Mead is that ancient brew made from honey, the nectar of the gods.
On its own, mead can bring a taste of heaven to your mouth, but you might encounter several substyles of mead on the path to enlightenment.
A cyser adds apple cider or juice to the honey before fermentation. And depending on how much honey the meadmaker added, the cyser might end up bright and wine like or rich and redolent of honey.
If blending grape juice and honey sounds like your thing, go ahead and put them together and call it a pyment. Considering the many varieties of grapes, the spectrum of colors and flavors in the resulting pyments offer an entire new world of exploration.
A braggot adds some kind of fermentable grain into the mix, resulting in what should taste like a delightful marriage of both mead and ale. Geoffrey Chaucer, in “The Canterbury Tales,” has the miller describe the old carpenter’s young wife, Alison, as having a mouth as sweet as a braggot.
A braggot can be made with any base beer or with smoked malts; this makes the resulting mead-based potable widely varied and fully open to interpretation.
Metheglins take a mead and put spices or herbs into it. Metheglin comes from the Welsh words meddyg (medicinal) and llyn (liquor). These brews, often taken as an aid for ailments, were the over-the-counter treatments of their day.
Most modern folk will reach for their favorite brand of cough and cold medicine when feeling sick, but I’m someone who still favors herbal medicine as a first response. I made my share of honey-based medicinal syrups this past winter using blends of mullein, elder, lemon balm, thyme and more.
Commonly used ingredients in metheglin today include flowers such as rose and lavender, spices such as cinnamon and vanilla, and even stronger additions of chocolate and chili peppers.
Adding any kind of fruit to a mead puts it in a broad category called a melomel. With that in mind, you could say that all cysers and pyments are melomels, but not all melomels are cysers or pyments.
Some melomels made with other fruits have special names, like those with mulberries (morat, rhymes with Borat), black currants (black mead), blueberries (bilbemel), pears (perry), red currants (red mead) and raspberries (rudamel).
Any fruit or combination of fruits can be used when making a melomel and the exciting flavor possibilities are endless: strawberry-kiwi, mango-pineapple, passion fruit-guava. If you can dream it up, you can make it happen.