View Full Version : New to Mead, and confused

01-19-2010, 08:57 PM
Hello all!

I just registered here specifically so that I could make this post and hopefully get some advice. :)

I've wanted to try mead all my life. I'm a fan of fantasy/sci-fi novels and invariably there's someone drinking mead in the dark ages....I've always been fascinated by what mead would taste like. It finally dawned on me to find out if it was commercially available. I live in North Carolina - I stopped into the wine shops in town asking if they had any idea where I could find some mead, and one of them (Carolina Cheese Company) said that they carried mead. I bought a bottle as a curiosity so that I could try it and have my friends try it.

It was Empire Royal Mead (http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/empire-royal-mead/77697/).

I didn't give particular thought to the taste or consistency at the time because I had nothing to compare it to; I thought that it was an absolutely fantastic drink and promptly drank the bottle and bought another...and drank it too. While my wife doesn't grief me for what I spend money on, I can't spend $30 on a bottle of mead without feeling guilty, so I went online and thought I would try finding a better price on mead, especially given how much I loved it and wanted to make it a regular drink.

I found http://hiddenlegendwinery.com/ and ordered a case of mead - I bought a variety pack (http://hiddenlegendwinery.com/store/ProductList.asp?Catalog=6B98480E-3576-45F8-9A67-36E940FD4B64) of flavors thinking that I'd sample it all and find what I like the best. It arrived today, and after anxiously breaking open several bottles of different flavors to try them, I discovered that mead is not all created equally.

The mead I originally discovered, that I loved and got hooked on was a dark, amber liquid that smelled strongly of honey, tasted like honey (albeit fermented), and while it wasn't....thick...it made me think I was going to have to drip it into my mouth. It was sweet, honey-like, and absolutely wonderful.

The mead I got in my case was like wine. Dark mead, spiced mead, golden mead...all of it came in what was basically a wine bottle, and tastes like wine with a hint of honey. I love honey, and I want honey with a hint of something, not wine with a hint of honey.

I'm sorely disappointed. I looked up the company that makes the mead I first tasted (a brewery in Florida) and the guy who answered the phone said that he was just an employee in a liquor store and I'd have to talk to the owners about shipping, he knows nothing about mead.

I'm desperate to recapture the thick and honey-laden taste I found, and to not pay $30 for a bottle of it. The link I provided above to the ratebeer.com thing has pretty good descriptions of what the mead is like.

For you, the mead community, I ask this:

1. Which is more typical of mead? The hint-of-honey wine that I have now, or the thick amber nectar I discovered first? It really is like the difference between beer and Guinness.

2. I have no interest in personally making mead, which seems to be what these forums are driven towards...but I would be a lifetime customer of the meadery that can provide something like the Empire Royal Mead I discovered. How can I expand my knowledge and taste when bars don't know what mead is and there's nowhere locally that I can find on the internet or elsewhere that makes mead?

3. Is the type of mead that I'm describing "classifiable" into a mead category that I can say and knowledgeable people will know exactly what I'm talking about? For example, if you ask me what kind of beer I like, and I say "Guinness" you know immediately that I like thick, dark beer. Or if I tell you that I like my steaks medium-rare. What's the classification or description for the mead that I like so that I can try finding more like it?

Thanks for reading, look forward to replies.

New Mead Fan in North Carolina

Medsen Fey
01-19-2010, 09:41 PM
Welcome to Gotmead Dash!

I've tasted the Empire mead (tasting notes in the virtual tasting thread in the Patron's area) and it is good. It is a Polish style mead; unfortunately I didn't get a measurement of the gravity (I'll just have to correct that oversite) so I can't say with certainty which of the Polish styles it is though I believe it may be what would be called a trójniak (made with one part honey and two parts water) based on the alcohol content.

This mead is a very rich, very sweet, full bodied mead - almost too sweet for my taste. It has a very strong honey aroma and flavor and is of high quality.

The bad news is that finding other meads like it are also probably going to be expensive. The imported Polish meads are costly and hard to find. There are several other meaderies around and perhaps someone can help to identify one that would be close to what you are looking for. Fox Hill Mead (http://www.foxhillmead.com/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=4) is in your part of the country and has a sweet spiced mead that's an award winner - it might be worth a taste (or two). The most commonly available mead in most liquor stores (and Renaissance festivals) is Chaucer's mead, which is also a dessert mead that is very sweet with a lot of honey flavor, though it is not as dark and rich and the Empire mead. B. Nektar (http://www.bnektar.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14&Itemid=14) also has some that you may be able to order - the buckwheat might be something for you to taste.

As you have already pointed out, there is a wide range of mead from light and dry to rich, heavy and sweet. Trying different mead will give you the opportunity to find which ones fit your palate best. Many meaderies can ship direct depending on your state laws so ordering directly can often get you things that you can't find at the liquor stores.

I hope you're able to find more that you like.


01-19-2010, 09:44 PM
#4. I'd call the one you liked a dessert mead. They tend to be very honey filled, sweet, and rich. Not something you drink with food, for instance. But from a snifter a glass at a time. You can also look for Polish style meads. They are often pricy but they are giant meads generally - tons of honey, well aged, oh so very yummy.

2. There is no one style of mead, just like beer. As you correctly have figured out, asking for the right type is the key.

