Mead, the honey alcohol of the ancients, is making a comeback – ABC Rural
Move aside craft beer, the world’s oldest alcoholic drink is making a comeback and it’s gluten free — made from fermented honey.
Mead was drunk by the Vikings. Ancient Greeks called it Ambrosia, ‘the drink of the gods’, and the brewing techniques date back more than 3,000 years.
Amrita Park Meadery at Pomona is Queensland’s first commercial meadery to set up a cellar door for tastings, aiming to educate visitors about mead and the complexities of their golden brews.
It is a shared passion for Nicola Cleaver and her partner Andy Coates, whose 98-year-old grandfather, Dennis ‘Poppo’ Coates was an award-winning mead maker.
“Most people come and they have their tasting and they love learning about mead, the education behind it and the science behind it and they just like to stay and chat,” Ms Cleaver added.
The couple buy honey in bulk from a young apiarist and keep six bee hives in their lush meandering gardens.
The taste varies according to the style of mead and the delicious mixes of fresh fruit and spices that are added to it in the fermenting room.
Water and yeast are added to the honey in a temperature-controlled environment to form what is known as a ‘must’.
“We specialise in traditional meads, which are just the honey yeast water. Then you have melomels which has fruit additions and then there are metheglins which is mead made with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves.
“And then there’s other types, braggots that have grains added and aciglens that are made with maple syrup – there’s so much variation in meads, it’s incredible.”
Nicola Cleaver is proud of her ginger and lime blend using fresh regional produce from Templeton’s Ginger and Suncoast limes.
Their citrus and spice mix was designed with a festive feel.
The alcohol content of the couple’s mead varies from 13-17 per cent, compared with 12-13 per cent for most table wines.
It can be chilled or heated, provide punch to a spritzer, and the flavour changes according to the season and the nectar the bees have been feasting on.
Mead was produced in ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, especially India.
Now ld has become new again and the mead movement is gaining momentum.
“Especially in the (United) States and in Europe,” Mr Coates said.
“They’re opening 100 or more meaderies a year and in Australia it’s just taking off, there’s 10 or 12 meaderies and we’re all sticking together and trying to grow the market.”
The couple launched their mead at Caboolture’s Abbey Medieval festival and it was so popular they are already working to supply it on tap at the event next year.
“Since the cellar door’s been open it (business) has increased every week, we’re just getting more people through and lots of online sales coming through as well, so that’s quite exciting.”
All in the family
Mr Coates is proud to be carrying on the family tradition from Dennis ‘Poppo’ Coates who started making mead in 1942.
In a visit to the tasting room the 98-year-old was chuffed to see his contribution honoured with special displays of his many awards and memorabilia.
“He was very successful as a bee keeper and made mead, entered in competitions all over the world,” Andy Coates said.
As the oldest grandson, Mr Coates is following in ‘Poppo’s’ footsteps in more ways than one.
Amrita Park Meadery recently won two silver medals and three bronze medals at the 49th annual Eltham Wine Show, which attracted entries from amateurs and professionals from Australia and overseas.
Two years into a five-year plan, the couple said the demand was there and if anything, they wanted to slow things down a touch.
“We’re going to stay boutique and just grow organically and just keep putting out a good product and really get behind the mead movement,” Mr Coates said.
“It was the most popular and biggest drink and because of cost it went out of fashion and a lot of people don’t even know what mead is now.
“We’re all about educating people and educating their palates and it seems to be going really well.”