What is Mead?
Mead, also known as honey wine, is an alcohol beverage made from a mixture of fermented honey & water. It can be anywhere from 8–18% ABV, and can be still, or carbonated, dry or sweet. There are many varieties made with the addition of grains & hops (braggot), spices (metheglin), and fruit (melomel). Mead is known as the ancestor of all fermented beverages, and dates back to 7000BC.
With so many alcoholic drinks available, most people have never even tried mead. And those who have, probably associate it with the swill that can be purchased from a guy dressed as a court jester at ye olde Renaissance Faire. The truth is, mead has found its way out of the niche, and has become a burgeoning industry, enjoyed by casual beer drinkers and wine connoisseurs alike. From the champagne-like short mead, to the über-sweet sack mead, and all the exotic varieties made with spices and flavorings in-between, it has a taste to suit everyone.
Why Become a Brewer?
Well, put simply, alcohol is currency. What products or services would one be willing to trade for a bottle of delicious, sweet, honey ambrosia?
Even in today's economy, alcohol consumption is at an all-time high. People drink to celebrate good times, and they drink to weather the bad. But, what is particularly telling about human nature, is the rise in more expensive craft—or boutique—brands. People have more discerning tastes than they did in the past, and are willing to pay gobs of money to enjoy their favorite brand. And with mead, as in wine & beer, once people develop a flavor for the good, that’s what they tend to want to drink. So with distribution down, and scarcity on the rise, such demand would skyrocket, and your small-scale batches could command a nice sum.
Some Advantages to Mead
Brewing mead, unlike beer, does not necessarily require heat, which is a definite plus in a grid-down situation. You don't need to cook the ingredients, or use heat to sanitize the bottles or equipment. Hot water does help in the process of removing the honey from its container, especially if it has crystallized, but is not absolutely necessary.
Mead is usually a higher proof, so you get more "bang for your buck" than your typical 4-5% beer. Assuming you aren't kegging your mead, you'll be using 25-ounce wine bottles (as opposed to 12-ounce longnecks) so it requires less bottling than beer. And the less time you have to spend cleaning bottles, the better.
Mead requires fewer ingredients, which are easier to obtain and can be stored ahead of time, and is much less difficult to brew than wine or beer. Depending on the type of mead you are brewing, you can produce a drinkable product as soon as within one week. And the flavor of mead is easily adapted to—much the same way that hard cider is—for people who do not usually drink.
As far as storage goes, mead betters with age and doesn't need to be refrigerated at any point in the fermenting or aging process. In fact, some meads don't reach their peak for several years. It can be processed and stored in a very small space, such as a garage or basement, and doesn't require expensive equipment in its production. Your primary recurring expense is going to be bottles and honey; the costs of which can be mitigated over time by recycling bottles and producing your own honey. Or, you can buy all of these items now, and store them.
Having mead on hand—and, better yet, the means and the know-how to produce it—will put you in a very good spot if your current job becomes obsolete. You'll be better positioned to deal with future hardships in a prolonged grid-down situation, by being able to engage in commerce, and being a benefit to your community by having the means to provide others with the comforts of life during uncertain times.
Keep an eye open for my next feature, a step-by-step guide to brewing basic mead. I'll also recommend an inexpensive way to test out a 1-gallon batch, without having to buy any additional equipment. Be prepared. Get connected. Stay tuned!