Honey Wine Winery (Meadery)
Meadery (Honey Wine Maker)
Wine has been made by fermenting honey in water since approximately 7000 BC. Although many Americans drink wine from grapes, the art forms of craft brewing and wine making are becoming popular again. Thus, there is a market for old-fashioned honey wine, also long known as “mead.” Happily, many varieties of mead and its derivatives are now made in eastern Pennsylvania.
What is Mead’s History?
It sounds Biblical or Kings-and-Queens-ish, whether new Goth or historically accurate. Most people, however, would be hard-pressed to supply details about it.
Mead was enjoyed by ancient Egyptians, Norse Vikings, English royalty and Celts. Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Homer are among the writers who have referred to it. Some feel thjat it may be the oldest alcoholic beverage on earth, occurring naturally.
According to Stonekeep Meadery:
“Mead fell out of favor in about the 12th century due to heavy taxation and regulations on the ingredients used to make alcoholic beverages. Because honey was such a prized commodity it was expensive and mostly only consumed by royalty. In addition, with the start of voyages to the new world, and the discovery of sugar cane, honey was no longer necessary as a sweetener.”
Types of Meads
Basic or “pure” mead is honey diluted with water and fermented with yeast. When fruit, spices or malt are added, the subcategory name changes. For example, Melomel (Mel'-o-mel) is the subcategory name of mead made by fermenting fruit or fruit juice along with the honey. Metheglyn (Me-theg'-lin) is mead with herbs and/or spices added. Then there is Braggot (Brag'-got), a drink made with honey and malt, more or less a mead-beer. The alcohol content of these varies from low to very high.
Stonekeep Meadery's Modern Twists
Stonekeep uses sulfites in its production to deter bacterial growth. The mead bottle labels carry the Contains Sulfites warning.
It offers this explanation:
“Virtually all wines and meads contain some level of sulfites. A small amount of sulfites are naturally produced during the fermentation process.
“Mead is a medieval drink! Aren't you destroying the legacy if you add sulfites?
“The addition of sulfites (by one method or another) is not a new concept. In the middle ages, to help sterilize their oak barrels, wine makers and mead makers would burn strips of sulfur inside the barrel (a process that is still practiced by some today). The effect of this was to allow the Sulfur Doixide (sulfites) given off during this process to permeate the wood of the barrel, inhibiting the growth of wild yeast, bacteria and other nasty stuff. This sulfur dioxide would then find its way into the wine and help preserve it as well. Modernly, winemakers can achieve this effect chemically.”
Also, Stonekeep Meadery ages all of its meads in stainless steel tanks, not oak barrels. There are no artificial colors or flavors in its meads.
Locations Where Stonekeep Mead is Sold
Stonekeep Meadery does not have a tasting room yet, and it keeps its location a secret. However, its incorporation address is in Birdsboro, PA and the restaurants listed below are all in southeastern Pennsylvania. Thus, a location near Birdsboro, Mohnton, or Morgantown would be a very reasonable guess.
Locations Selling Stonekeep Meadery Products
Medieval Wine Glasses
If you arre a unicorn fancier, this may be your cup of mead! lol
Flavors and Types of Stonekeep Meadery Meads
Following were some of the offerings of the 2012 season:
Dry and Semi-sweet Black Currant Melomels
Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Elderberry Strawberry Melomels
Apple Mead (Cyser)
I will be searching for more meaderies. I suspect that there is one in western Pennsylvania.
Photo and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.