Metheglin (Spiced or Herbal Mead).... A friend told me she gave some metheglin mead to one of her friends yesterday and they told her it tasted like cough syrup. That's too bad I thought. This made me think of something else.Years ago I entered a sweet mead in competition that had meadow sweet flowers,elder flowers and chamomile in it..One of the judges complained it was slightly bitter. Okay so what's the problem I thought? I told the judges that this was an herbal mead and listed the herbs.Most herbs have bitter compounds so why is this an issue? Herbs were added to mead, wine and beer for thousands of years to cut the sweetness, provide flavor/aroma, to add medicinal qualities (metheglin means medicine) and as preservatives.We are often taught that bitter means bad. Look at all the bitter beers adds you see..Good thing craft beer and IPA drinkers don't fall for that nonsense.
I enjoy herbal wines like Vermouth, Bermet, Retsina and German herbal liquors served as an aperitif. I appreciate the culture, tradition and history behind those type of wines. I love the how the sweetness is cut by the bitter resinous herbs. I've found that the most American palates are not used to traditional metheglin. I drank several from eastern Europe and they were mildly bitter in flavor from the herbs much like an aperitif wine,I enjoyed that quality about them. So what am I getting at here? Step outside the box, refine your palate, learn about the ingredients used and the traditions behind them, it will make the bitterness much sweeter. Anyone can throw some sweet herbs (cinnamon, vanilla and etc) into a sweet mead and get praises for it. We as humans love to taste things and we all have flavors we like whether it be bitter, sweet, savory or sour. Let your palate evolve, learn to love the bitter accompanied by the sweetness and complexity. There's a life lesson in that last sentence :) Mead thoughts for today!
Mead Maker at The Brimming Horn Meadery