Not just for Vikings: Mead is making a worldwide comeback

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

A new meadery was opens every three days in the US and every seven days in the rest of the world. Pic: ©GettyImages/WiktorD
A new meadery was opens every three days in the US and every seven days in the rest of the world. Pic: ©GettyImages/WiktorD

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Far from being just a drink from the past, mead is becoming a ‘drink of the future’ in the premium alcoholic beverages category, according to a report by GlobalData.

Even though it has a reputation for being ‘the drink of the Gods’ and one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in history, mead is no longer an antiquated drink. It’s most known in pop culture as the alcohol of choice in medieval television shows and movies, but it’s making its way back into the mainstream.

300 meaderies in the US and growing

Mead is fermented with honey, giving it a strong, sweet aroma. It can be made in several styles - show mead, melomel, sparkling mead, etc. - and adopt different flavors while being consumed primarily like a wine.

In 2017 the American Mead Makers Association (AMMA) found that throughout an 18-month period, a new meadery was opening every three days in the US and every seven days in the rest of the world. Most of the meaderies it surveyed have been open for less than five years (67%), with very few open for longer than ten years (6%).

The US only had 30 commercial meaderies in 2003, rising to 300 in 2016 and now have more than 400 estimated to be active.

The AMMA is a non-profit organization committed to “supporting research and advances in safety, sustainability and technology” within the mead industry as well as “achieving fair legislative and regulatory standards for meaderies.”

Adapting to the market

With a rise in popularity of premium and craft beverages, young consumers are poised to embrace the mead revolution.

“As consumers turn to more complex artisan attributes, including heritage, there is a clear sustained interest in craft brewing and premium alcoholic beverages. Consumers have become more experimental as they try more niche and unique products like mead,” ​Charles Sissens, consumer analyst at GlobalData, told BeverageDaily.

Cider also has a similar taste to mead as they are both fermented drinks and sometimes carbonated, explains Sissens. After exploding in popularity nearly a decade ago, the hard cider industry has seen highs and lows. Nielsen reported the recent introduction of rosé cider flavors helped sales increase in the first quarter of 2018 after two years of declines.

Consumer interest in sweeter, less alcoholic beverages - like rosé cider - will likely lead to high-end bars adopting drinks like mead as mixers. Sissens believe the pending mead renaissance could be a “tremendous opportunity for both small and big brewers”​ around the world.

“The mead industry is only just beginning to take off in the UK, however, tactics appear to be the same [as in the US] – a strong craft stance, with the addition of sophisticated glass enclosures which help highlight the premium nature of the product,”​ he said.

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Interesting, but off

Posted by Vicky Rowe, Executive Director, American Mead Makers Association,

Mead and honey wine are not separate, they are the same thing. There are over 400 active meaderies in the US, and over 100 more in the process of opening as of 2018.

Mead can be dry to sweet, have fruit, spices and vegetables in addition to the primary sugar source of honey, and range from 6-17% alcohol content.

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Not all meads is sweet

Posted by Christopher Mullin,

While many meads are sweet, in fact excruciatingly so, a mead need not be sweet. This is all down to the design of the drink and the skill 0of the producer. Just as wines, whisky and beers can be sweet or dry, so can meads.

At The Rookery - Craft Mead, even my sweeter meads are light and delicate, avoiding the heavy, cloying flavours that come from adding sugars and I always carry one or two flavours that are drier.

As for adding should never be called mead.

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