If you follow this blog, you will know I have a weakness for sweet wine. After all it was a sweet wine, or rather a sweet wine maker, that got me into this mess (ahem business) in the first place!
I’d heard of Mead of course, hardly surprising as, according to Benjamin, it’s been around for thousands of years, possibly the world’s oldest alcoholic drink. Made by fermenting honey mixed with water and yeast, it was probably first discovered when a beehive exposed to rain started to ferment naturally. It soon became popular as a source of sugar as well as alcohol.
As a bio-scientist with a speciality in fermentation, Benjamin started making Mead as a hobby in 2017, but quickly realised he was on to something. His light Meads appealed to a growing demand, thanks in part to the drink featuring in the Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.
Tom Gosnell, owner of Gosnells, London’s only Meadery, agrees. He has recently returned from the US where the Mead market is growing faster than craft beers. He says that in the US there are over 500 craft Meaderies, with a massive range of ingredients, flavours and styles.
There is an old monastic tradition of deep yellow, high alcohol and outrageously sweet Mead. Modern Mead makers such as Benjamin and Tom are making lighter Meads, at just 5.5% alcohol. These Meads make an interesting alternative to wine and answer the demand for lower alcohol drinks.
The interestaround botanicals in Gin also plays in its favour. The nectar bees collect for honey comes from different flowers (botanicals), affecting the flavour of the honey and making each mead unique, depending on the place, the season and the year. As well as the light Mead, Shire Meadery offers an Elderflower infused Mead with an oak aged Mead on the way. Benjamin also brews limited edition honey Meads for special occasions and creates botanical infusions to order.
The healthy and natural image of honey helps too. Benjamin insists you don’t have to spend a lot of money on pricey Manuka honey to enjoy health benefits, he recommends British Heather Honey instead.
Although traditionally a country product, you no longer have to leave town to discover Mead. Five years ago, Tom Gosnell started to make his lighter, drier style of Mead in Peckham, London.
To diversify, in 2018 he brewed his very first vintage mead, released in November. It is made uniquely from 100% London honey; the hives are in Woodberry Wetlands N16 and Lea Bridge Road E10. Helped by the hot summer, the 2018 has a very different taste profile, more complex than their ‘Lightly Sparkling Modern Mead’ which is made from orange blossom honey from Spain.
Presented in a beautiful wax-embossed 75cl bottle, the Gosnell’s Vintage Mead 2018 is the same strength as most wines, 12% alcohol.
Interested in learning more? Join a ‘Make your own Mead’ course, held every Saturday throughout January in Peckham. In two hours you will tour the Meadery, taste their ‘Lightly Sparkling Modern Mead’, the Vintage 2018 and samples of seasonal Meads made using different honeys and fermentation techniques. You will leave with a 4.5 litre bottle of fermenting Mead, based on your own “must” and instructions on how to finish the brew at home, and a warning of what to expect from the fermentation process.
Don’t worry the Gosnell team will provide a mead-care helpline for any fermentation anxiety! A sparkling start to the New Year.