Could mead be the next big drink trend? Minnesota mead-makers weigh in

Categories: Brews, Etc.

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Alberto Alerigi

Craft beer may be all the rage right now, but it started with local homebrewers learning their skills and growing their hobbies into full-on business plans well before it hit the public consciousness. Similarly, Minnesota boasts a strong mead-making scene, and over the past 10 years, five Minnesota mead makers have won top awards at the Nation Homebrewers Conference. So could mead be the next big thing? What is mead, anyway?

See also:
Minnesota's craft beer boom is the focus of new documentary film

Some call it honey wine, though the term is not endorsed by its makers. Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey, yeast, water, and often fruits, spices, and herbs. It ranges in alcoholic content but often settles between 14-20%.

While mead is one of the most historic beverages, with evidence of its existence from Norway to Greece and China, there is no longstanding mead culture that matches that of beer or wine.

"I think we're maybe creating it now," notes mead-maker Steve Fletty, as the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) have crafted guidelines and strict definitions.

"In my opinion," says mead-maker Thomas Eibner, "the breadth of what you are able to do with meads is so much greater than wine." Alcoholic content, carbonation, ingredients, and flavor vary widely as grains, fruits, and honeys offer room for experimentation.

"Most people have the hardest time when they try to determine if it is a beer or a wine," mead-maker Matt Weide says, "I usually tell them that beer is made from grain, wine is made from fruit, and mead is made from the nectar of flowers made possible by bees."

To complicate it further, mead bears similarities to dessert wines, but mead with grain tends to be more like beer. It's a brew that spans profiles, making it hard to classify. The Minnesota brewers all include their choice of honey as a primary piece, but fruits range from cherries and raspberries to currants and rhubarb. Start-to-finish time can range widely, though the consensus among the five Minnesota mead-makers was a period of at least three months for most quality meads.

"A few years ago," mead-makers Curt and Kathy Stock reflect, "only homebrewers and Renaissance Fair people were familiar with mead. That is changing with a quickly expanding commercial industry. Mead as a beverage was basically saved by homebrewers because, until recently, there were not many commercial meaderies." Curious drinkers are recommended, almost universally by the five, to try White Winter Winery from Iron River, Wisconsin (and not available in Minnesota). Minnesota makes a local version courtesy of Winehaven. Weide is currently exploring the market if a business plan for his own meadery is feasible.

While Minnesota may be raking in awards on the homebrew side of the game, commercially the state has room to grow. Michigan and California lead the way in commercial meaderies, while the Pacific Northwest is also a popular region. The honey supplies of the Upper Midwest help the region distinguish itself in the industry even without a commercial presence.

Does mead sound like it might be your next beverage of choice? August 2 is Mead Day, and several homebrewing clubs around the metro have events planned. Meanwhile, mead-maker Steve Piatz is publishing a book, The Complete Guide to Making Mead, on July 15.

Minnesota's award winning mead makers:


  • Matt Weide - 2014 AHA Mead Maker of the Year (key lime mead, 13% ABV)

  • Thomas Eibner - 2012 Mead Maker of the Year (Strawberry Tupelo Mead, 14% ABV)

  • Thomas Eibner - 2009 Mead Maker of the Year (Two Cherry Tupelo Mead, 14% ABV)

  • Steve Piatz - 2008 AHA Mead Maker of the Year (Not Mary Anne--a sparkling sweet ginger mead, 14%+ ABV)

  • Steve Fletty - 2007 AHA Mead Maker of the Year (sparkling orange blossom reisling, 12% ABV)

  • Curt and Kathy Stock - 2005 AHA Mead Maker of the Year (Muscat Pyment, 15% ABV)

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44 comments
GDP0101
GDP0101

I think a lot of mead recent success has/had a lot to do with the game Skyrim.  A lot of younger people like myself first heard of mead through this game.

Jeremy Deysach
Jeremy Deysach

Drinking this will give you +220 Strength, +160 Agility, +200 Stamina and +1,200 Mana

Matt Weide
Matt Weide

Shameless plug: Follow me at matt weide@BluehandMead on twitter!

Jawn Bourne
Jawn Bourne

Nicee.. I have a ginger ginseng mead right now, its my favorite

Jay Boller
Jay Boller

My guess is mead-makers might say, "Yes, it is."

Dan Kurth
Dan Kurth

David Prather...... It's time

Lily White
Lily White

That's right! You've had my mead. Always a few bottles around the wine cellar somewhere. Think I have some choke cherry mead we ought to break into sometime!

social16
social16

How can you go wrong with alcoholic honey?

 "White Winter Winery from Iron River, Wisconsin (and not available in Minnesota)"


Actually there are several places in the Twin Cities that sell mead from White Winter Winery. Stinson Wine, Beer & Spirits at the corner of 18th Ave NE and Stinson Parkway has a great selection of mead (the best selection I've found in Minnesota) including White Winter.

My personal favorite is The Kings Mead by Hidden Legend Winery.  Available in MN at select wine stores and online liquor distributors.

Justin Olson
Justin Olson

"I'd be a lot warmer and a lot happier with a bellyful of mead."

Anna Sawyer
Anna Sawyer

Good. Make it real mead, and back off the nasty wines-with-honey thing.

Jengibre Jewell
Jengibre Jewell

it could be the next big trend until the bees are gone and there is not honey left. oor perhaps this will make people aware that the bees are dying and they may want to help preserve them and help spread to people to QUIT using pesticides and herbicides

Nawa Taipan
Nawa Taipan

I like it but my diabetes sure as hell does not

Justin Olson
Justin Olson

This article is making me thirsty for mead from The Mead Booth at the MN Renaissance Festival.

Amanda Cameron
Amanda Cameron

The one time I've had mead I hated it, what am I missing??

Leanne Segersin
Leanne Segersin

My brother Sean Segersin has been all about the mead for years...

Can Nah
Can Nah

Meing Stormageddon Yang

Michelle Grace
Michelle Grace

Oh God I hope so. I'm a transplant from the east coast and I gotta say, I love EVERYTHING about MInneapolis except its love affair with IPAs. :P

Eric Shawn Smith
Eric Shawn Smith

Good!!! Now maybe the hipsters will lay the fuck off the craft beer.

J Edward Wynia
J Edward Wynia

Curt Stock (quoted in the article) is one of the top 5 homebrew meadmakers in the world. Makes AMAZING stuff.

Cara Schulz
Cara Schulz

Heck yes! Mead is delicious and easy to make.

Pamela Fahey Richardson
Pamela Fahey Richardson

Yuck - it was popular in Alaska a while ago - if you like thick, gooey drinks - live it up!

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