Mead, often referred to as the “nectar of the gods,” is a delicious and historic fermented beverage made from honey. With its roots dating back thousands of years, mead has been enjoyed by civilizations across the world.
Mead was traditionally considered more of a European drink from medieval times (just look at the popularity of Mead at Renaissance fairs!) and a minor player in the US alcoholic beverage market.
However, with the advent of the craft beer scene, smaller brewers also began making this ancient “honey wine” and there were even some meaderies set up towards the end of the 20th Century.
Over the last 20 years, especially in the 2010s, Mead has seen a huge revival in the US with American Mead Makers Association (AMMA) estimating over 500 small-scale mead manufacturers were operating in the United States as recently as 2020.
But just what is this magical Ancient drink, and if you haven’t tried it yet, where can you buy mead? In this post, I will explore some of the best places where you can buy mead and embark on a delightful mead-hunting journey.
What Is Mead?
Mead is an ancient fermented beverage that holds a rich history dating back thousands of years. It is created through the process of fermenting honey with water and is often flavored with real fruit, spices, grains, or herbs.
The origins of honey mead can be traced back to many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Vikings, and Celts.
In these societies, mead was highly regarded with coveted recipes often associated with myths, legends, and religious ceremonies. It was believed to possess magical and mystical qualities and was often consumed during celebrations and rituals.
The production of mead involves mixing raw honey with water to create a honey solution, known as a “must.” Yeast is then added to the must, initiating the fermentation process.
The yeast consumes the sugars present in natural honey, converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The length of fermentation can vary, typically ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the desired flavor and strength of the mead.
Mead can be classified into different types based on its natural ingredients and production methods. Traditional mead refers to the basic blend of fermented honey, water, and yeast.
However, it’s common to find variations, such as melomel (fruit-flavored mead), metheglin (spiced mead), and braggot (mead brewed with malted grains).
The flavor profile of mead can range from dry to sweet, depending on the amount of residual sugars left after fermentation.
It can exhibit a wide range of aromas and tastes, including floral, fruity, herbal, or spicy notes, depending on the mixed ingredients used during fermentation.
Mead has become a beverage of choice for those seeking unique and diverse flavors beyond traditional beer and wine.
With its ancient roots and versatile nature, mead continues to captivate the taste buds of brew enthusiasts around the globe, keeping its storied legacy alive in the modern world.
Is Mead a Beer?
Mead is not classified as a beer but rather as a unique alcoholic beverage in its own right. Mead, also known as “honey wine,” is produced by fermenting a mixture of honey and water.
While both mead and beer involve fermentation, they differ in their primary ingredients and production processes.
Beer is typically made from malted barley, water, hops, and yeast. It undergoes a brewing process where the starches in the barley are converted into fermentable sugars through mashing and boiling. The addition of hops provides bitterness and flavor, and the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol.
In contrast, mead relies on honey as its primary fermentable sugar source. The fermentation of honey and water can occur naturally or with the addition of yeast. Various fruits, spices, or grains may be incorporated to create different flavors and styles of mead.
Find out more about the differences between mead and beer here.
Is Mead a Wine?
Although mead is often referred to as “honey wine,” strictly speaking, mead is not considered a wine but rather a distinct beverage category.
Like wine, mead is created through the process of fermentation. However, wine swaps honey for grapes or other sugar-rich fruits as the source of sugar, while mead is made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water. This traditional honey fermentation process gives mead its unique honey flavor profile.
Mead can be produced in a range of styles, similar to wine. It can be classified as still or sparkling, dry or sweet, and can incorporate various fruits, spices, or grains for added complexity. The flavors and aromas of mead can be reminiscent of wine, with the flavor of honey, flowers, fruits, and even herbs.
The historical roots of mead are deeply intertwined with the origins of weld mead is believed to predate wine, making it one of the oldest known alcoholic beverages. It has been enjoyed by different cultures across the world, from ancient civilizations to medieval Europe and beyond.
While mead shares some similarities with wine, such as its fermentation process and alcoholic content, its use of honey as the primary fermentable sugar sets it apart. This distinction makes mead a unique beverage category, separate from both beer and wine.
Read more about mead vs wine and the differences here.
Where Can I Buy Mead?
Hopefully, we have whetted your appetite for a nice cool glass of mead and its perfect honey flavor. The only question now is- where can you find this almost mythical honey “wine”?
Fortunately, the rise in popularity of mead in the US now means it’s quite easy to find, from your local 7/11 or liquor store to nearby craft breweries and even dedicated Meaderies.
Honey wine lovers can also look online for a wide range of meads that can be delivered to their door.
Local Grocery or Liquor Stores
One of the most convenient places to find mead is at your local grocery stores, supermarkets, or specialty beverage shops.
I was amazed the last time I was in the nearby 7/11 at just how many meads they now carry, including some from award-winning mead makers such as the Bargetto Winery in California, who have been producing Chaucer’s Mead since the 1960s.
Many well-stocked liquor stores carry a variety of meads, ranging from traditional to modern flavors. While the selection may vary depending on your location, exploring these stores can often lead to pleasant surprises.
Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for recommendations or check their online inventory before visiting.
