Mead Alcohol Content | What Is the Alcohol Content in Mead?
Mead’s alcohol content
Mead ranges between 3.5 to 23% ABV (alcohol by volume).
Hopping aboard the mead train? Good call. Whether you’ve tried mead before and are doing some further exploring or this is your first foray into the nectar of the gods, there’s plenty to learn. For example – what is mead’s alcohol content? The answer might surprise you.
Gone are the days when mead mimicked wine with a 10 to 14% ABV; we can thank sessions and imperials for that. Now, mead making is all about matching the market – something with a low ABV that can be enjoyed throughout the day? Sure. Something heavy-hitting that’s bursting with flavor (and alcohol)? That too.
Mead gets its alcohol content like any fermented beverage – from yeast. The yeast metabolizes sugar, producing alcohol. Beer gets its sugar from grain. Wine collects from grapes. And mead? Honey.
Top Things to Know About Mead's alcohol content:
- Mead can range in alcohol by volume from 3.5% alc to more than 20% alc
- Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting honey, and most, if not all of the alcohol comes from honey
- The term "honey wine" is often synonymous with mead, but it's important to note that adding honey to grape based wine is not mead unless 50% of the fermentables come from honey
- Mead is not always sweet, it can be dry, off-dry, semi-sweet and sweet. Sweet mead can still be high on alcohol.
HOW DO YOU MAKE MEAD?
What exactly is mead?
Mead might run the gamut when it comes to ABV, but its ingredients are actually quite simple: water, yeast, and honey. Of course, a mead maker can flavor further with ingredients like fruits, spices, and grains; however, mead’s base DNA remains true. Three ingredients.
Funny enough, mead might’ve been discovered by accident back in the day (and we mean way back in the day), the result of rainwater collecting with honey and natural airborne yeast.
Regardless, mead has endured the ages and ranks today as the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. It’s neither beer or wine, nor is it liquor. A few key differences: beer is boiled, mead is not. In the same vein, liquor is distilled, mead is not. Then there’s the ABV which, as you now know, is higher than both beer and wine on average.
That said, mead is left to age along the same timeline as wine – 2 to 3 years, whereas many beers can be ready to enjoy in as little as a month.
Brewing your own mead? Check out our step-by-step guide to mead making.
Do low-alcohol meads taste different than high-alcohol meads?
Low-alcohol meads, or hydromels (also called “session meads” or “seltzer style meads”) clock in between 3.5 and 7.5% ABV.
Imparting flavor in a low-alcohol mead is one of the nuances of pro mead making. Honey can quickly become diluted at sugar levels needed for hydromels; mead makers can account for this with added fruits, or by “back-sweetening” (adding honey in post-fermentation) for low ABV sweet meads.
High-alcohol meads (“standard meads” or “sack meads”) will pack more of a flavor punch. This is because the higher ABV translates to more honey being used during fermentation.
Just like low-alcohol meads, though, the process comes with its own challenges. Higher ABV means a more fragile balance between alcohol and sugar content. It’s no surprise that high-alcohol meads are often sweeter than most other varieties and make for great after-dinner beverages.
Are there different types of mead?
Yes! Mead comes with its own portfolio of types and flavors. Popular types of mead include:
- Traditional mead (Show mead): Honey, water, and yeast; 7.5 to 14% ABV
- Sack mead (Great mead): Higher ABV; 14 to 18%
- Hydromel (Session mead): More water than traditional mead; < 7.5% ABV
- Melomel mead (Fruit mead): Fruit added for flavor
- Metheglin mead (Spiced mead): Spices added for flavor
- Pyment / Clarre: Mead fermented with grapes
For a full rundown of mead types, check out our guide, Types of Mead: The Ultimate Guide to Mead Classifications.
- Schramm, Ken (2003). The Compleat Meadmaker: Home Production of Honey Wine From Your First Batch to Award-winning Fruit and Herb Variations. Brewers Publications. ISBN 978-0-937381-80-9.
- Hornsey, Ian (2003). A History of Beer and Brewing. Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-85404-630-0.
- "Mead | Definition, Production, & History | Britannica". www.britannica.com.
- Acton, George William Bryan; Duncan, Peter (1984). Making mead : a complete guide to the making of sweet and dry mead, melomel, metheglin, hippocras, pyment and cyser. Ann Arbor, Mich.: G.W. Kent. ISBN 0961907282
- "Prehistoric China - The Wonders That Were Jiahu The World's Earliest Fermented Beverage. Professor Patrick McGovern the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia"
- McGovern, P. E.; Zhang, J; Tang, J; Zhang, Z; Hall, G. R.; Moreau, R. A.; Nuñez, A; Butrym, E. D.; et al. (6 December 2004). "Fermented beverages of pre-and proto-historic China"