Mead Magic

Mead can be made with the yeast already present in natural honey. Mixing water and honey (called must) and allow to ferment.Mead is often referred to as the Nectar of the Gods, or the Drink of Love. It is a delightful ritual beverage that can add depth to your rituals and celebrations, and you don't have to be a Viking to enjoy it.

Grab your drinking horns and cups and come to the symbel or circle!  Make a toast and imbibe!

Mead is one of the oldest beverages known, and it is deeply rooted in Pagan traditions around the world.  It is a simple wine-like drink made from honey, water and yeast, and varies in color much the way honey will; from pale yellow to deep ruby-amber.

Some mead I've tried is better than an expensive chardonnay at over ten times its price, while other samples have tasted like a flat, overly-sweet American lager!  The variety available is astounding, and every time you try a new bottle, or brew a new recipe, you open yourself to an adventure.

Honey has been used for brewing since at least 9,000 BCE and mead was being brewed in ancient Europe since at least 2,000 BCE.  The word 'honeymoon' originated with Pagan wedding celebrations where the dancing and mead were non stop, sometimes for as long as an entire moon cycle.  Mead was considered a beverage that enhanced fertility, growth, and especially the birth of a male child.  What could be more appropriate for our celebrations than a drink that celebrates nature?

On this page are links to recipes, history & lore. The most basic recipes for mead are simply honey and water with naturally occurring yeasts. It is easy to make and unlike many homemade wines, it is delicious. Many of us do not have the time to make our own mead, but there are links on this page of Meaderies and Wineries to purchase it ready made. Many of these suppliers create award winning meads of exceptional quality. 

There are several varieties of mead. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) recognizes three broad categories, each having sub categories. The importance of these divisions is that they help to understand the enormous variety of flavors that mead can assume. We like to use different types of mead for different rituals. For our handfasting, we drank traditional mead. For Summer Solstice, a fruity Melomel may be appropriate, or for harvest Sabbats, a spicy Metheglin could be nice. 

1.  Traditional - water, honey & yeast, much like a Reisling or Chardonay wine but with a unique flavor of its own 
2.  Melomel - mead flavored with fruits such as apricot, blackberry, blueberry, cranberry grapefruit, mulberry, peach, plum, strawberry, raspberry, pear, and more. This category is further broken down into three more varieties: 

  • Cyser - melomel with apple juice
  • Pyment - melomel with grape juice
  • Braggot (or bracket) - an ale or beer mead with hops and malted barley

3.  Metheglin and Hippocras - spiced meads that may have originally been created to cover the flavor of fermentation contamination.This category includes such flavors as bergamot (sometimes called Earl Grey) lavender, nutmeg, vanilla, jasmine, clove and more. 

Of course these categories are very broad. Some meads are both spiced and have fruit flavors. Some are sparkling (carbonated) and some are still. There are so many combinations that it can make your head spin. In the right hand column are some links for meaderies, history, lore, recipes and suppliers to further your studies.

Redstone Meadery makes wonderful "Reserve" meads in moon shaped bottles.Mead can be purchased at some larger wine and liquor stores, or you can ask the owner to order some for you.  It is becoming more popular so you won't get too many odd glances.  There are some lovely and creative bottle shapes and labels for mead, such as a kneeling woman shaped bottle from Slovakia (Slovak Republic), a cherry mead in a gourd shaped corked jug from the Czech Republic and one of my favorites (but over $55 a bottle) Cyser Reserve by Redstone Meadery in Paonia, Colorado.  Redstone's cycer (made with apples) uses three types of honey and comes in a wonderful moon shaped bottle!  A perfect honeymoon gift!

Usually, I prefer my mead to be slightly chilled and served with a wedge of orange.  Of course it depends on the type of mead I'm drinking, but this is a good place to start unless your meadery recommends otherwise.  Many varieties are also good at room temperature or just slightly below, some are even good over ice, and some are great warmed with or without spices as you would to mull cider.  It is even good mixed with orange juice like a Heathen style mimosa!