Meaderies and Breweries
Meaderies and breweries that specialize in crafting mead are an excellent choice for purchasing this ancient libation. These establishments often have their own on-site production, allowing you to witness the process firsthand and learn more about the art of mead-making.
Some meaderies even offer tasting sessions, allowing you to sample different mead varieties before making your purchase. Research local meaderies and breweries in your area to discover these hidden gems (mead-making operations are now present in most American states).
Michigan is one of the most prolific mead-producing states with Esquire magazine even saying it could well be “mead’s Mecca” in the US.
Arizona is also one of the prominent mead-producing states with the Central Valley plains of the state, as it’s host to the wildflower blooms that attract the bees followed by the mead winemakers. The Superstition Meadery in Arizona distributes to large names like Cost Co and Trader Joe’s nationwide.
California, which is home to the Rabbits Foot Meadery, also has many mead-producing businesses, especially in the Greater Bay Area. And, if you are looking for some award-winning meads, Colorado hosts the Mazer Cup annually, which is an international awards competition for meads.
You can find an uptown-date list of Meaderies in the USA at the website of Mead World. They make a great day out!
Check out the taproom at your local craft brewery, which may also stock a selection of meads or turned their hand at brewing some mead themselves.
Online Mead Retailers
The internet has revolutionized the way we shop for beverages, and mead is no exception. Numerous online retailers specialize in offering a wide range of meads from various producers and regions.
Shopping online provides the advantage of accessing a vast selection that may not be available locally. It also allows you to compare prices, read customer reviews, and conveniently have mead delivered to your doorstep.
However, keep in mind that some states or countries have restrictions on shipping alcohol, so be sure to check the legalities before making a purchase.
Our favorite online mead retailers include:
- Twisted Horn – A California-based retailer that produces all the mead they sell in-house at their California location. They currently offer a wide variety of meads that cater to every taste and will happily ship their mead across the whole of the USA. popular meads include Bauhaus mead, a complex mead that uses orange blossom honey, along with fruits such as blueberry, Meyer lemon, Madagascar Vanilla, and a touch of lavender, and Jarl Grey mead which combines orange blossom honey with blackberry, raspberry, Meyer lemon, yuzu, and Earl Grey Tea for an off-dry mead.
- Drizly – Drizly has taken the business model for ordering food on your phone via an app and applied it to the world of alcohol. As well as their extensive beer lists, they also search for meads based on your location and provide many other ways to filter what you search for. They even allow for orders outside the USA, so if you’re ever on a trip abroad and get a hankering for mead, they can find where to get the mead that is nearest to you. using location search shortens Drizly’s delivery times and they even say once the order has been placed, delivery can be made within 60 minutes. Wow – a great option for when you want mead at your door in a hurry!
- Craftshack – Another nationwide distributor who deals in meads is Caddyshack, which specializes in working with liquor stores across the states, so you can find either local favorites or try something from further afield. Craftshack has not only made it easy to order mead online but also to enjoy drinks and meads from all across the nation in the comfort of your own home.
- Batch Mead – One of California’s best well-known family-owned and run meaderies, Batch Mead has a huge online presence and even ships other small-batch meads from the California area. Fruit-based meads brewed in small batches available online at Batch Mead include Sweet Honeydew & Grapefruit, Blackberry & Orange Peel Rum Barrel Aged, and even a Coffee-flavored mead. best of all, they have all the correct licenses for shipping nationwide with most deliveries arriving between 5 – 14 days after the order is placed and fulfilled by UPS or FedEx.
Renaissance Fairs and Festivals
Renaissance fairs and festivals offer a unique and immersive experience for mead enthusiasts. These events often feature medieval-themed markets where artisans, craftsmen, and performers gather to celebrate the culture of the past.
Mead is a popular beverage in these settings, and you can find a variety of mead vendors showcasing their products. Enjoy the lively atmosphere while sipping on a glass of mead and take the opportunity to purchase bottles to bring home as souvenirs.
Specialty Wine and Beer Shops
If you have exhausted your local liquor store or convenience store options, consider exploring specialty wine and beer shops. These establishments often have a carefully curated selection of unique and rare beverages, including mead.
The knowledgeable staff in these stores can guide you through the different mead options available, suggest food pairings, and offer insights into the characteristics of each variety. These shops are a treasure trove for those looking to expand their mead collection or discover new flavors.
Farmer’s markets are not just for fresh produce and artisanal goods; they can also be an unexpected source for finding mead. Some local beekeepers and honey producers venture into mead production, offering t own unique creations at these markets.
Supporting local producers not only ensures the freshness and quality of the mead but also allows you to connect with the community and learn more about the ingredients used in the brewing process.
Where Can You Buy Mead?: Final Thoughts
Finding a bottle of mead is easier than ever before, thanks to the growing popularity of this historic beverage.
Whether you choose to explore local liquor stores, visit meaderies and breweries, shop online, attend renaissance fairs, browse specialty wine and beer shops, or explore farmers markets, each option offers its own unique experience and access to a diverse selection of meads.
Embrace your inner Viking or medieval enthusiast and embark on a mead-hunting adventure, indulging in this ancient elixir that has captivated taste buds for centuries. Cheers to the rediscovery of mead, the “nectar of the gods”!