What Is Mead, Anyway? A Tasting With Maryland Meadworks

Maryland Meadworks on a pier hero

Not a huge fan of beer? Wine not quite your thing? Connoisseur of adult beverages? Then mead might be for you. When it came time for Global Debauchery to embark on a quintessential Maryland getaway in the Chesapeake, I was beyond excited to pair the trip with our neighborhood meadery, Maryland Meadworks. Not only does this small business deliver some ridiculously tasty libations, it’s also determined to the save the world. In more ways than one. A huge thank you to them for their incredible generosity! As the Maryland Meadworks motto goes, “Drink mead, save the world!” But… what is mead, anyway?

What Is Mead, Anyway?

If you’re asking yourself, “What is mead, anyway?”, in short, and in the simplest terms, it’s honey wine. And, if you’re wondering if it’s the same drink that the ancient Greeks and medieval royalty enjoyed, you would be correct. Fruits, spices and hops are sometimes added to this fermented honey water. And they can be still, naturally sparkling, or carbonated; sweet, semi-sweet, or dry. The resulting alcohol content can be anywhere from 3.5% to more than 18%! So, whatever you do… enjoy responsibly.

Traces of mead can be found in Chinese pottery dating as far back as 7000 BC. Ancient historical references to it can be found worldwide—from India to Greece to Rome to Germany to Ireland. Eventually, monasteries took up beekeeping and produced mead in places where grapes wouldn’t grow. All of this being said, I’d like to consider mead-drinking one of the most traditional forms of global debauchery there is.

Maryland Meadworks growler with flag for "What Is Mead, Anyway?"

More recently, there’s been a huge surge in the popularity of mead. And, well, the best byproduct of that is saving the bees! Greenpeace reports that, in a typical year, a bee colony might lose 5–10% of its bees in the winter, which are subsequently replaced in the spring. Maybe 15–20% in a bad year. But in recent years in the United States, beekeepers are seeing losses of 30–50%.

These losses are particularly devastating since honey bees provide 80% of the world’s pollination, and are responsible for pollinating 70 of the top 100 food crops. Among the ways to prevent further honey bee decline are to ban certain pesticides and to preserve the bee habitat. […Enter Maryland Meadworks!] Not only does Maryland Meadworks encourage beekeeping, it makes sure to use fruits, herbs, and spices from other local sources.

A Debaucherous Taste of Honey

If quarantine has done anything, it’s forced me to explore my local surroundings more than ever before. Not that anyone has to force me to drink mead—I do that willingly and joyfully—but, when I wanted a socially-distanced getaway, I decided on something right in my own backyard—a quirky little island in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. And, honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect partner than Maryland Meadworks for the trip. So, I reached out.

Aside from saving the bees, Maryland Meadworks also saves local starving artists from time to time. Just kidding. But they do a lot to support local artists as well and—wouldn’t you know—Global Debauchery falls right into that category. They seriously couldn’t have been more generous, too. They gifted us a whole six-pack and two massive growlers of mead! Eight. different. mead. varieties. This was serious business that called for a whole mead-tasting evening. Read our reviews… below.

Glass of Maryland Meadworks for "What Is Mead, Anyway?" post

Ginger Bee

I’ve decided to start with the Ginger Bee because both the #AdventurePartnerForLife and I agreed it was a good mead for a first-time taster. It’s also a really good mead for a hundredth-time taster. Ginger Bee is a refreshing, sparkling mead with orange blossom honey, fresh ginger, and lemon-lime zest. It’s an 8% mead and it goes down really easily, so do take care.

Tart Gwen

Moving on to my personal favorite—the Tart Gwen. Tart Gwen gets four thumbs up from the Global Debauchery duo. I love this particular mead and can’t get enough of it. It is indeed tart, but it’s also floral and fresh. Almost like a rosé. A gorgeous combination of wildflower honey, cherry juice, and lemon thyme, it doesn’t get much better than the Tart Gwen.

Zanzibar

Maryland Meadworks’ Zanzibar is another easy flavor. It’s not as punchy as the Ginger Bee or the Tart Gwen (it’s a semi-sweet mead), but it’s still a very pleasant mix of pineapple, mango, and papaya. A solid warm-weather drink.

Super Hy

I was a huge fan of the Super Hy. All I could keep saying is that it was such a pretty drink. And, by “pretty,” I don’t just mean that it’s a beautiful pink tint, I mean that it’s floral and fruity and fresh. The #AP4L wasn’t as big a fan of it as I was, but I would recommend the Super Hy all day every day. The perfect combination of hibiscus and blueberry!

