The Real Reason Mead Is Becoming Popular Again

Craft brews and alcohol of all types are having more than a moment, as they appear to have taken over the entire millennium, or at least all 2+ decades of it that we've had so far. There are still certain types of drinks that people may be reluctant to try, however, due to bad experiences in the past. Artisanal fruit-flavored fortified wine, anyone? No, we didn't think so –- after all, everyone's got some kind of shameful grocery story alcohol moment they're still trying to purge from their memory.

You might be inclined to put mead into the category of best-forgotten beverages, as well, since chances are if you've ever tried this honey wine, it may have been some sicky-sweet nastiness you seriously regretted consuming at a Renaissance Festival. (Huzzah? more like huzz-blah!) Well, guess what? Mead's been around for a long, long time, and evidently every thousand years or so it becomes cool again. Thrillist seems to feel that mead's undergoing a renaissance of sorts right now, and not just the RennFair kind, as the number of U.S. meaderies has more than tripled over the past decade. As to why mead is resurging in popularity at this point after a few centuries on the fringe, there's no one answer, but different mead-makers have their own theories.

People's unfamiliarity with mead lowers the bar for success

While mead is the opposite of new, it's still unfamiliar to many who aren't RennFair habitués. Plus, as Thrillist suggests, there's always the hipster factor –- okay, so they didn't use the "h" word, but they did mention that "gentrified Brooklyn" was the site of New York City's first craft meadery, so inferences were drawn. Raphael Lyon, the mead-maker (or "mazer") at this Brooklyn-based establishment, has an interesting theory for why craft brewers are becoming more interested in making mead. "When people come to grape wine," he told Thrillist, "they're often rating it against what they've been told it ought to taste like." With mead, however, the mazers are "trying to make something you've never had before."

So maybe this means if you've never had it, you won't know if it's good or bad? Well, by this point we are now all conditioned to take something in a glass handed to us by an earnest, bearded Brooklynite far more seriously than if it comes in a plastic cup purchased from a cosplayer calling us "m'lord" or "m'lady" in an accent borrowed from a Monty Python movie.

It's something old and different

Delish suspects that the craft mead movement might have been quietly bubbling along since the late 20th century. Although they noted that as a commercial beverage it fell out of favor about 400 years ago, due to changes in tax laws as well as the increasing availability of sugar as opposed to honey, they pinpoint the rise in craft brewing of all types to Charlie Papazian's 1984 classic book "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing." While much of this book was devoted to beer, there was a chapter on mead-making.

Just as it took craft brewing a few years to move from people's basements to microbreweries, mead also took a while to find its niche. A longer while, since while beer is a beverage nearly every adult is familiar with, mead is something even our great-great-great-great- (etc.) grandparents would have found old-fashioned. As to why the recent mead boom, however, this may be due in part to meaderies figuring out how to cut costs so as to be able to produce an affordable product – traditionally, mead tends to be relatively expensive – despite the fact that honey's still far pricier than barley, grapes, and other fermentables. Jennifer Herbert, co-founder of Superstition Meadery, also told Delish that mazers have been pinning their hopes on the federal government passing something called the Mead Act, which will make tax laws more mead-friendly, but it does not appear that there's been any action on that bill since it was introduced to Congress in 2016.

There's even a celebrity-owned meadery

If you were a fan of the Disney sitcom "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" back in the '00s, you may have wondered whatever became of Dylan Sprouse. After all, it's been 10 years since he last appeared as Zack Martin in the spin-off series "The Suite Life on Deck." Well, if you were going to place a bet on when and how Dylan Sprouse would re-emerge from his self-imposed hiatus, you'd probably have expected him to take on more grown-up, edgier acting parts along the lines of his twin brother Cole's role in "Riverdale." Probably the last thing you'd ever expected was that he'd instead reinvent himself as the first (and, as far as we know, only) celebrity mazer.

While Sprouse has taken on some less-than-high-profile acting roles in recent years, he's also been involved in promoting his Brooklyn-based meadery, All-Wise. Sprouse told Thrillist: "I think [mead]'s for people who want to drink something more than beer, that's kind of a replacement for wine that sits somewhere in between, right?" He did add, though, that he thinks "the marketing is dogs*** so far," adding that "If mead's going to emerge, it needs to be something that's a little more approachable." Well, Thrillist seems to think that Sprouse's celeb appeal itself may help nudge mead from the fringes to the mainstream. How quickly that happens, no one knows, but at least by now mead has evolved (or re-evolved) to the point where it's no longer just for jesters, jugglers, and jousters.