Mead (/miːd/; archaic and dialectal meath or meathe, from Old English medu) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
Mead was produced in ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, and has played an important role in the mythology of some peoples. In Norse mythology, for example, the Mead of Poetry was crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir and turned the drinker into a poet or scholar.
The terms “mead” and “honey-wine” often are used synonymously. Some cultures, though, differentiate honey-wine from mead. For example, Hungarians hold that while mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast (barm), honey-wine is watered honey fermented by recrement of grapes or other fruits.
The yeast used in mead making is often identical to that used in wine making. Many home mead makers choose to use wine yeasts (particularly those used in the preparation of white wines) to make their meads.
By measuring the specific gravity of the mead once before fermentation and throughout the fermentation process by means of a hydrometer or refractometer, mead makers can determine the proportion of alcohol by volume that will appear in the final product. This also serves another purpose. By measuring specific gravity throughout fermentation, a mead maker can quickly troubleshoot a “stuck” batch, one where the fermentation process has been halted prematurely.
After primary fermentation slows down significantly the mead is then racked into a second container. This is known as secondary fermentation. Some larger commercial fermenters are designed to allow both primary and secondary fermentation to happen inside of the same vessel. Racking is done for two reasons: it lets the mead sit away from the remains of the yeast cells (lees) that have died during the fermentation process. Second, this lets the mead have time to clear. If the mead maker wishes to backsweeten the product or prevent it from oxidizing, potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate are added. After the mead clears, it is bottled and distributed.
List of mead variants from Wikipedia
- Acerglyn: A mead made with honey and maple syrup.
- Balche: A native Mexican version of mead.
- Bilbemel: A mead made with blueberries, blueberry juice, or sometimes used for a varietal mead that uses blueberry blossom honey.
- Black mead: A name sometimes given to the blend of honey and blackcurrants.
- Blue mead: A type of mead where fungal spores are added during first fermentation, lending a blue tint to the final product.
- Bochet: A mead where the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water. Yields toffee, caramel, chocolate and toasted marshmallow flavors.
- Bochetomel: A Bochet style mead that also contains fruit such as elderberries, black raspberries and blackberries.
- Braggot: Also called bracket or brackett. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added. Welsh origin (bragawd).
- Capsicumel: A mead flavored with chilli peppers, the peppers may be hot or mild.
- Chouchenn: A kind of mead made in Brittany.
- Cyser: A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together; see also cider.
- Czwórniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using three units of water for each unit of honey.
- Dandaghare: A mead from Nepal, combines honey with Himalayan herbs and spices. It has been produced since 1972 in the city of Pokhara.
- Dwójniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using equal amounts of water and honey.
- Great mead: Any mead that is intended to be aged several years. The designation is meant to distinguish this type of mead from “short mead” (see below).
- Gverc or Medovina: Croatian mead prepared in Samobor and many other places. The word “gverc” or “gvirc’ is from the German “Gewürze” and refers to various spices added to mead.
- Hydromel: Name derived from the Greek ὑδρόμελι hydromeli, i.e. literally “water-honey” (see also μελίκρατον melikraton and ὑδρόμηλον hydromelon). It is also the French name for mead hydromel. (See also and compare with the Italian idromele and Spanish hidromiel and aguamiel, the Catalan hidromel and aguamiel, Galician aguamel, and Portuguese hidromel). It is also used as a name for a light or low-alcohol mead.
- Medica/Medovica: Slovenian, Slovak, variety of mead.
- Medovina: Czech, Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Slovak for mead. Commercially available in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and presumably other Central and Eastern-European countries.
- Medovukha: Eastern Slavic variant (honey-based fermented drink).
- Melomel: Melomel is made from honey and any fruit. Depending on the fruit base used, certain melomels may also be known by more specific names (see cyser, pyment, and morat for examples). Possibly from the Greek μηλόμελι melomeli, literally “apple-honey” or “treefruit-honey” (see also μελίμηλον melimelon).
- Metheglin: Metheglin is traditional mead with herbs or spices added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins were originally employed as folk medicines. The Welsh word for mead is medd, and the word “metheglin” derives from meddyglyn, a compound of meddyg, “healing” + llyn, “liquor”.
