What Makes a Good Mead?
We like to say that the mark of a good mead is how much you enjoy it. That said, not all meads are created equal, and there are guidelines that experts use to judge mead competitions. As you explore the world of mead, here are seven questions that can help guide your own, personal, taste tests.
What style of mead is this?
The American Mead Makers Association recognizes 10 different styles of mead. Meads are categorized by their ingredients (including the varietal of honey), sweetness and/or ABV. When comparing two meads, pick them from the same category. For example, it would be hard to compare a “session mead” which has an ABV under 10% to a “dessert mead” which has an ABV over 14%.
How sweet or dry is this mead?
Sweetness is measured by the percentage of unfermented sugars remaining in the mead when it is finished. Like wines, meads can range from very dry to very sweet.
What is the carbonation level?
Some meads are carbonated, like beer and champagne, while others are “still.” It’s up to the meadmaker whether the finished mead will be sparkling. Bubbles can naturally occur during the fermentation process, or be added at the end. Several studies have suggested that our perception of sweetness is affected by carbonation levels, so the flavor of a mead may also change as it loses carbonation.
What is the alcohol content?
Meads can range anywhere from 8% to over 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). A higher ABV mead will have the subtle burning sensation we associate with liquor and a stronger “alcohol” flavor. Alcohol levels affect the flavor and mouthfeel of a mead.
Do the flavors play well together?
All meads have three basic ingredients: honey, water and yeast. But that’s just the beginning. There are endless varieties of mead: many are made with spices, herbs, fruits, vegetables and even barley. As you try these meads, consider whether the flavors are balanced and complimentary. Good meads generally do not have a strong, dominant flavor that overwhelms all the others.
What about the clarity?
As a general rule, meads that are crystal-clear are preferable to ones that are hazy or cloudy.
As you compare meads, keep in mind that environmental factors could also be influencing your experience. Temperature, type of glass, context, and any foods you’re eating can make a difference. So, keep on trying them. We hope you’ll give our Melo Lion meads a second, third or fourth chance to become your favorite!