Is It Time to Pay Attention to Mead?

Luke Fraser writes the Beer Style Project and is one of the most knowledgeable Noblers. Check out his thoughts on the latest craft craze…

With recent rise in popularity of craft beer and craft spirits it may not come as a surprise that artisanal mead producers are entering the market.  A recent, and interesting entrant to the craft market is Charm City Meadworks.  Having sampled a large variety of craft beers and spirits I hold no illusions that a new craft product is going to actually be good.  Adding to that, I’ve only had mead a few times but the experience was never really that good. It was with this background that I tried two meads from Charm City Meadworks.  I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed both offerings from this small craft meadery.

If you are like me, you might not even really know what mead is or is supposed to taste like.  Until about a month ago I had a general understanding that mead is made from honey, and I associated it with olden times – Renaissance fairs and vikings and strong men drinking from horns.  George R. R. Martin mentions “sharing meat and mead” several times in the Game of Thrones books.  I’m trying to say that other than a casual understanding of mead form pop culture I was pretty ignorant about it.  Knowing it was made from honey made me think it must be sweet, and otherwise I didn’t really think of it as a modern or refined drink.  I turns out that it’s not necessarily sweet, and can be quite refined.

Charm City Meadworks, out of Baltimore, makes three varieties of mead: Original Dry, Rosemary and Wildflower Draft Mead.  With a few friends to help taste we sat down with bottles of the Original Dry and the Rosemary.  I’ll probably have to make a pilgrimage to the Baltimore/DC area to try the draft mead.

Original Dry is 12% ABV, and has the appearance of a light golden white wine.  The aroma is a little sweet, with complex notes of ripe fruit – maybe pear.  On the nose it seems like a flavourful, maybe even spicy, white wine.  One taster in our group said it reminded her of a Gewürztraminer.

The flavour is drier than you’d expect from the aroma.  There is slight residual sweetness, but it’s quite dry.  There is a lot going on in this mead.  There are floral notes, as well as a surprising tartness.  Generally it drinks really nicely, and would be great some appetizers before dinner.  We didn’t really pair it perfectly with any foods, but it would drink nicely with some nuts, cheese and salami.

The Rosemary mead is similar to the the Original, with the addition of  rosemary (obviously).  The addition of botanicals to beverages can be tricky.  It’s easy for the herb/spice flavour to take over, or to not compliment the base flavours. In this case I think I like the Rosemary mead more than the Original.  The rosemary flavour is really up front, but compliments the floral notes in the mead, and doesn’t overwhelm.  I wish I had a second bottle of the rosemary.

Generally the mead from Charm City Meadworks really impressed, and I’m looking forward to them shipping outside of the Baltimore/DC area.  If you find yourself down that way do yourself a favour and look for it.  You’ll be happy you did.

– Luke Fraser

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