So what's the deal with Mead?
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Now, I’m pretty sure you’ve wandered into a taproom or bottle shop in Singapore and seen meads on offer. If you’ve had one, then you’ll understand why it’s a thing and why there are meaderies popping up in Singapore, albeit not with the same ferocity as breweries. Meads are pleasantly sweet, a little dry, and show off all kinds of fruity aromas that bring to mind stewed fruit and ripe pome fruit like pears and apples. Overall, an approachable, gently alcoholic tap or bottle choice that you can quaff or sip and that’ll agreeably accompany anything you might be having for dinner or as a pub snack.
Let’s get back to basics to better understand this agreeable little offering and why it exists in the world of beer.
Like beer, mead starts life out with a source of fermentable sugar. While beers rely on the sugar from malted grain like barley or wheat, mead gets its sugar from honey. If we go back far enough it’s easy to see why mead easily has more history than beer, because honey can be harvested wild while grain has to be cultivated. To digress just a little further, mead has been culturally associated with ancient peoples both wild and more agrarian. The Norsemen are a more recently relatable example with the animated iteration of Beowulf coming to mind. In it, images of the Norsemen quaffing mead in horns abound. The Mead of Poetry, as Norse legend tells it was crafted from the blood of a king. If your culture is based on plundering and pillaging and not farming, the best that you can do to make sure there’s a steady supply of alcohol is to send those tending the home hearths out to harvest wild honey.
Ok, so back to modern-day mead. Honey as a starting point has its own charms. There are a plethora of honey varietals based on seasonality, flowers, fruit, and climate. Arguably, honey represents the terroir as admirably as the grape. Like how grape varietals shape the finished wine, each honey will also impart its own unique character to the finished mead. Modern brewing practice, the ability to control fermentation conditions, brewing with purer yeast strains, filtration, and dry-hopping all help to produce that appetizingly clear, straw-colored elixir poised in that stemmed glass you hold in your hand. Take a sip, close your eyes and luxuriate in the depth of flavor and lush aroma that nature has gifted you this very moment...yes, it’s awesome to be alive in Singapore!
While you may come across Gosnells and even B. Nektar more frequently in your tasting travels, be sure to look out for Lion City Meadery and Rochelle’s Rabbit which are homegrown meaderies. Both are doing brave new things with mead, some bordering on the hipsterish-ly heretic, but brave nonetheless. Just like the homegrown breweries that I have harangued you to support, our meaderies need your love. So what’s the deal with mead? It’s a drink as old as time itself, approachable and easygoing as an introduction to beer, and being taken to the next level in Singapore by gutsy brewers who are betting on you wanting something good, something different, and something made in Singapore.