to pay attention to the amount of alcohol it produces (ABV) and the amount of carbonation (CO2) it produces. 

Yeast can also be very sensitive to temperature and there are specific ranges that yeast needs to be within to stay active. Using temperature, you can slow down or speed up the process of mead fermentation, which will result in different flavors. 

You can learn more about the best yeast for your mead here. 

What Does Mead Taste Like With Sweeteners Added To It?

Back Sweetening Mead

One popular method for making sure mead will taste like a sweet beverage is called back sweetening. This is when additional honey, molasses, maple syrup, or fruit is added to the mead after the fermentation process. Since these sweeteners are added to the final product, they don’t continue to ferment or lose any of their sugars. 

If you’re making mead, make sure to add your sweetener slowly, stir it frequently, and taste it regularly. Remember that it’s easier to add a little more than to take some honey out! 

What Does Mead Taste Like?

In summary, mead tastes like honey. While this seems like a straightforward answer, many flavor varieties arise when we consider the type of honey used, the type of yeast used, which additives are used, how long the fermentation process has gone for, whether or not it is a still or sparkling mead, the amount of alcohol in the beverage, and what is added to the mead after the fermentation process. 

Because of the complexities and subtleties of flavors that can arise in each bottle, tasting mead for yourself will be the best way to be accustomed to it’s flavors. Mead has become a popular beverage that can be found in most major liquor stores. If you’re lucky enough to live near a meadery (a mead brewery), it may be best to visit them and try a couple of varieties alongside brewing experts. 

What does mead taste like to you? Let me know in the comments below! 

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