You might want to understand some of the terms used to describe alcoholic beverages. I'd suggest you read through the Newbie Guide to get an understanding of what terms mead, er, mean.

There have been a LOT of folks come to GotMead? with the idea of finding a commercial mead that end up home brewing. As well as continuing to drink commercial meads. *grin* Come on in, the water's fine!

One big difference between commercially available beer and commercially available mead is that beer doesn't need (and sometimes doesn't appreciate) much aging. I believe that is one of the reasons that a lot of us brew mead, we are able to put the age on the beverage that it needs/deserves. Now that being said, there are many tasty brews out there that you can serve up in just a few months.

Good luck with your quest!

Big Mac
01-19-2010, 09:44 PM
When people ask me what mead tastes like, I ask them to tell me what wine tastes like. When they invariably tell me what Cab or Merlot tastes like, I ask them if Riesling or Moscato tastes like that. They understand the variety then.

01-19-2010, 10:06 PM
Hey folks!

I cued in on polish mead and did some more research and came up with this:

Bernardynski Royal Mead (http://egdonline.com/stawski/Wine/pages/page_7.html) is $12.99 per bottle.

Kurpiowski Royal Mead (http://egdonline.com/stawski/Wine/pages/page_6.html) is $19.99 per bottle and has apparently won bunches of awards.

These are both (made?) or sold by Stawski Imports. Without tasting them, I don't know how to compare them to the mead that I described originally. Anyone with input or advice for me on this one?

01-19-2010, 10:16 PM
I haven't tasted the Empire, but I would suspect from your description that the Kurpiowski would be more aligned with your taste. Let me also suggest that you look for a bottle of Jadwiga, which is the creme-de-la-creme of Polish meads. It is a poltorak, which means that it is one of very few meads produced that have more honey than water in the recipe. Jadwiga is also aged in oak casks for a minimum of 6 years, giving it added depth and a nice deep amber color. It sounds like the kind of stuff that you're looking for. ;D

There's a great thread in the Hive discussing the various classifications of Polish mead, starting here: http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?p=135139#post135139

01-19-2010, 10:25 PM
I saw Jadwiga in an online store, but it was $45 per bottle. I'm looking for something more cost effective than the $30 per bottle available to me locally for Empire Royal Mead.

01-19-2010, 10:47 PM
Less than $30/bottle will be difficult for the kind of mead you're after. The trouble is that all the best "dessert sweet" meads require more than the usual amount of care and aging, to allow them to develop to their full potential. That, and the relative expense of the ingredients usually chosen for this style of mead, tend to push up the price. I can think of a few other meads (Rabbit's Foot's 'Melia,' Wild Blossom's 'Sweet Desire,' and Medovina's 'Sweet Melissa' might all be meads that you'd enjoy) in this category, but $30+ tends to be the going price for a bottle of most of these. Sweet Melissa can be had for a slightly more reasonable price ($22/bottle), directly from the meadery if he can ship to your state.

01-20-2010, 09:25 AM
I know you said you didn't want to make your own, but Joe's Ancient Orange is very easy to make & I think it might be what you are looking for. I've made 2 batches so far & both are quite sweet (maybe too sweet for my taste) & the honey certainly comes through. They are also orange flavor, so you'd have to want that as well.

It requires patience because it isn't that good right out of the fermentor, but letting it sit a few months I was very surprised at how different it tasted.

01-20-2010, 03:57 PM
Yeah, I make it because I'm too cheap to buy it myself--and I'm not even much of a drinker. If you make it yourself you can make it however you like much less expensively than you could buy it--my most expensive batch has been around a C-note for 5 gallons in bulk aging, and when it's done I'll have many more than 3 or 4 bottles of mead at the same price.

Plus, it's just FUN, and darned satisfying. Your only real alternatives to paying the price at the liquor shop is to make it yourself, or be really good friends with someone else who does. And buy them honey.

With all that said, I do have to say that buckwheat might not be to your taste if you really like that sweet honey taste, as it has a very strong smell and flavor to it that isn't stereotypically honey-like. A lot of folks here like that barnyard taste, but I'm not keen on it, even when well done.

01-20-2010, 05:37 PM
hee hee! I warned you!

Seriously, would all these folks be wrong? You can get started for very little $$.

The first $$ I'd spend would be to become a Patron and get access to the BEST recipes. Only Sucessful and Tested ones are in the Patron Recipe section. Or go buy a copy of "The Compleat Meadmaker" by Ken Schramm.

The issue is that you like the top-end of meads. I feel your pain. I can always walk into a store and fall in love with the best thing in there. grr.

Go read the Newbie Guide and see what you think. There is a lot of help available if you decide to take the plunge!

Come on in, the water is fine!


Brad Dahlhofer
01-21-2010, 12:26 AM
In February, you'll be able to get B. Nektar in stores in North Carolina. I'm sure we can arrange a private tasting while I'm in your area. Anyone else in NC want one while I'm at it? :)


01-21-2010, 02:15 AM
When are you coming to visit CA? ;D

01-21-2010, 07:42 AM

Of course, California's a big state...maybe we'd better be more specific!

01-28-2010, 10:54 PM
These are both (made?) or sold by Stawski Imports.

Stawski Imports their Mead from Poland, they don't make their own Mead.

However, the mead they import is absolutely WONDERFUL... ;D