Mead, often referred to as the “nectar of the gods,” is an ancient beverage with a rich history. For craft beverage enthusiasts, history buffs, home brewers, agricultural and sustainability advocates, and medieval and historical fiction fans, mead offers a unique and multifaceted experience. This blog post will explore the diverse characteristics of mead, from its color to its aging potential, providing valuable insights into this fascinating drink.

Welcome to the world of mead! If you’re passionate about craft beverages, curious about historical drinks, or simply love trying something new, this guide is for you. Today, we’ll explore the many facets of mead, a honey-based beverage that has captivated humans for millennia. We’ll cover everything from color and clarity to sweetness and aging, giving you a comprehensive understanding of what makes mead so special. By the end, you’ll not only appreciate the complexities of this ancient drink but also be ready to enjoy it with newfound knowledge.


The first thing you notice about mead is its color. This visual element can range from pure white to dark amber, and it’s an essential part of the tasting experience. Without any additions, mead can exhibit a natural spectrum of colors. However, once fruit or spices are added, mead can take on almost any hue imaginable, from deep red to bright yellow. This versatility means you can find a mead to complement any meal or occasion.

Why Color Matters

  • First Impressions: A vibrant color can set the stage for an enjoyable drinking experience.
  • Natural vs. Enhanced: Understanding whether the color is natural or the result of additives can tell you a lot about the mead.
  • Pairing: Different colors can suggest different flavor profiles, making it easier to pair with food.


Linked closely with color is clarity. Mead can be brilliant and crystal clear, or it can be hazy and unfiltered. High clarity generally means the mead has been filtered, brightening and sharpening the drink by removing yeast and bacteria. However, hazy meads are not necessarily of lower quality. In many cases, a small amount of protein and other sediments will settle in the bottle, adding to the mouthfeel and nutritional value.

The Role of Clarity

  • Filtration: Clear meads have undergone filtration, which can enhance certain characteristics.
  • Sediments: These add to the texture and can be nutritious.
  • Preference: Some people prefer the clean look of clear meads, while others enjoy the rustic feel of hazy meads.


Before anything touches your tongue, you’ll experience the aroma. This is driven by the variety of honey and the yeast used in fermentation. Honey is a whole topic on its own, with global varieties depending on what the bees worked. Wildflower honey, for instance, is highly variable and can produce a wide range of aromas. Since taste is largely influenced by smell, this element is crucial in striking a balance.

The Importance of Aroma

  • Honey Variety: Different types of honey produce different aromas.
  • Yeast Influence: The yeast used in fermentation can add unique notes.
  • Personal Preference: What smells ‘right’ to one person may be ‘wrong’ to another.


The place where the honey is produced significantly impacts the smell and flavor of the mead. Craft mead makers often use single varieties of honey, causing the mead to change from batch to batch. Honey can also be blended, which is what you’ll find in most supermarket varieties. The place affects not only the aroma but also the sugar and acid levels, making each batch unique.

Geographic Influence

  • Single Varieties: These offer a unique taste for each batch.
  • Blended Honey: This is more consistent but less distinctive.
  • Agricultural Impact: The environment where the honey is produced affects its composition.


One common misconception about mead is that it’s always sweet. In reality, mead exists on every spot of the sweetness scale, from mouth-puckering dry to extremely sweet. Residual sugar adds body, so light meads can sometimes taste thin. If a mead is too dry or sweet for your liking, you can adjust it by adding honey to dry mead or a bit of lemon to sweet mead.

Balancing Sweetness

  • Dry to Sweet Spectrum: Mead can range from very dry to very sweet.
  • Adjustments: Simple additions like honey or lemon can balance the taste.
  • Body and Flavor: Residual sugar impacts the body and overall flavor profile.


Carbonation is another characteristic that can vary widely in mead. Carbonation adds body or cuts sweetness, and meads can be still, slightly carbonated, or highly carbonated like champagne. Mead makers use carbonation to adjust mouthfeel, creating a range of experiences from a gentle fizz to a full-on sparkle.

The Effects of Carbonation

  • Body Adjustment: Carbonation can make the mead feel fuller or lighter.
  • Sweetness Balance: It can also help balance sweetness.
  • Variety: From still to sparkly, there’s a carbonated mead for every preference.

Alcohol Content

Meads can range from 2% to 18% alcohol, the limit of natural fermentation. Generally, meads under 7.5% are session meads, traditional meads are between 7.5% and 14%, and those between 14% and 18% are similar to fortified wines and are typically sweet. The alcohol content affects the bitterness and overall flavor, with mead makers balancing it out with other flavors and residual honey.

Alcohol Levels

  • Session Meads: Low alcohol, easy-drinking.
  • Traditional Meads: Moderate alcohol, balanced flavors.
  • Fortified Style: High alcohol, often sweet and rich.


As a rule of thumb, the higher the alcohol content, the longer a mead can be aged. Low alcohol meads can be enjoyed young, but high alcohol meads often become more complex with age. Unlike wine, meads don’t have vintages because honey can be stored and used in different years.

Aging Potential

  • High Alcohol: These meads improve with age.
  • Low Alcohol: Best enjoyed young but still delightful.
  • No Vintages: Honey storage allows for flexibility in production.

So there you have it.

Mead is a complex and versatile beverage with a rich history and a bright future. From its color and clarity to its aroma and aging potential, each characteristic adds to the overall experience. Whether you’re a craft beverage enthusiast, history buff, home brewer, or simply curious, there’s something special about mead that’s worth exploring. Ready to deepen your understanding? Join our community of mead lovers and share your experiences. Cheers to discovering the sweet symphony of mead!