Why Mead is Having a Moment

Mac's mead brewer Kurt Gross explains why this craft brew deserves its return to the limelight

Mead brewer Kurt Gross. Picture / Supplied

It's risen to prominence in recent times thanks to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, where the characters will often enjoy a glass or two of mead at the Three Broomsticks, but this fermented honey drink has been consumed through the ages for more than 20,000 years. We talked to brewer Kurt Gross, the creative force behind Mac's new limited release Love Buzz mead, who explains why this craft brew is so revered, why it's enjoying a resurgence, and why it deserves its return to the limelight. 

What exactly is mead?
In a nutshell, mead is a fermented honey drink. It’s considered by historians to be the oldest alcoholic drink known to man, and was around long before wine and beer. It's simply made by fermenting honey with water.

The biggest misconception about mead is the assumption that because it’s made of honey it must be overly sweet, but that’s not the case. Mead can vary in sweetness from sweet, semi-sweet to dry. Some are are naturally carbonated (like Love Buzz) some are still.

What sets it apart from other products on the market, such as cider?
Cider is made by fermenting apple juice, wine is fermented grapes, beer is from malt and mead is all about honey. Love Buzz took eight months to develop, and to get it right we trialled seven or eight different types of honey before we landed on kamahi, clover and manuka.

Why is it having a resurgence. Is it because of Harry Potter?
Keen Potter fans will recognise the name mead as a regular on the menu at the Three Broomsticks, but mead has been in and out of popular culture throughout the centuries, from Beowolf to Roman emperors. It’s held the moniker of ‘nectar of the gods’, and has been widely consumed throughout Africa, Asia and Europe for over 20,000 years.

It’s thought mead was discovered accidentally when somebody came across a honey-collecting vessel that was left upturned and filled with rainwater overnight – unaware of the fermentation process, they sipped away at the sweet water and had their first experience with alcohol.

There’s definitely a global resurgence of mead happening right now, and we’ve got an eye on what’s going well overseas. We felt bringing back the lost tradition of mead-making was pretty cool.

Can you do any more experimentation with it in modern times?
There’s an enormous opportunity to play around with the flavours - we’re always looking to experiment with new ingredients to create something outside of the box. With mead we’ve got the opportunity to add various fruit and spices.

What about it do you love?
Mead has such a rich history, yet it’s still relatvely unknown, so Mac's felt it lent itself perfectly as a limited release. It's a refreshing, natural brew, which brings something completely new. I think it will appeal to people who don’t drink beer as it offers a totally new flavour profile. It’s something old that has been revived, and I think that’s so cool, knowing that history. It’s also gluten-free, so I love that we’re able to put something out that caters to a growing population of people.

• Mac's Love Buzz Mead is available until the end of June when a new limited release will be launched. You can find it on tap at all Mac’s Brew Bars and also in four-packs from good liquor retailers ($14.99). Drink it ice-cold. 

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New Zealand Herald

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