Exploring six Meads From Monks Meadery, georgia's first meaderyIf you are not familiar with mead, it is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting honey, as opposed to grains (beer), apples (cider) or grapes (wine). Meads vary but tend to be on the stronger end in terms of ABV, more similar to wine in that regard. In terms of taste, meads vary widely. They range from dry to sweet, carbonated to still, and from pure honey meads to variations where fermented sugars also come from grains or fruits.
Every mead from Monks Meadery is a pure honey mead, meaning 100% of the alcohol derives from fermented sugars from honey. This doesn't mean the meads are sweet, however, and in fact all the ones we tried were dry to semi-dry. Even with all being pure honey meads, each was vastly different and unique through the use of adjuncts and different flavors. Here we explore six meads from Monks Meadery in Athens, Georgia. We started with their base mead, then tried several different variations.
Monks Mead (The original)
This mead is crisp and dry with a honey flavor that is evident but not sweet or overbearing. It is lightly carbonated and naturally fermented with champagne yeast, giving it that “tiny bubbles” taste. If you’ve never tried mead, what Monks Mead is most comparable to is a dry cider or glass of champagne - but that comparison really doesn't do it justice. The use of wildflower honey imparts earthy notes and adds a layer of depth and complexity. You’d never guess it is 11.9% ABV.
Everything from Monks Meadery is carbonated which is a little uncommon but by design “because the acidity from the CO2 helps to create a more balanced final product,” as explained to me by co-owner and meadmaker Justin. Mead can be served cold or room temperature, but I followed the advice on the bottle and enjoyed this one ice cold in glass.
For someone just getting into or looking to try mead, Monks Mead is a great one to start with because it’s carbonated, it’s a true mead with 100% of fermented sugars coming from honey, and it’s crisp, semi-dry and easy drinking while maintaining an earthiness and depth. This allows you to dive right in to a pure honey mead and set the baseline for the many variations you will undoubtedly want to try after this one hooks you in.
Peachin' to the Choir - Session Mead
If you fancy yourself a Southerner, Peachin' to the Choir is a mead you need to try. If you’re not sure about diving into mead headfirst, this one makes a good gateway mead. It’s another award winner from Monks Meadery, earning Silver in the Dry Metheglin category at the #MazerCup2019. A metheglin is a mead spiced with herbs or flowers, in this case coming from the tea. Since this mead is blended with peach tea rather than peaches or peach puree directly, it is a metheglin as opposed to a melomel - which refers to mead made with fruit. Based on the dry and herbal/spice tea flavor, I’d definitely consider it more of a metheglin than melomel, as the peach is very subtle and melomels tend to be sweeter.
Butter Buzz - ButterScotch Mead
Monks Meadery has made their mark by concocting the perfect blend of traditional, dry style meads with modern adaptations - such as the butterscotch, maple and vanilla in this one.
Stigmata - Floral Mead
Elderflower and other flowers are popular mead adjuncts, while hops (technically a flower as well) can also be added. Historically hops were more of a preservative in beer and meads, but today are really just used to add flavor. Many meads are also made with grains (such as malted barley) which is called a braggot. While Monks Meadery exclusively makes meads with 100% of sugars coming from honey, the addition of hops provides some of this “best of both worlds” quality that drinkers of both craft beer and mead enjoy. To be defined as mead at least half of the fermented sugars must come from honey, but when a mead is spiced with herbs and flowers it can be called a metheglin. The Romans made meads with rose petals, a variation known as rhodomel. Taking from each of these types of mead I’m not really sure what to call this one, other than refreshing, delicious, floral and complex. It’s so floral it almost feels medicinal.
Abstinence in the Abbey
The pure dry profile with hops and spice adjuncts may make this our favorite mead yet. While all other meads we’ve posted from Monks Meadery have semi-dry to semi-sweet characteristics, this one is dry all the way. If you’re a hop-head, this is the mead for you. Hops, grains of paradise, coriander and aquafaba supplement this dry, pure honey mead with savory notes and complexity. There’s so much to this mead. Like a great movie that you appreciate more when watching a second or third time as you notice more nuances and foreshadowing, this mead reveals more of it’s deeper complexity with every sip.
Using hops and grains of paradise as adjuncts, Abstinence in the Abbey still takes it fermented sugars solely from honey, but imparts hop flavor and bitterness, along with savory spice from the coriander and grains of paradise, to be provide a unique confluence of flavors that both mead purists and craft beer connoisseurs will enjoy and appreciate.
It’s a little sweet, a little boozy and extremely complex. While the standard Monks Mead uses champagne yeast, FourTitude blends different yeast varieties. When I say it’s a pure honey mead I mean that all of the alcohol comes from fermented sugar derived from honey, but the four adjuncts are hops, orange peel, coriander and cascara.
This mead is no joke. The 18.5 percent ABV makes it the strongest of the Monks Meadery meads while the flavors and complexity makes it my second favorite of the six featured on this page (closely following Abstinence in the Abbey). All of the Monks Meadery meads are dry to semi-sweet, but this is also the sweetest the bunch. It’s just one of the features that is perplexing about this mead.
It’s the strongest in terms of ABV but also the sweetest. It has a sweetness to it but also a savory, spiced character from the coriander. The citrus from the orange peel is faint but comes through with noticeable zest. You notice the hops but it is not as hoppy as Abstinence in the Abbey. But what really made this mead for me was the cascara, which is the dried skin of coffee cherries that house the coffee beans we roast and grind to make coffee.
In terms of flavor from the cascara, think more cherry than coffee. I actually found this mead somewhat reminiscent of a Manhattan cocktail with the combination of it’s high ABV like the warmth of whiskey, orange peel and coriander like the dash of orange bitters, and the cascara acting as the Maraschino cherry garnish.
This mead pours a deep, opaque caramel and amber color. The depth of color is outmatched by the depth and complexity of flavors exemplifying why mead, and especially this one, is a libation fit for a King.
Whether you’re an experienced mead-drinker, a novice or have never had mead before, you will appreciate and enjoy what Monks Meadery offers. They make their meads in Athens, Georgia and are the first meadery in the Peach State. Their meads are carried all around Georgia and you can order directly from them online as well.
I can’t say enough great things about Monks Meadery - from their products to their people like co-founder and head mead maker Justin. It’s a great time to explore some great new adult beverages as well as support local Georgia business, so please checkout Monks Meadery and all they have to offer.
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