Mead vs. Beer - Is There a Difference?

mead vs. beer inforgraphic

Top Things to Know About Mead vs. Beer:

  • Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting honey while beer is made fermenting hops and malt (grains)
  • Mead is made largely from honey, and beer is made from grains.
  • Mead is gluten-free, whereas beer is not gluten-free
  • Mead takes longer to ferment than beer, typically a few months to a few years versus a few weeks to a few months.
  • Mead is not mead unless at least 50% of the fermentables come from honey.
  • Beer sometimes incorporates honey, but usually just as an additional flavor (when beer is blended with honey, it’s known as a braggot).

Yes. There are key differences between mead and beer. That’s the short answer.

The longer – nay, detail-oriented – answer revolves around four things: ingredients, process, taste, ABV, and maturation.

Let’s dive in


  • Mead is crafted from honey, water, and often includes various additional ingredients such as fruits (apples, berries), spices (cinnamon, cloves), and even herbs (lavender, rosemary) to introduce a wide range of flavors and aromas. The type of honey used can significantly impact the mead's character, with options ranging from light and floral to dark and robust.
  • Beer primarily uses malted grains (barley, wheat, rye), hops, yeast, and water. The selection of grains determines the beer's color, taste, and mouthfeel, while hops contribute bitterness to balance the malt's sweetness and add unique flavors and aromas, from citrusy and piney to earthy and floral. Yeast plays a crucial role in fermentation, influencing the beer's final flavor profile and alcohol content.


How is mead made?
Main ingredients: water, honey, yeast

  • Honey is mixed with water, forming a diluted substance called must. The dilution makes it easier for yeast to break down alcohol sugars. Additional ingredients are added next (fruit, spices, etc. – if desired). Yeast comes after, and fermentation begins. How long? Months or years, depending on what kind of mead is being made.

Interested in making mead yourself? Start with our step-by-step guide, How to Brew Mead.

How is beer made?
Main ingredients: Water, barley, hops, yeast

  • The goal in making beer is to yank the sugars from the barley, then convert these sugars into alcohol via the yeast. It begins with the malting process; that is, heating the grains (barley). Afterward, the grains are soaked in hot water – a sub-process known as mashing. This hot water, code name: wort, is then boiled and other ingredients are added (hops, spices, ect. – if desired).
  • The final step is when things can get dicey. Once the wort’s done boiling, it needs to be cooled. Fast. Especially when brewing at home, the longer it takes to cool, the higher the chance of contaminants getting into the liquid. How cool depends on the type of beer being made – ales tend to ferment warmer, while lagers prefer cooler temperatures. Yeast is added, and weeks later, the beer is ready for consumption.


  • Mead offers a broad spectrum of classifications, heavily influenced by the honey and additional ingredients used. Meads play like wines in that they can be sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, or dry. How honey is used during the mead-making process will also dictate how a mead tastes. For example, a low-alcohol mead can still be sweet – mead makers use a process known as “back-sweetening,” where they add honey in post-fermentation. High-alcohol meads tend to have robust flavors because more honey is used during fermentation.
    • 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
    • Capiscumel (Spicy mead): Mead with peppers added
    • Black mead: Made with black currants
    • Coffeamel: Made with coffee
    • Viking blood: Made with cherries
    • Bochet: Made with carmelized (boiled) honey (Yum!)
  • Beer exhibits an extensive variety of flavors, determined by the malt, hops, and fermentation process. It can be light and crisp, rich and malty, or bitter and hoppy, with endless variations in between, including fruity, spicy, sour, and barrel-aged nuances.
    • Pilsner: Crisp, refreshing, and lightly hopped; 4 to 5% ABV
    • Lager: light-colored and tasting; average 4.5% ABV
    • Pale ale: Hoppy and malty; 4 to 6% ABV
    • India pale ale (IPA): Emphasis on hoppiness and bitterness; 5 to 7% ABV
    • Porter: Dark and malty, often incorporating chocolate or caramel; 4 to 12% ABV
    • Stout: Close relative of the porter; rich and often incorporates cocoa, espresso, or other spices; 4 to 12% ABV


  • Mead can have a wide range of alcohol by volume (ABV), typically between 3.5% and 23%. This variance is due to the initial sugar content from the honey and the fermentation process used by the mead maker.
    • Low-alcohol meads are called hydromels; they typically fall between 3.5 and 7.5% ABV.
    • High-alcohol meads are known as standard meads or sack meads; they’ll sport a higher ABV.
  • Beer generally has a lower ABV compared to mead, usually falling between 4% and 12%. The alcohol content in beer is influenced by the amount of fermentable sugars extracted from the grains and the yeast's ability to convert these sugars into alcohol.


  • Mead benefits from aging, which can significantly enhance its complexity and smoothness. The aging process allows flavors to meld and mature, often resulting in a more refined and desirable product. Mead can be aged for several years, and its clarity improves over time as particulates settle.
  • Beer varies in its aging potential. While most beers are best enjoyed fresh, certain styles, like barleywines, stouts, and sour ales, can improve with age. Aging allows for the development of deeper flavors and the mellowing of harsher alcohol notes. Clarity in beer is typically achieved through filtering or fining agents, although some styles, such as wheat beers and New England IPAs, are intentionally left hazy.


  • Mead is often cited as one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, with evidence of its consumption dating back thousands of years. Its simplicity of ingredients—honey, water, and yeast—made it accessible across various cultures worldwide.
  • Beer also has ancient origins, with records of its production and consumption spanning back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Over centuries, beer has evolved with the introduction of hops and advancements in brewing technology, becoming a staple in many societies.

Now what about wine?

We’re glad you asked! Now that your mead vs. beer questions are answered, check out these articles all about wine:


Mead is more like wine in terms of process, but no grapes are used in the mead fermentation. Mead is typically made solely from honey, water and yeast. The beer process requires boiling of grains, honey is only warmed to make mixing easier.


Technically all the health benefits of honey are present in mead unless the mead maker boils the honey (typically called a bouchet). Honey is known to contain antioxidants, minerals and antibacterial properties.

Fun Fact: All our meads at Batch are heated no higher than 110 degrees to maintain the integrity of the honey.


You can buy mead online direct from a meadery or you can see if your local liquor store carries mead. You can buy mead online, Order Mead from Batch Mead, a small batch craft mead producer in Temecula, CA.

About Us


We started Batch Mead in 2019 to leave our Silicon Valley tech careers and pursue our real passion, MEAD!

We love locally sourced honey, apples and other ingredients. We focus on small batches to keep taps rotating and deliver delicious meads and hard ciders.

We believe mead is an experience, and our tasting room reflects all the notes of that ideal experience.

We recently won Best in Show from the San Diego International Beer Festival (2020, 2021 & 2022)! As well as several other wine, beer & mead awards!