Saturday is National Mead Day. And while it may not be a pre-entered holiday on your wall calendar, it's certainly worth celebrating, even outside the perimeters of a Renaissance Festival or your local Beowulf reading group. Ten years ago the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) determined that the first Saturday in August would be the inaugural Mead Day, bringing awareness to the drink and boosting camaraderie for its brewers.
Also referred to as honey wine (or miruvor to Tolkien fans), the beverage is made by boiling honey and water into a syrup, adding yeast nutrients, yeast and spices, then fermenting the mixture over the course of many months -- first in a carboy and then in bottles. The result is a subtle to strong honey character with sweetness dependent on whether it's dry or sweet mead (not unlike grape wine). When brewed to the desired effect, it is complex, with balanced alcohol, akin to dessert wine, but with the presence of spices and herbs.
That National Mead Day falls on August's first Saturday may itself be arbitrary, but after a few rounds you will have no trouble thinking up plausible reasons: horned, seafaring Nordic gods, full-bosomed medieval maidens, etc.
Mead may now be where beer was 30 years ago -- a small but growing number of artisan producers, ample quantities of cheap swill, and an energized group of experimental homebrewers. There is some excellent commercially available California mead, mostly from Northern California. They are in the company of more than 150 meaderies in the United States, according to gotmead.com.
Some of the mead is coming from beer brewers, but more often, if brewers delve into the honey pot, it's to produce Braggot. Also called Brackett, this beverage bridges the gap between mead and beer using near to equal parts honey and malted barley. You may have come across the name when Strand Brewing made some for its second anniversary, or in the Spring Braggot from Craftsman Brewing. The biggest craft brewer to produce Braggot was Dogfish Head in 2009 (cleverly titled Beewolf), though the availability was limited to its tasting room.
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Want to sample the sweetness yourself and throw a little love at National Mead Day? Check out California meaderies Rabbit's Foot and Mountain Meadows at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, or Chaucer's Mead at Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice.
Or get really involved and brew your own batch. You can pick up supplies at Culver City Homebrewing and following directions at the AHA Mead Day recipe page. Cheers! Or should we say, "The Professor!"
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