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If you haven't heard of mead — a funky natural wine made by fermenting fruits, herbs, and honey — it's time to tune in, as this surprisingly versatile, food-friendly drink category is blowing up and already on the rise in consumer sales this year. Although various forms of mead have been around since the medieval ages on a global scale, modern mead-makers are turning the original formula on its head with inventive and experimental new approaches to the craft.
Misfit mead might not easily fit into conventional drink categories like beer, cider, or wine, but it's damn deserving of a category of its very own. Part of this magical tonic's allure is its complexity in structure, tannins, texture, and taste, as meads vary quite drastically from bottle to bottle based on ingredients, seasonality, and aging time. If you're drinking mead, expect an earthy, dry, herbaceous beverage with a bit of a sour fermented bite and usually (but not always) some light carbonation. We think it falls somewhere between a funky Belgian sour beer and a juicy, raw kombucha. But then again, every mead we've ever tried tasted totally different, some tasting ripe and fruity while others are woodsy and bitter like an amaro.
Local mead-maker Raphael Lyon from New York-based meadery Enlightenment Wines shed some light on the topic in an interview with Forbes. According to Lyon: “People make the mistake of thinking about mead as a wine that’s made from honey and water,” he said. “If you start in the other direction, you’ll see that mead is a way of taking fruits and herbs and adding honey to them and fermenting it all together. The idea of just honey-plus-water doesn’t have any kind of historic authenticity.”
Lyon also emphasized the importance of herbs and berries in the process, saying, “Using herbs and botanicals doesn’t just provide a flavor, it’s critical for the fermentation process. It clears the wine and it prevents microbial spoilage.”
From ingredients like foraged fruits and flowers to aromatic lavender, marjoram, and rose hips, the world of mead is more of a philosophy than a category, leaving much to explore. Here are five delicious meads we think are perfect for spring.
$32.96 per bottle BUY NOW
In case you're tired of the rosé wine craze, we have another funky pink drink we think you might like to sip instead. This Night Eyes Mead from New York-based meadery Enlightenment Wines is made traditionally from locally farmed and foraged herbs and fruit, and then barrel-fermented and aged for a minimum of one year.
This sparkling mead is ripe with notes of apple, cherry, and sumac, and it's perfectly tart and refreshing for spring. Pair this with your favorite creamy goat's milk cheese on your next date night as an apéritif to whet your palate.
$18.00 per half-bottle BUY NOW
This mead from award-winning New Hampshire-based Moonlight Meadery is made from local unprocessed wildflower honey and foraged wild mountain-grown blueberries. Light, refreshing, and dry — yet super boozy at a respectable 14% ABV — this wild mead will get any springtime soirée started.
Pair this frisky mead with berries, spicy charcuterie, creamy cheese like brie, and (as the brand recommends) "romantic activities."
$15.00 per bottle BUY NOW
The best-selling original mead from Boulder, Colorado-based Redstone Meadery, Black Raspberry Nectar tastes as refreshing as it sounds. With the mouth feel and texture of beer and the light, juicy taste of a lower-alcohol wine, this medium-sweet mead practically screams spring.
Pair this sweet 8% ABV mead with barbecued fare and mild cheeses, or use it in place of soda to top your favorite warm-weather cocktails to add a juicy and funky kick.
$36.00 per bottle BUY NOW
Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries — yes please! This juicy, berry-licious mead from Prescott, Arizona-based Superstition Meadery is as luscious as it looks. With its deep magenta hue, wine-like tannic structure, and dreamy-dry finish, this dark and mysterious mead will keep your guests guessing.
Pair this bold 13.5% ABV mead with spicy grilled meats, empanadas with hot sauce, and smoked charcuterie at your next barbecue.
$26.96 per half-bottle BUY NOW
Another delicious yet more daring expression from Enlightenment Wines, this Dagger Mead isn't for the faint of heart. Wildly delicious and made from tart black cherries, foraged hemlock and fir, and a weird flowering plant called yarrow, this mead has a unique aromatic herbal character, a structure similar to an amaro, and a bitter aftertaste that lingers for a little longer.
You don't have to pair this special mead with anything. Instead, sip it neat after an al fresco meal with friends as a tasty digestif.