Move over, hot toddies. Hot mead is here and—spoiler alert—it might be the Next Big Thing.
Mead is often referred to as honey wine, but that’s not quite accurate. It’s categorized as wine due to lack of a standalone segment in the United States’ alcohol industry, but the mead-making process is more similar to beer and the end result evokes an agricultural terroir akin to cider. Honey is the main fermentable sugar and the alcohol content ranges from very low (3% ABV) to fairly high (20% ABV), with most falling somewhere in the middle.
While mulled mead shares quite a few similarities to the traditional toddy (honey, lemon, spices, and, of course, alcohol), mead’s relative obscurity has stifled more mainstream acceptance. San Diego is home to a small handful of meaderies, and one of these early local adopters is San Marcos-based Meadiocrity Mead, who recently released their take on glühmet, or hot mulled mead. ("Glüh" or "Glüeh" translates to "glow" in German, which references the now-antiquated method of plunging a red-hot poker into the beverage to heat it up.)
"Mead is easy to make, but hard to make well," comments Mark Oberle, one of Meadiocrity’s co-founders. He posits that a lot of people who say they don’t like mead just haven’t been exposed to a well-made option. Their tasting room at 1365 Grand Avenue, Suite 100 opened this October and offers around a dozen different meads, all made with San Diego honey. Like other hot libations, Meadiocrity’s glühmet (Oberle pronounces it "glue-meat") is only available at the source.
To make glühmet, Meadiocrity starts with a semisweet 12.5% ABV base mead and adds orange, lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. It’s kept warm in an electric coffee percolator before being transferred to the final drinking vessel, which comes as a 2-ounce pour for $4 or 6-ounce pour for $9. The heating process does diminish the alcohol content slightly, but the final 12% ABV still falls well within the standard range for meads.
At first sniff, the aromatics are overwhelmingly lemony with the spices taking a slightly muted role. The fruity characteristics continue their domination in the flavor as well, but thanks to the smooth sweetness of the honey and elegantly restrained supportive spices, it never seems overly tart There’s an unmistakable bite to it, which one can expect from pretty much anything 11% ABV or above. But it drinks easily, maybe even a little too easily for 12%. I could see myself accidentally ordering a few of these, especially during this cold snap San Diego is experiencing. I’ve had a lingering sore throat for a few weeks, and glühmet is way more soothing (and delicious) than the cough drops I’ve been relying on for relief.
My only advice for Meadiocrity is to zazz up glühmet’s presentation a little more. A stick of cinnamon or orange slice garnish would add a festive flair to an already fun and unique beverage. But I can live without the panache. The experience is worth seeking out and far from mediocre.