Mead’s Long History: A Short Read

As mankind’s oldest fermented beverage, mead, which is made at Rohan Meadery in Fayette County, has a long, rich history.
Mead, also called metheglin , is an alcoholic beverage fermented from honey and water; sometimes yeast is added to accelerate the fermentation. Strictly speaking, the term metheglin—from the Welsh meddyglyn, “physician,” for the drink’s reputed medicinal powers—refers only to spiced mead made with the addition of spices and herbs such as cloves, ginger, rosemary, hyssop and thyme; often, however, the terms are interchanged. Mead can be light or rich, sweet or dry, or even sparkling. In the Middle Ages it was usually similar to sparkling table wine. Mead is made in modern times as a sweet or dry wine of relatively low alcohol content. Alcoholic drinks made from honey were common among the ancients of Scandinavia, Gaul, Teutonic Europe and Greece and in the Middle Ages, particularly in northern countries where grapevines do not flourish. The hydromel of the Greeks and Romans was probably like the mead drunk by the Celts and Anglo-Saxons.
In the 10th century, King Howel the Great laid down rules for mead making, proving the Welsh took great interest in the beverage. In Celtic and Anglo-Saxon literature, such as the Mabinogion and Beowulf, mead is the drink of kings and thanes, landed gentry. Chaucer’s Miller drank mead. Mead, once the most common alcoholic drink of England, lost ground to ales and beers with the advent of improved medieval agriculture and also to wines, which were imported from Gascony for the wealthy, from the 12th century onward. Finally, when in the 17th century West Indian sugar began to be imported in quantity, there was less incentive to keep bees, and the essential honey became scarcer.

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 A Primer
Mead is as varied as wine. As you’re starting to explore the wide world of flavors, it helps to talk the talk. Here’s a primer* to help you get started.
At Rohan Meadery you can savor the flavor of several melomels, metheglins, and pyments as well as a cyser and a traditional mead.
Great mead: any mead that is intended to be aged several years like vintage wine.
Short mead (also called “quick mead”): mead that is meant to age quickly for immediate consumption. Because of the techniques used to create it, short mead shares some qualities found in cider including effervescence and a “cidery” taste. Sack mead:  mead made with more honey than usual. The finished product retains an extremely high specific gravity and elevated levels of sweetness.
Show mead: “plain” mead based on honey and water with no fruits, spices or extra flavorings.
Hydromel: literally means “water-honey” in Greek. It is also used as a name for a very light or low-alcohol mead. Melomel: mead made from honey and any fruit. Depending on the fruit-base used, certain melomels may also be known by more specific names such as cyser and pyment.  Cyser: a blend of honey and apple juice fermented together. Perry: a blend of honey with milled, ripe pears. Pyment: a blend of honey and red or white grapes.