- Midus: Lithuanian for mead, made of natural bee honey and berry juice. Infused with carnation blossoms, acorns, poplar buds, juniper berries and other herbs. Generally between 8% and 17% alcohol , it is also distilled to produce mead nectar vor mead balsam, with some of the varieties having as much as 75% of alcohol.
- Mõdu: An Estonian traditional fermented drink with a taste of honey and an alcohol content of 4.0% 
- Morat: Morat blends honey and mulberries.
- Mulsum: Mulsum is not a true mead, but is unfermented honey blended with a high-alcohol wine.
- Myod: Traditional Russian mead, historically available in three major varieties:
- aged mead (“мёд ставленный”): a mixture of honey and water or berry juices, subject to a very slow (12–50 years) anaerobic fermentation in airtight vessels in a process similar to the traditional balsamic vinegar, creating a rich, complex and high-priced product.
- drinking mead (“мёд питный”): a kind of honey wine made from diluted honey by traditional fermentation.
- boiled mead (“мёд варёный”): a drink closer to beer, brewed from boiled wort of diluted honey and herbs, very similar to modern medovukha.
- Omphacomel: A mead recipe that blends honey with verjuice; could therefore be considered a variety of pyment (q.v.). From the Greek ὀμφακόμελι omphakomeli, literally “unripe-grape-honey”.
- Oxymel: Another historical mead recipe, blending honey with wine vinegar. From the Greek ὀξύμελι oxymeli, literally “vinegar-honey” (also ὀξυμελίκρατον oxymelikraton).
- Pitarrilla: Mayan drink made from a fermented mixture of wild honey, balché-tree bark and fresh water.
- Pyment: Contemporary pyment is a melomel made from the fermentation of a blend of grapes and honey and can be considered either a grape mead or honeyed wine. Pyment made with white grapes is sometimes called “white mead”. In previous centuries piment was synonymous with Hippocras, a grape wine with honey added post-fermentation.
- Półtorak (TSG): A Polish great mead, made using two units of honey for each unit of water.
- Red mead: A form of mead made with redcurrants.
- Rhodomel: Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water. From the Greek ῥοδόμελι rhodomeli, literally “rose-honey”.
- Rubamel: A specific type of Melomel made with raspberries.
- Sack mead: This refers to mead that is made with more honey than is typically used. The finished product contains a higher-than-average ethanol concentration (meads at or above 14% ABV are generally considered to be of sack strength) and often retains a high specific gravity and elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads (which have no residual sweetness) can be produced. According to one theory, the name derives from the fortified dessert wine, sherry (which is sometimes sweetened after fermentation) that, in England, once bore the nickname “sack”). Another theory is that the term is a phonetic reduction of “sake” the name of a Japanese beverage that was introduced to the West by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
- Short mead: Also called “quick mead”. A type of mead recipe that is meant to age quickly, for immediate consumption. Because of the techniques used in its creation, short mead shares some qualities found in cider (or even light ale): primarily that it is effervescent, and often has a cidery taste. It can also be champagne-like.
- Show mead: A term which has come to mean “plain” mead: that which has honey and water as a base, with no fruits, spices or extra flavorings. Since honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle, a mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. will sometimes require a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes to produce an acceptable finished product. In most competitions, including all those that subscribe to the BJCP style guidelines, as well as the International Mead Fest, the term “traditional mead” refers to this variety (because mead is historically a variable product, these guidelines are a recent expedient, designed to provide a common language for competition judging; style guidelines per se do not apply to commercial or historical examples of this or any other type of mead).
- Sima: a quick-fermented low-alcoholic Finnish variety, seasoned with lemon and associated with the festival of vappu.
- Tej/Mes: Tej/Mes is an Ethiopian and Eritrean mead, fermented with wild yeasts and the addition of gesho.
- Tella/Suwa: Tella is an Ethiopian and Eritrean style of beer; with the inclusion of honey some recipes are similar to braggot.
- Trójniak (TSG): A Polish mead, made using two units of water for each unit of honey.
- Včelovina: Slovak alternative name for mead.
- White mead: A mead that is colored white with herbs, fruit or, sometimes, egg whites.