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Mead is having a moment and it’s no surprise why. These delicious, honey-based bottles are produced in a myriad of styles and flavors and are perfect for sipping year-round. However, despite its strong consumer approval, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding this unique fermented beverage.
Zachary Austin, buyer at Windmill Wine & Spirits in Saugerties, NY, dives into the complexity of mead’s base material: honey. “Given the inherent complexity of honey in terms of chemical composition, fermentation can act to unveil and embellish certain characteristics that might otherwise remain hidden to the palate beneath honey's supersaturated cloak of sweetness,” he says. Austin explains that yeasts have a myriad of materials (vitamins, amino acids, pollen, minerals, etc.) to work with during honey’s fermentation. “As meads move further toward dryness during fermentation, an array of prismatic floral essences, aromas of gamey leatherwork, citrus, orchard fruit, and even herbal notes may emerge, depending on a multitude of factors such as the type of honey, yeast strains, etc.”
Curious about this ancient elixir? We’ve narrowed down our favorite meads to kickstart your tasting. Fair warning to wine and beer lovers alike—this may become your new go-to beverage. Here are the best meads to try right now.
Best Overall: Oliver Camelot Mead
Region: Indiana, USA | ABV: 10% | Tasting Notes: Sweet citrus, Orange blossom, White flower petals
Tasty, budget-friendly, and easy-to-find, this delicious mead from Indiana checks all of our boxes. Vibrant and fresh, this floral-driven mead is produced from orange-blossom honey and jumps with notes of sweet citrus, honey, and white flower petals. Sip with fresh fruits and light cheeses.
“Complexity and balance are the two foremost considerations that I take into account [when looking for quality mead], followed quickly by mouthfeel, which I have always felt should be somewhat similar to a medium or fuller-bodied white wine, such as viognier or chardonnay,” says Austin.
Best Dry: Sky River Dry Mead
Region: Washington, USA | ABV: 11% | Tasting Notes: Stone fruit, Honey, Nectarine
Produced in Washington state, this bone dry, medium-bodied mead oozes with flavors of honey, sweet stone fruit, nectarine skin, and flower petals white flower metals. Sky River recommends serving this delicious nectar alongside Asian-inspired flavors such as curry, ginger, and sesame and we couldn’t agree more. Less than 1% residual sugar is present in this mead.
Best Sweet: Chaucer’s Mead
Region: California, USA | ABV: 11% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Canned peaches, Acacia
Crafted with fresh honey and no artificial flavorings or additives, this intensely perfumed sweet mead from Chaucer’s is loaded with flavors of honey, canned peaches, and acacia. Although the mead has a similar body to fortified wine, this delicate boozy juice is produced without the addition of a neutral distillate. Drink on its own chilled or warmed up.
Marty Bargetto, owner of Chaucer’s notes that their meads are made in traditional fashion, using only honey, water, and yeast. “We first dilute our honey with filtered water and then inoculate the diluted honey with a Champagne strain of yeast,” he says, citing that fermentation in temperature-controlled, fining, and filtering (as is common in white wine production) follow. Bargetto explains that the entire process, from fermentation to bottling, takes about 60 days.
“A great mead should exhibit proper balance in aroma and flavor,” says Bargetto. “We strive for forward, clean, honey/floral aromas with a bit of yeast nuance,” Bargetto notes that it is imperative that the flavor profile of mead complements its aromas with a touch of sweetness, as honey can often present naturally bitter compounds. “Because of this, we add a touch of honey at bottling,” he says.
Read Next: The Best Sweet Wines
Best Semi-Sweet: Redstone Meadery Traditional Honey Wine
Region: Colorado, USA | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Honeycomb, Freshly sliced oranges, Citrus
Bottled in its signature blue vessels, Redstone Meadery’s semi-sweet mead is the best of both worlds. Not too sweet and not too dry, this delicious mead is loaded with flavors of honeycomb, freshly sliced oranges, and citrus rind. Because of its well-balanced flavor profile, the bit of sweetness and ample acidity in this mead makes it the perfect match for spicy food, savory dishes, and desserts alike.
Best Made With Organic Honey: Moonlight Meadery
Region: New Hampshire, USA | ABV: 12-16% ABV | Tasting Notes: Black cherries and currants (Desire), Orange blossoms and rhubarb (Fling), Wildflower honey and white flowers (Sensual)
Produced from a base of Brazilian organic honey, the range of meads at Moonlight Meadery are all worth a go—and given their half bottle size, tasting your way through the lineup is easy as ever. Fans of blueberries, black cherries, and currants can dive into a bottle of the meadery’s ‘Desire’ bottling (and sip it alongside a variety of chocolates), whereas citrus lovers will go nuts for the orange blossom and rhubarb flavors found in Moonlight’s ‘Fling.’ Mead purists, look to the flavor-packed and aromatic ‘Sensual’ cuvée, produced from wildflower honey.
