Mead: What’s Old Is New Again

Posted by Araza Purees on

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from three simple ingredients: water, honey and yeast. Although it’s one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages, a new generation of consumers is discovering mead anew as they look beyond traditional beer and wine for something unique and different.

According to Andrzej Wilk Jr., general manager and production manager of Orchid Cellar Meadery and Winery in Middeletown, Maryland, “People are becoming more interested in mead and they are seeking us out. It’s definitely a growing segment in the alcohol industry.”

The gluten-free movement is also driving the growing popularity of mead, added Wilk. Not only are meads gluten-free, but grain-free, too.

Orchid Cellar produces several meads. “Our traditional, old world mead is usually aged longer and has a higher alcohol content,” said Wilk, while Elemental is the company’s sparkling product line, which is packaged in a single-serve format and has a lower ABV and calorie count than most other bubbly beverages.

The Elemental sparkling meads are also made with real fruit puree.

“The benefit of real fruit puree is that we get flavors from the whole fruit, including the tartness and sourness. The flavor profile and consistency have been great for the Elemental line,” explained Wilk.

In addition, purchasing high quality, real fruit puree instead of having to process fruit on-site to make puree “literally saves us days in the production process.”

Wilk is focused on crafting premium beverages made with superior ingredients, including real fruit puree. In turn, customers are willing to pay more for the company’s meads.

The honey used in the company’s meads is sourced locally, and some is even produced on the company’s property.

“We find great joy in employing billions of honeybees while helping them maintain a healthy population and providing them with a safe pollinator sanctuary,” Wilk said.

Furthermore, “We definitely campaign to use real fruit when we can. We don’t use any flavorings. None of our products taste artificial, and that is our number one priority.”

Meanwhile, “Because we are using honey as our fermenting sugar, we’re already using a more expensive ingredient, so that increases our price point a bit,” he said. “While people may therefore pay a little more for our meads compared to a hard cider or seltzer, for example, they are expecting a higher quality product. 

Despite launching the Elemental product line just before the onset of COVID-19, Wilk said the new sparkling mead brand “has been working out great for us.”

He said the company continues to grow “little by little” every year, which is just fine for a small family business that is “more focused on product quality than quantity.”

Did you know…

  • Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from water, honey, and fermented with yeast. It’s typically flavored with spices, fruits, or even grain, to enhance the flavor. 
  • In winemaking, we often talk about terroir, which refers to the soil, climate, and agriculture methods that influence a wine’s taste; the honey used in making mead also reflects the flavors and characteristics of a particular region’s blooms.
  • Meads are aged from 3 months for lighter meads to over 3 years for heavier meads. Orchid Cellar uses both oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.
  • Preservatives are not needed for meads because honey is a natural preservative, while the high alcohol content also acts as a preservative.

The alcohol content of mead ranges between 16 to 18 percent for classic meads and 6 to 13 percent for Orchid Cellar’s lighter meads. The alcohol is a result of natural fermentation and Orchid Cellar does not fortify its meads.

Photo Credit: Elemental Mead

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