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(This article is about the beverage. There is also Mead, Nebraska and the ornithologist Chris Mead.)

Mead is a fermented alcoholic beverage made of honey, water, and yeast. It is sometimes known as 'honey wine' (for obvious reasons) and is generally pronounced "meed", to rhyme with "feed", (SAMPA and IPA representations, /mi:d/ [1] (though South Africans usually pronounce it "med", to rhyme with "red" (SAMPA representation /mEd/, IPA representation /mɛd/).

The word mead refers to the sugary fluid excreted by flowers. In symbology mead is the tipple of the gods.

A mead that also contains spices (like cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg) or herbs (such as oregano or even lavender or chamomile) is called metheglin. This word is one possible origin for the modern word medicine as healing herbs were often stored as metheglin so they would be available over the winter (as well as making them much easier to swallow).

A mead that contains fruit (such as strawberry, blackcurrant or even rose-hips) is called melomel and was also used as a delicious way to "store" summer produce for the winter.

Mulled mead is a popular winter holiday drink, where mead is warmed (traditionally by having a hot poker plunged into it) and flavoured with spices.

A grape-based wine with added honey is called a pyment. Hippocras is spiced grape wine sweetened with honey.

Mead was very popular in Northern Europe where grapes could not be grown, but it faded in popularity once wine importation became economical. Mead was especially popular with the Slavs and was called in Polish miod (pronounced myoot), meaning honey. During the Crusades Polish prince Leszek the White of Poland explained to the pope that Polish knights couldn't participate in the crusades because there is no mead in Palestine.

In Finland a sweet mead called Sima (cognate with zymurgy), is still an essential seasonal brew connected with the Finnish Vappu festival. It is usually spiced by adding both the flesh and rind of a lemon. During secondary fermentation raisins are added to both add a controlled amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption. (They will rise to the top of the bottle when the process is concluded.)

Mead is also the origin for the word honeymoon as the father of the bride was said to give as a dowry a month's supply of the liquor. Mead shows up in many old north Anglo-Saxon stories, including Beowulf.

How to make mead

Gather your equipment.

You will need a fermentation vessel, preferably a glass carboy, an airlock and a rubber stopper. Check with a local home brew supply store for these things. You will also need honey (use local honey if you can), water (filtered is best), and yeast. Fruit or spices are optional.

Sterilize all of your equipment (potassium metabisulphite is a common sterilizing agent, make sure to remove all traces of this chemical; if you are allergic to sulphites then use other sterilization methods) and wash your hands before you begin.

Starter recipe:

3 pounds of honey per gallon. (So if you have a 5 gallon carboy, use 15 pounds of honey.) 1 pound of raisins. 1 packet of dry winemaker's yeast

(n.b.: some vintners prefer to create a starter culture by preparing a mixture of one cup of room temperature sterilized fruit juice and the freeze dried winemaking yeast and placing it into a smaller one quart sterilized container fitted with a rubber stopper and airlock for a day or two until the mixture is bubbling. Keep this container at room temperature out of direct sunlight. This starter culture will cause the fermentation below to begin with vigor and may prevent your mead from failing to ferment.)

Fill a large pot half way with water and place it on the stove. As you heat the water, slowly add the honey. Heating will help dissolve the honey. There is a common disagreement among mead makers as to whether you should boil the honey or not. Ultimately it is your decision, either way will work fine.

After a time of heating the honey (which helps it dissolve and can also pasteurize it) transfer the honey/water to the carboy. Add raisins. Allow to cool to room temperature (68 F/20 C). Add yeast. Put on the airlock and wait. Place the carboy in a cool (68 F/20 C), dark place. In a few hours (possibly a day) your airlock should start to allow bubbles to escape. This is waste carbon dioxide (CO2) and shows that the yeast is processing the sugar into alcohol.

After a week or two you might want to rack your mead into a second sterilized carboy. Make sure to do this in an area without fruit flies lest your mead turn to vinegar. This racking will clear out the lees and allow your mead to clear faster. Again place an airlock on the second carboy. Continue to rack every two weeks until all signs of fermentation have stopped (usually when the airlock doesn't produce any bubbles for a long period of time) and your mead has cleared (if you can read newspaper through the carboy then it is clear)

Then it is time to bottle your mead.

Allow your mead to age for at least 6 months in the bottle.