Bees, honey, honeycomb

The 2023 Cambridge Beer Festival mead list

Jo Fried raises a glass to Britain’s bees

Mead is essentially fermented honey. Its main ingredients are just honey and water – no grapes, no hops – to make it one of the simplest types of alcoholic beverage. Most of the differences and nuances of flavour come from these key ingredients:

  • Honey – bees in different parts of the country feast on different flowers and plants, leading to lighter or darker meads. Traditional mead is light, sweet and highly quaffable.
  • Water – Moniack mead, for example, is made with the waters of Scotland’s whisky region. This yields a rich peaty aroma.
  • Flavours – some meads contain additional spices or spirits to generate a truly unique flavour. Reserve mead is infused with rum whereas Christmas mead is blended with festive spices.

Brewed by the Vikings, druids and ancient civilisations, mead became linked with tradition, ritual and feasting. In the past, wine was only produced in areas where grapes grew, so it didn’t emerge in Britain until the Romans arrived. But with hops and honey easily sourced from northern Europe, beer and mead flourished.

All of the mead at this festival is from the British Isles, from dry to sweet, all flaunting how gorgeous British mead can be.