Maryland Meadworks on a pier for "What Is Mead, Anyway?"

Bitter Bee

If you like IPAs, you’re bound to like the Bitter Bee. And, while the #AP4L supposedly doesn’t like beer, this one was his all-time fav. (I’m thinking it’s possible he just might like beer after all and doesn’t know it yet.) Made with cryo-mosaic and simcoe hops, Bitter Bee has a hoppy flavor. It’s fermented with Belgian yeast and infused with orange blossom honey.

Mead Marian

Ooh, Mead Marian. At 16%, this one’s a super sweet beaut. Another orange blossom honey mead, this one is sweet and showcases a different honey each batch. I do like this variety, but it’s too sweet for me to enjoy a full glass, personally. The #AP4L on the other hand… he loves it and could drink a growler full. This might be another good introductory mead.

New Groove

Wow! New Groove was so interesting. I’d guess that any Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew fan would absolutely love this particular mead. Crafted from organic cold-pressed coffee beans and caramelized honey, it tastes like chocolate iced coffee. But it’s a super limited release, so get over to Maryland Meadworks fast!

Dragon’s Breath

Tasting Dragon’s Breath was like having an out-of-body experience. It’s spicy! In the best way possible. It’s an off-dry mead made with wildflower honey and infused habanero peppers. And it literally leaves you a little breathless… because that’s what breathing fire does. While I could’t have a whole glass of the Dragon’s Breath, it’s definitely tasty. And it’s a great mixer with Mead Marian.

Maryland Meadworks taps

House Blends & Slushies

As if we needed any more reasons to “make a beeline” for Maryland Meadworks yesterday, there’s more—house blends and slushies! And, of course we tested the all house blends out. (#GlobalDebauchery.) I would’ve tested the slushies, too, if they were a little more portable.

  • Marian’s Fire: Marian’s Fire was another #AP4L favorite. Mix Mead Marian with Dragon’s Breath and enjoy a tasty sweet-fire pairing. Jeff liked it so much, he had two.
  • Katie’s Choice: A mix of the Zanzibar and Tart Gwen. Light, citrusy, and good.
  • Jeni’s Choice: Mead Marian and Super Hy. I found this one to be super sweet, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s probably right up your alley.
  • Izzy’s Choice: The Super Hy and Zanzibar together. This one wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t overly exciting either.
  • Slushies: I’ve yet to taste out Maryland Meadwork’s slushie selection, but it looks pretty epic. They mix their creations with cherries and mangos. And even offer non-alcoholic versions.

About Maryland Meadworks

Maryland Meadworks owner and founder, Ken Carter, started brewing beer back in the 80s. But his mead brewing passion began only twelve years ago. Since then, he’s attended multiple advanced mead makers’ workshops and picked some brains at the nation’s second-largest meadery. He’s also a member of a DC homebrew club, the Brewers Association of Maryland, and the American Mead Makers Association. And did I mention he opened an entire meadery? Yeah, he did that, too.

In addition to a deep appreciation of the craft and all things local and organic, one of my favorite things about Maryland Meadworks—besides their mead—is their involvement in social issues and their support of other small businesses. You’ll find any number of events being hosted—from charity fundraisers to jazz bands to comedy nights.

Maryland Meadworks’ Covid-19 Precautions

Maryland Meadworks takes the health of its patrons and local community very seriously. They’re currently offering pick-up and delivery and, should you want to visit the physical location, outdoor seating is available. They even partner with their business neighbor, Shortcake Bakery, for outdoor brunches every Sunday from 11 am–3 pm.

Maryland Meadworks exterior

A Recommendation for Maryland Meadworks

If there were ever a local company I was enthusiastic in my recommendation for, it’s Maryland Meadworks. “Five stars. Would drink here again.” From their product to their charity work, they’re a truly great addition to our community.

If you’re ever in DC or Northern Virginia and want to have a little fun testing out some mead flights, “hop” on up to Hyattsville, Maryland and pay them a visit. You won’t regret it!

Contact Information

Maryland Meadworks bee logo

4700 Rhode Island Ave Hyattsville, MD  2078
www.marylandmeadworks.com | 301-955-9644

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*While this post has been sponsored by Maryland Meadworks, the views expressed are my own.

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