Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with yeast. Mead is not a beer, wine, or spirit in the normal sense; it is its own class of alcohol, and it is believed to be the oldest alcoholic beverage. Mead has held a pivotal place in many cultures throughout its nearly 8,000 year history, and it is still enjoyed throughout the world.
Its roots trace back to earthen vessels discovered in modern-day China which contained ingredients for fermenting mead. But perhaps mead is best known within the context of the “mead hall,” where warriors such as the legendary Beowulf boasted of their deeds over a cup of it.
Today, mead is a small niche of the craft beer and wine market. As far as local producers go of this wine made from honey, Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery is the only producer of mead on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail.
How our mead is made:
Bees collect nectar from flowers, then return to their hives atop the roof of the Marriott Magnificent Mile, in the Ogden Dunes, in the Kankakee dunes and on a stretch of Park District land formerly home to a steel mill. At the hives, the bees disperse the nectar, and worker bees take over, turning the nectar into honey by evaporating most of the water.
We collect the honey from the hives in the form of honeycomb, being careful to leave an adequate supply for the bees to survive on while also avoiding the bottom two layers of the hive where the queen bee lays her eggs.
The honeycomb is spun in a centrifuge to extract the honey from the comb.
The raw honey is thinned with water until it’s the consistency of grape juice and 24 percent sugar content.
Yeast is added to the honey to start the fermentation process that converts the sugars in the honey into alcohol.
After about four weeks, the mead is transferred to a secondary fermentation tank. For fruit meads, frozen fruit may be added at this time. Freezing the fruit is a winemaking trick that breaks down the fruit’s cell walls, making juice extraction easier.
After another four weeks, the mead is passed through a wine press to strain the fruit. It then sits in a settling tank to get rid of yeast deposits. While in the settling tank, the sweetness is adjusted by tweaking with either more dry mead yeast (if it’s too sweet) or more honey (if it’s not sweet enough).
After being filtered a final time and bottled, the mead is ready to drink or age.