References & Resources

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  • The Brewery (Brewery.org) "Total Home Brewing Information" is a wonderful resource for all home brewing, wine and ale making.  They have a dedicated mead page here.
  • The Mead Maker's Page
  • Midwest Supplies Home Brewing & Winemaking Mead Supplies
  • Norther Brewer home brew supplies has several mead kits I've had great success with!
  • GotMead.com: Your Mead Resource
  • The Mazer Cup International - Mead Competition The 2014 competition is near the Vernal Equinox, March 21 & 22 in Boulder, Colorado U.S.A.
  • Places to Purchase Mead Online or By Phone:
    • Earle Estates Meadery with a wide selection of mead varieties, as well as ciders.  Click on their "Wine List" to see the choices.  About $15 a bottle.  Their contemporary semi-dry honey mead is first class and very good!
    • A lovely label with fairy tale and Pagan overtonesChaucer's Cellars (part of Bargetto Winer) classifies their mead as a "desert wine".  As of 2014 a bottle costs about $15 U.S. and although it is not my personal favorite, it is okay and has a wonderful label I tried to photograph for you as seen to the right.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.  Their list of mead varieties include traditional, raspberry and apricot, the later two I have not yet tried.  Good in taste but a little flat as in it didn't have much complexity or layers of flavor. Very strong honey taste and very sweet.  It arrives with spices sealed in tea bags for easy use along with instructions for heating and mulling to make spiced mead. When brewed according to instructions it is much better, a bit like spiced cider, but still sweet. The spices add more complexity of course with apple, cinnamon and other spicy notes. This might be good for chilly outdoor Yule rituals. This mead didn't do as well as we expected even though it has won several awards in the past, but please note, I have not tried this mead again since 2001 and every batch (just like wine) can vary drastically.
    • St. Ambrose Cellars makes fine artisan wines and a huge variety of meads.
    • Redstone Meadery:
      • From the Meadery: "Redstone follows the mantra: Good enough for Zeus, good enough for you!So look out world, because if the company has its way, within the next decade, mead will be available in every bar, tavern, restaurant, pub and liquor store across the U.S.
        Redstone produces 3 product lines of mead to show the diversity of the beverage.
        The 'Nectars,' which are available in kegs and in bottles, are 8% alcohol and sparkling. The 'Mountain Honey Wines' are 12% alcohol and still. The 'Reserve' series of mead is a dessert style mead that is produced in limited quantities and only available via our Boulder, Colorado tasting room or on the web site." (Reserve are the moon shaped bottles.)
    • Anderson's Split Pea Soup Restaurant's private label Mead  There is a strange Dutch themed restaurant in California called Andersen's that serves the most amazing pea soup and has this mead in the gift shop.  The soup with fresh rye bread special and mead pair surprisingly well together, and I stop there every time I go through Buellton (just north of Santa Barbara).  This mead is my absolute favorite, other than home brewed.  It is complex, like a good Chardonnay, with a great clean finish, excellent aroma, and not overly sweet.  Tasted in Summer 1998 & again on Samhain 2001, and again in 20012 (just to be sure! hehehe).  Very friendly people at the restaurant, attached Best Western hotel and in the gift shop. They will ship out orders, but be patient and nice, they aren't a big time mail order operation.  Cool Solvang Windmill at the restaurant and the best split pea soup ever! Restaurant closes around 10pm.
      Andersen's Pea Soup
      376 Avenue of the Flags
      Buellton, California 93427
      (805) 688-5581 Fax (805) 686-5670
      E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
      Ask for the gift shop.
    • Hidden Legend Winery: Prices are about $15 to $25 a bottle.
About the Author
Friday
Author: FridayWebsite: http://PaganPath.comEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Author & Academy Instructor
Friday is devoted to writing books and articles on a variety of Pagan subjects, and is the instructor of the online PaganPath Academy. She has studied and practiced the Craft since 1987, and worked as a professional tarot reader and vice president of a national psychic network for several decades. Currently, she is now a practicing herbalist and ordained minister. As a Master Gardener with a deep interest in permaculture, she is developing the PaganPath Sanctuary with her partner. This long term community project is an edible landscape demonstration, orchard and educational facility for future generations.

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