I think I first heard of mead when reading Beowulf in Brit-Lit (British Literature) class in high school in about 1979. (Yes, it’s technically British, though it’s about Danes. Remember, it was written in Old English.) To the best of my recollection, though, I never actually had mead until sometime around fifteen years later, when my best friend’s girlfriend (no, she didn’t used to be mine) brought some to Pennsic, the big annual East-coast USA shindig of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).
In the early 2010’s, my wife bought me some mead kits, which I made and enjoyed. So that was my first time making mead, though I was still pretty clueless about why I was doing each step, what could be done differently, and why one might.
A few years later, we were in Colchester, Vermont, looking for dinner near our hotel, and Yelp suggested Colchester Mead Hall. There wasn’t much else close by, they had some food that sounded good, I was curious about mead, and . . . they did flights! So that was my first taste of commercial meads. (Since then I’ve had flights at various other meaderies, such as Silver Hand fairly close to home in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Nani Moon much further away, Kapa’a, Hawai’i, on Kauai.)
Fast forward to 2020. The COVID pandemic had started to take hold. There was lockdown. Stores were running very low on the usuals: milk, toilet paper, and bread. People were starting to bake their own bread. Pretty soon, stores were starting to run low on baking yeast. My wife has a friend who bakes a lot . . . and who offered to share out her stash of yeast.
That got me wondering . . . can you make beer, wine, etc., with bread yeast? I researched, and found a recipe for Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead, aka JAOM. (Not linked here because it’s a careful balance of bad habits that you shouldn’t get started on. Lots of people also try to modify it, that doesn’t work out well, and they get discouraged and quit mead.) For the second kit, I had gone to my LHBS (which really is called My Local HomeBrew Shop) and gotten “real equipment”, i.e., an actual carboy, plus caps with and without holes, and an airlock, so I was well equipped to just go ahead and make it, so I did!
It turned out pretty good . . . but much sweeter than I liked. By that time I had started hanging around in the Facebook “Mead” group, where BTW I am now dubbed a “Group Expert”. (Guess that doesn’t take much beyond running off at the keyboard!) I gained a basic understanding of the process, and realized that I could use the half-packet of Mangrove Jack M05, that I had left over from the second kit, to chew through some of those sugars… while still leaving some behind. That brought it down from a much-too-sweet 1.04something to a much nicer 1.02something. And of course the extra alcohol was a nice bonus!
Now I was thoroughly hooked on mead. I found a number of other resources (see Links), and my eyes were opened to the even wider world of mead. I’ve since made several more batches (including some JAOM variants, some of which turned out okay), planned many more, and learned enough that I feel compelled to share it with the world. It’s also something to keep me out of too much trouble now that I’m semi-retired . . . and just might provide barely enough income for Codosaurus to turn a profit, to keep the IRS happy with the shiny-tech-toy deductions I want to keep taking. :-)