Mead Made Easy


Mead and other honey brews are classified as follows:

  • Traditional Mead – Honey, water and yeast. Nothing else. About 2.5 – 3 lbs honey per gallon of water.

  • Sack Mead – Same as a traditional mead, but with about 25% more honey, though not enough that it will smell like mead when opened. This makes for an upper limit of about 3.5 lbs of honey per gallon, and requires alcohol tolerant yeast.

  • Small Meads – Again, similar to a traditional mead, but these were made with much less honey, and as a result fermented and aged much more quickly. These meads were traditionally brewed by the peasantry. This is the easiest style of mead to brew, and many of the recipes in this book will be small meads.

  • Metheglin – A mead made with a mixture of herbs and spices called a gruit. The exact composition of a given gruit was a carefully guarded secret. The recipes were mostly held by brewers who were either members of the clergy or affiliated with the church. Gruits were also used in early beer-making before the introduction of hops, and few gruit recipes have survived to modern times.

  • Braggot or Bracket – Beer made with honey, or mead made with barley-malt. It has more honey than beer, and may be have either hops, a gruit or nothing added.

  • Clarre or Pyment – Made with a mixture of honey and grape juice. This may have evolved into claret.

  • Hippocras – A pyment with spices added.

  • Cyser – Honey and apple juice. This evolved into hard cider, and was likely the `strong drink' referred to in the Bible. It can vary from a cider-like taste to a taste almost like a sherry wine.

  • Mulsum or Melomel – Honey and fruits other than apples or grapes. Popular in Roman times.

  • Morat – A type of melomel made with mulberries.

  • Rhodomel – A mead made with rose petals.

  • Mead Brandy – A traditional mead was brewed and then distilled into a brandy-like liquor. Variations of this may well have included adding honey to other distilled spirits to sweeten the drink, as with Drambuie.

Throughout the rest of this book, I'll be lumping most of these styles together as meads, although a few recipes will be identified more exactly.

Few of these styles have survived into modern times, due to the rise in popularity of beer. The chief factor in the ascent of beer and the decline of mead was that the ingredients for beer could be cheaply and easily grown and combined. In contrast, the herbs and spices in gruits were comparatively expensive, and, as stated above, the recipes for gruits were often kept secret. Also, the cost of keeping bees and collecting honey compared unfavorably with that of producing barley malt or grapes. (A decline in the amount of forested areas for producing honey further contributed to its drop in production.)

The honey meads that you found in stores when this was initially written were most likely overly sweet drinks, many of which are made by the addition of honey to neutral grain spirits. There were a few brands of true mead available, but for the most part, the only way to have a good mead was to make it yourself. Thankfully that has changed in the decades since.

Enough history for now. On to brewing mead.


Prev Next