Let me explain…
From Altbier to Weizenbock there are literally dozens of known and named beer styles, many of which are recognizable to your run-of-the-mill craft beer drinker: IPA, Golden Lager, Stout, Porter, Wit Bier, and so on.
How do you name a wine? Well, either pick the name of the grape or use your GPS coordinates and you’re pretty much done.
Mead? Oh we have some names, they’re just mostly esoteric, overly generic, unappealing, or all of the above.
Let’s run a little experiment: What do you call a light beverage you can have several glasses of in one sitting?
If it’s beer it’s probably a Pale Ale or American Lager. Those both sound lovely and thirst quenching! Such a wine could be a Pinot Grigio, an unoaked Chardonnay, or just a “light table wine.” How delightful!
What about mead? It’s called a Hydromel, and as a customer once pointed out, “Gosh, that sounds like a cough medicine from the 60s.” And, of course, he’s right. Make it higher in alcohol and it’s a “Sack.” Got that? A SACK. Wow, that sounds even better!
If I want to add a little bit of spice to a batch, maybe some cinnamon. What do I have? A metheglin. Yuck. It’s no coincidence that it sounds like “medicine.” While metheglin is NOT the root of the word medicine as many, many, many websites claim, the two words are unappetizing-sounding cognates.
OK, now let’s throw in some fruit! What do you get? It’s a melomel! Well, at least that one’s fun to say, but it’s not very descriptive. If you want to know what kind of melomel it is you have to list the fruit along with the word, e.g. “This is our Raspberry Melomel.” At that point, why not just call it a Raspberry Mead?
Then you get into the realm of the ungodly esoteric: Acerglyn, Viking’s Blood, Morat, Oxymel, Pyment, Tej, and Gverc. Seriously, there’s a type of mead called Gverc.
And yet, there is a nice thing about mead: There is no central authority telling you what you can and cannot call your beverage.
What’s a mead made with tea? Camelliamel! I want to brew one just so I can say the name!
What’s a mead infused with coffee? Obviously it’s a coffeamel.
What’s a mead with extra booze poured in? I call it, “Tom Waits for No Man,” and who’s going to stop me? Well, maybe Tom Waits, but he seems like a guy who can take a joke.