Someone recently asked on the Facebook Mead group, if anybody had ever used half honey and half high sugar apple juice to make mead.
The main answer was that such a mix would yield too high a starting gravity to ferment well. That seemed to me to be ass-u-me-ing that the halves were by volume (though I think halves by weight would yield similar results).
But it got me thinking… what if it were halves by “sugar contribution”, so that half the fermentable sugars were from the honey and the other half were from the apple juice?
One problem in the mead world is that there is no universal definition of mead, except that it contains at least some significant amount of alcohol derived from fermenting honey. Some legal jurisdictions have their own definitions, usually for tax purposes, but of course they differ, and are generally made by bureaucrats with no clue what they’re talking about. This often results in the definitions seeming a bit arbitrary — 51% is fairly common, so something at, say, 50.9% is not mead, which I find ridiculous. (Did their math education never extend beyond “whole numbers”?) Mead competitions also have their own definitions, not only for “what is mead” but usually many categories as well, though that’s beyond the scope of this blog post.
Exact halves by sugar-contribution would be on the borderline of most people’s definitions of “mead”, so some folks would deny that it’s truly mead. I generally go by the definition that most of the fermented sugars (half plus one molecule) have to be from honey, in order to definitely call it mead. So, if I were making this mix, I might hesitate to call it mead. However, many others say “at least half”. So if you want to call it mead, go right ahead, but you could also call it wine, and that gets into a gray area of “what is this thing, really?”. I don’t care about it enough to argue, other than for the sake of meta-arguing about the definition. ;-)
Just for the sake of completeness: I’ve also heard some people say it’s mead if the honey-derived alcohol is a plurality (more than from any other ingredient), or at least as much as any other ingredient. I could agree with that if “other ingredient” is broadened to “other category of ingredient”. So, frex, if the sugars are 30% from grapes, 30% from pears, and 40% from honey, I’d say it’s a multi-fruit wine with honey also fermented in it. But if those are the proportions and it’s from grapes, some kind of grain, and honey, okay, I won’t object to calling it mead. And if it’s exactly 1/3 of each, we’re back to “it’s on the borderline, call it wine, beer, mead, whatever, I don’t care enough to argue.”