If you ever happen to be in Christchurch and are over 18, then definitely include mead tasting at Colony on your "free things to do in Christchurch" list.
One of our favourite things is watching people taste a range of quality mead for the first time, as we talk through the story of this ancient drink, savoured throughout history by royalty and peasants alike, vikings and medieval knights, brides and grooms, or simply as a refreshing alternative to beer or wine.
Originating approximately 9000 years ago (aro 7000 BCE) in ancient China, it is believed mead was created by accident as honey was so hard to collect then that people would dilute it with water. At a certain concentration and with a little natural yeast, fermentation kicked off and through this natural process created the first alcohol drink, and we have been blessed with mead ever since!
Many people associate mead with particular historical eras. For example we have a lot of people discuss how monks would produce mead, or knights would drink mead after battle. More recently it is the Vikings influence on mead which is discussed (we call that the Netflix effect)!
Of course with such a long history, mead has also had cultural influences, such as being a traditional drink associated with weddings. The term 'honeymoon' refers to drinking mead (honey) for one month (moon) after getting married.
There are approximately 70 different styles of mead (which is technically a honey wine due to the fermentation process), and the type of honey used and skill of the mead maker have a major influence on the flavour and quality of the end product.
Recently we have seen a number of products released into the market as sparkling or 'session' meads, often sitting around 5% alc/vol and done in a beer or cider style. While there may well be markets for those products, we don't consider them true meads and so ours are full bodied, still mead that are typically at aro 12% alc/vol.
There is also a truly an art to producing a quality mead. While the recipe itself is relatively simple, avoiding issues such as secondary fermentation require care and experience. This is one of the reasons why tasting a mead at a market or produced at home is not the same as a from our gold-medal winning mead makers.
At Colony, we are fortunate to work with two of New Zealand's leading mead makers, with decades of experience, and during our mead tasting we walk our customers through different styles to suite their taste palate.
While we definitely encourage you to come in and taste our mead, if you are unable to then here are some tasting notes from our mead makers and own team to help you select a mead that might get you started:
(Note that we do have other meads in our range from time-to-time, but these are our most popular products.)
If you've never tried mead before, this is one we suggest you start with. It is a very tradition, clean mead which is silky, rich and well balanced. Best enjoyed as a small glass, slightly chilled, it is perfect to relax with in late afternoon or with a cheese board.
Technically a metheglin, which is a spiced mead and translation from old Welsh meaning 'healing liquor', Gingermede has a slightly drier finish while retaining the sweet and full bodied characteristics of a quality mead. This is my personal favourite in a small glass for relaxing in the evening.
If you have a whisky palate, you'll love Excaliber! Rich, slightly spiced and aged with toasted French oak this is a truly premium mead.
This is a full-bodied mead with spices, citrus and floral notes, and aged with toasted French oak. Our favourite for mulling (warming), this is one that our more experienced mead drinkers turn to.
Red mead is a type of melomel, which means a mead that has fruit added to it. With honey being historically difficult to harvest, people would often finish their mead by adding wild berries to the brew. Our Red Mead is finished with boysenberries, giving a pleasant, fruity finish and one that is particularly popular with those that don't typically enjoy wine or beer.
In addition to our meads, we also have a mead port and various mead liqueurs (either Scotch whisky or brandy honey liqueurs) that our customers are welcome to try.
Of course if you are unable to visit and have questions, please feel free to message us or comment!
(Please note that all alcohol sales are subject to New Zealand's "Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012)", including a minimum age of 18+. By confirming your order you are acknowledging you are legally able to purchase alcohol products in your territory.)