“We believe in only [using] the best ingredients,” says Berniece Van Der Berg, co-owner of Moonlight Meadery. Van Der Berg reveals that Moonlight’s basic formula uses one part honey to three parts water, which is then fermented with a white wine strain of yeast that originated out of Sorbonne, France. “We use the same yeast across the board,” she says, noting that generally, Moonlight’s meads clock in around 14% ABV.
Moonlight Meadery uses a variety of organic base honeys, including certified organic Wildflower honey from Brazil, certified organic African Blossom honey from Zambia, and more. Van Der Berg notes that the most common misconception about mead is that they are all sweet, which is not true. “A truly great mead needs to present balance and harmony between the ingredients, resulting in a pleasant or surprising flavor on the palate and a long finish,” she says. “The honey should be well represented in flavor and mouthfeel, with no off flavors or harsh tones detected.” Van Der Berg additionally notes that mead can be served both chilled or at room temperature.
Read Next: The Best Natural Wines
Best Sparkling: Enlightenment Wines ‘Raise the Roof’ Pét-Nat Mead
Region: Brooklyn, New York, USA | ABV: 12% (approx.) | Tasting Notes: Apple blossom, Yeast, Flowers
What’s better than pét-nat wine? Pét-nat mead, of course. Crafted in the heart of Brooklyn, this frothy mead combines the best that the natural wine industry and the mead world have to offer. Fragrant and flavor-packed, this tasty effervescent mead bursts with flavors of apple blossom, honey, and yeast. Produced from apple blossom honey and well water, fermented dry and aged in barrel with no sulfur added. Sip with fried snacks or cheese-based hors d’oeuvres.
“[Enlightenment Wines] is pushing boundaries in the best way, as evidenced by their “Raise the Roof” Pét-Nat mead, which is genre-defying and gorgeous, like creamed honey studded with tangerine and minerals,” says Austin. “I tend to approach pairing mead like a Sauternes, and like French dessert wine it should typically be had with something to nibble, as it can become cloying otherwise,” says Austin, noting that mead expressions can greatly vary in terms of intensity. “Typically, pairing mead with Manchego and roasted walnuts or Stilton is an excellent way to go, as is spiced venison jerky, duck foie gras, or smoked salmon.”
Best Canned: Charm City Mead
Region: Maryland, USA | ABV: 6.9% ABV | Tasting Notes: Wildflower, Hibiscus, Basil, Raspberry (dependent on specific bottling)
For mead on the go, Charm City’s got your back. Crafted in an array of flavors, these rather low-ABV meads (just under 7%) are more reminiscent of beer than they are wine. Slightly carbonated and ultra-refreshing, this line of canned meads is perfect for sipping at picnics, park gatherings, and socially-distant barbecues amongst friends. Flavors include (but are not limited to) Wildflower, Hibiscus, Basil Lemongrass, Raspberry Coconut, and even Pumpkin Spice. Perfect for year-round sipping.
Related: The Best Canned Wines
Best Infused: B Nektar Meads
Region: Michigan, USA | ABV: Most between 6% and 7% (though some hover around 15%) | Tasting Notes: Orange blossom, Raspberry, Black pepper, Lime zest, Blueberry (dependent on specific bottling)
Perhaps the most diverse range of meads out there (and certainly marked by the most interesting labels), B. Nektar meads promise to satisfy a diverse array of palates. While a handful of the company’s meads are produced with traditional orange blossom honey, a handful of bottlings are made with unique bases, including agave mead, cherry chipotle mead, and more. The only thing more fun than diving into the crafty labels and unique names of these meads is actually drinking them!
Bargetto notes that meads can be enjoyed during a variety of occasions, given their versatile flavor profiles. “For instance, our new semi-dry sparkling mead with orange and ginger essences can be enjoyed in the same way as you would a grape sparkling wine. It can be paired with appetizers such as caviar, oyster, or nuts,” he says, additionally suggesting Asian dishes, spicy food, BBQ, seafood, or sushi as other heartier yet equally satisfying pairings. For dessert-style meads, Bargetto suggests enjoying them with strong cheeses, dried fruits, or nuts, as well as pear tarts or other fruit-heavy desserts.
For an added kick of flavor, Bargetto suggests serving using mead to create a hot or cold ‘spiced wine’ like beverage. “Flavorful spices of clove, cinnamon, and orange peel pair nicely with the honey flavors of the mead,” he says.
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Vicki Denig is a wine and travel journalist based between New York and Paris. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. Her work regularly appears on Liquor.com, Wine-Searcher, VinePair and more. Denig is also the Content Manager at Volcanic Selections, Paris Wine Company, Vin Fraîche, and more.