By SHELBY VITTEK
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD | The Record
Inside a small warehouse tucked away behind a nondescript Union County shopping center , a mead revolution is brewing. I had made the short drive to Melovino Meadery — New Jersey’s one and only meadery — to sample its offerings of mead, or honey wine. What I hadn’t expected to find were the many beautiful examples that showed just how versatile a beverage mead can be, and I definitely hadn’t expected to find them in New Jersey.
As a group assembled in the tasting room for a weekend tour and tasting at Melovino in Vauxhall, I glanced over the many labels on the bottles in front of us. Like many Americans, mead was an unfamiliar beverage to me. Until this visit, I had always equated it with the sickly sweet and alcoholic meads loved by many Renaissance Faire enthusiasts. It’s a sweet honey wine from the Middle Ages, I thought, meant to accompany a giant turkey leg and outrageous Viking costumes but not much else. I don’t often admit this, but I was wrong.
The history of mead is as old and rich as the beverage itself. It’s thought to be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) alcoholic beverages consumed by man, even predating wine and beer. And it’s the only fermented beverage that can be made without human intervention. All it takes to make mead is a simple mixture of honey, water and yeast.
“We know the Vikings drank mead. We know that Beowulf drank mead. We know that Shakespeare drank mead,” Melovino’s assistant mead maker, Greg Iannarella, said at the beginning of the meadery tour.
In fact, sugary drinks like mead were prized and beloved for much of human history. The Greeks believed it to be the drink of the gods, and the beverage was also prevalent in Norse mythology. But as palates matured and drier wine and bitter beer became both easier to produce and more favored by consumers, the decadent sweetness of mead fell out of popularity.
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Meadery Profile: Melovino Meadery