What is the Difference Between Mead and Beer?
Mead and beer are both types of alcoholic beverages that are thousands of years old, but they are made using very different ingredients. Mead is traditionally made from honey, while beer is made from malted barley and hops. Mead may also contain spices or fruits, while beer traditionally does not. However, there are modern beers being introduced that are flavored using a variety of fruits including apple and citrus. Apple-flavored beer has a cider-like taste to it.
So what is the difference between mead and beer? The simple answer is that for an alcoholic beverage to be called mead it must be made from honey and water, although, of course, regional variations exist across the world, but the base is still the same. Beer, on the other hand, is made from cereal grains with malted barley being the most common. Maize (corn), wheat, and rice are also common ingredients used for beermaking.
While mead may be referred to as a honey wine, it is neither a wine nor a beer. It is its own classification.
Because of the chemically different natures of grapes and grain, the respective makers use different strands of yeast to create their respective alcoholic beverages. While technically any can be used for the creation of mead, yeast used for winemaking is arguably the better choice to make mead as wine yeast tends to work better with honey, but beer yeast can still be used.
Aside from the main ingredients used for the corresponding drinks, another difference between the two is alcohol content. For the most part, mead can reach higher alcohol by volume than beer can. Modern day beers have a 4-6% ABV whereas mead is more in line with wine at 10-15%.
Making mead is a process of introducing yeast into the honey-water mixture and converts the natural sugars in the honey into alcohol. With beer, however, there is a slightly more complex process as the sugars found in the barley have to be extracted before it can ferment. To start, the grains have to be heated and cracked, then soaked in hot water to extract the sugar in it. The water is removed and becomes known as 'wort' which is basically beer at its rawest form that has sugar in it. This is where ingredients such as hops are added and help give beer its distinctive bitter taste. The end-result depends on the grain used as well as how much hops are added to the brew.
Much like beer, mead's flavor profile can also vary depending on the type of honey used as well as how much of it is used. Duration of fermentation also plays a role here.
To make mead, one starts with heating a honey-water mixture to dissolve the honey. This mixture becomes known as 'must,' the same term used for crushed grapes, and serves as the basis of the mead.
While beer can be marketed soon after the fermentation process is done, mead can take a little bit longer. Just like wine, mead has to be clarified as well. Aging also helps tremendously with the flavors.
That pretty much sums up the difference between mead and beer. Which one do you prefer, mead or beer? Or do you like them both equally. Let us know!