Essentially wine made from honey fermented with water and yeast, mead is on its way to becoming the next big thing in the adult beverage world. It's an ancient elixir, one of the first wines ever made, enjoyed by B.C. Romans and Vikings and even in parts of Asia. Old-school mead was said to be cloyingly sweet, perhaps fitting since honey is its defining characteristic. But the new breed of mead tends to be dry and arrestingly complex, a fantastically crisp and refreshing sipper on a hot summer day. And because new, delicious things often sell well, the American Mead Makers Association says that while mead is the smallest segment of the alcoholic beverage industry, it's also the fastest growing.
You'll find mead at farmers' markets, wine stores, and bar menus more and more this summer, so please give it a whirl. Bear in mind that it comes in an astounding array of flavors and styles (super-dry to sweet; still to sparkling; fruity to savory to chocolatey). And potency can range from 8% alcohol by volume (like a strongish craft beer) to 18% ABV (like fortified wine).
We'll be staff-testing several varieties in the coming weeks and will share our findings to help guide you down this honey-gold road. So cheers, skål, and salut to the oldest new drink around.