The art of mead making is beautiful due to the fact that it can be as simple as adding water to honey and leaving it out to see what happens, but it can also be as complex as a chemistry experiment with precise measurements and rare ingredients. Mead making can be as easy or as difficult as the maker desires, thus giving the perfect opportunity for artistic expression and tailoring to individual tastes. In the following few paragraphs I hope to open your eyes to just a sliver of what mead can be.
The simplest form of mead is referred to as “Show Mead.” This mead is best as showcasing the natural essence of the unadulterated honey. Just add honey, water, and yeast together and this is what you will come up with. One might think that show meads would be fairly generic due to the simplicity of ingredients, but this could not be further from the truth. There are as many different kinds of honey as there are flowers. Although clover honey is the most common, some popular mead making honey varieties are orange blossom, Scottish heather, and Tasmanian leather-wood honey. In addition to the type of honey, the amount of honey is also a factor in the fermentation process. The general rule of thumb is that three pounds of honey per gallon of mead will ferment to dryness. Of course, the sugar content of the honey and the type of yeast also affect this. If more honey is added than the yeast can ferment, you will end up with a sweeter final product, and if less honey is added than the yeast will ferment you will end up with a dry mead with a low alcohol by volume. If you really want to get crazy, add a small amount of honey to the mead before bottling to get a sparkling mead.
If simply adding the honey to the water is too easy for you, you could always attempt a bochet. This is when you caramelize the honey before fermenting it. This will give your end product a more caramel like flavor. While this can be delicious, it will take away from the floral aromas, so much is to be considered when choosing the right variety of honey for this kind of mead. Also, honey has antibacterial properties, and caramelizing it can negate some of its positive health effects. With that being said, this is a very interesting twist to put on a mead.
So far we have talked only about honey, water, and yeast, but that is only where the story begins. Moving forward from that you have a wide variety of melomels. Now, melomels are any mead made with fruit. Many of these different types of melomels have names of their own. For example, cyser is an apple mead, morat is made from mulberries, and rubamel is made from raspberries. Pyment is a particularly interesting variety of mead, it is made with grapes and has several varieties of its own. For example, omphacomel is made with unripe grapes for a more acidic flare and hippocras is a spice pyment. Just to refresh your memory, Hippocras is a type of pyment, which is a type of melomel, which is a type of mead. The layers go deep. Of course, this is only scratching the surface of the different kinds of fruit that can be added to mead. Someone is sure to have come up for a name for most of them, but if you create something original maybe you can get to name it.
Moving on from there, we get a little more adventurous with metheglins. A metheglin is a mead made with herbs or spices. This is a broad category, because this can range from hops to pepper. However, some stand-outs are mulled mead, made with mulling spices, capsicumel, made with chili peppers, and rhodomel, made with rose petals. Basically, if it’s not poisonous and has an interesting flavor it could be right for your metheglin. Spices leave a lot of room for outside the box experimentation… and for disastrous results. Some trial and error will be needed for the perfection of any metheglin.
Last, but most certainly not least, there are braggots. If you like beer and you like mead, braggots are right for you, because it is simply a mix of the two. You get all the goodness of malted grain and honey. I personally have not tried this kind of mead, but I certainly plan on it, because it sounds like a match made in heaven.
This is only a brief overview of the many types of mead in the world. The list is already extensive, and any one of the categories could be mixed with another category to create an entirely new subcategory of mead. With all this room to explore, it is best to get fermenting right away!