Mead in Britain: an ancient drink back in fashion

Brewers and chefs are reviving the honeyed ancestor of fermented drinks

It might sound like a throwback to Tudor times, but thanks to a burgeoning brewing movement that mirrors the resurgence in craft beer, mead is making a comeback.

Tom Gosnell, who started brewing his Gosnells London Mead at the end of last year, is leading the charge. He is building on decades of groundwork done by the Newlyn-based Cornish Mead Company, which was set up in 1960, and Lurgashall Winery, which also makes mead, in West Sussex.

The honey-based drink has a long heritage in the UK, dating back to pagan times when it was drunk at  weddings and by the bride and groom for the following month, hence the term “honeymoon”. Mead made an appearance in Beowulf and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Some monasteries kept up the traditions of mead-making as a by-product of beekeeping. It began to disappear after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century.

Mead-makers have hailed the influence of René Redzepi (pictured, right), co-owner of the Noma restaurant in Denmark, who has done so much to revive interest in ingredients with a northern European ancestry. He is one of a growing number of chefs who use mead in sauces. Simon Rogan, one of the UK’s top chefs, is among mead’s growing fans.

Gosnells, which is brewed in Peckham, south London, but served as far north as Edinburgh’s Timberyard restaurant, as well as London’s popular Dabbous, differs from its forebears in being far less alcoholic. The alcohol content of mead is typically around 16 or 17 per cent, but Mr Gosnell prefers a lighter, dryer version at 5.8 per cent ABV.

Tom Gosnell brews mead for the 21st century Tom Gosnell brews mead for the 21st century “I wanted a modern twist; something that was easier to drink and more accessible,” he said. He makes around 2,500 bottles a month, but has capacity for double that amount. He uses Spanish orange blossom honey because British honey is “too expensive to make a drink out of and varies too much between season and batches”.

Sarah Thompson, director of Lurgashall, said mead was an “underground drink, popular with  medieval re-enactment groups, pagans, and students” when she took over the West Sussex meadery four years ago. “But we’ve seen a big difference in attitude in the past six months. It’s one of the last drinks to have its comeback, after cider and gin. But it’s coming.”

Sophie Fenton, who runs Cornish Mead with her brother, Matthew Leiworthy, sells around 50,000 litres a year to local supermarkets and restaurants. “We’re trying to start a new trend for using mead to make cocktails. It’s finding a new, younger market,” she said.

Chet Sharma, head of research and development at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume restaurant and test kitchen in Cartmel, Cumbria, says his most recent mead is based on elderflower, but adds that you can add anything you like to flavour it. L’Enclume and Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s plan to stock Gosnells.

“The only difference between mead and beer is they use malt as their sugar source instead of honey. Why can’t there be as much diversity in mead as there is in craft beer?” Mr Sharma said.

Despite mead’s renaissance, the UK has some way to go to catch up with the US, where interest has grown in the past decade. There are now at least 250 meaderies across the US.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments