M1. Traditional Mead

2015 Beer Judge Certification Program Guidelines

Sweetness. A mead may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Sweetness simply refers to the amount of residual sugar in the mead. Sweetness is often confused with fruitiness in a dry mead. Body is related to sweetness, but dry meads can still have some body. Dry meads do not have to be bone dry. Sweet meads should not be cloyingly sweet, and should not have a raw, unfermented honey character. Sweetness is independent of strength. Note that tannin levels can affect the perceived sweetness of mead (more tannin makes a mead seem drier), but acidity is more related to the quality, balance, and enjoyment of the sweetness. The purpose of identifying a sweetness level is primarily to aid in the ordering of a flight. Minor differences from stated sweetness level should not be heavily-penalized or considered a disqualifying fault.

Carbonation. A mead may be still, petillant, or sparkling. Still meads do not have to be totally flat; they can have some very light bubbles. Petillant meads are lightly sparkling and can have a moderate, noticeable amount of carbonation. Sparkling meads are not gushing, but may have a character ranging from mouth- filling to an impression akin to Champagne or carbonated water. Minor differences from stated carbonation level should not be heavily-penalized or considered a disqualifying fault.

Strength. A mead may be categorized as hydromel, standard, or sack strength. Strength refers to the alcohol content of the mead (and also, therefore, the amount of honey and fermentables used to make the mead). Stronger meads can have a greater honey character and body (as well as alcohol) than weaker meads, although this is not a strict rule. Well-made stronger examples may have difficult-to-detect strength. Minor differences from stated strength level should not be heavily-penalized or considered a disqualifying fault.

Honey variety. Some types of honey have a strong varietal character (aroma, flavor, color, acidity). If a honey is unusual, additional information can be provided to judges as to the character to be expected. Note that wildflower isn’t a varietal honey; it is specifically a term used to describe a honey derived from an unknown source or from mixed flowers or blossoms. Consider providing a description of the honey if it is not listed in the Mead Exam Study Guide or other BJCP references. Identifying the source (state or region) and season of the honey can be useful information for the judges.

Special ingredients. Different styles may include fruit, spice, malt, etc. Judges need to understand the ingredients that provide a unique character in order to properly evaluate the mead. Oak additions do not have to be specified (but may be at the entrant’s discretion); oaking is acceptable in every mead style. Excessive oaking is a fault, just as in wine; any use of oak should be balanced and complimentary. A declared use of oak should not be interpreted as requiring the oak to be a primary flavor.

M1A. Dry Mead

M1A. Dry Mead

Overall Impression: Similar in balance, body, finish and flavor intensity to a dry white wine, with a pleasant mixture of subtle honey character, soft fruity esters, and clean alcohol. Complexity, harmony, and balance of sensory elements are most desirable, with no inconsistencies in color, aroma, flavor or aftertaste. The proper balance of sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and honey character is the essential final measure of any mead.
Aroma: Honey aroma may be subtle, although not always identifiable. Sweetness or significant honey aromatics should not be expected. If a honey variety is declared, the variety should be distinctive (if noticeable). Different types of honey have different intensities and characters. Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Appearance: Standard description applies.
Flavor: Subtle (if any) honey character, and may feature subtle to noticeable varietal character if a varietal honey is declared (different varieties have different intensities). Residual sweetness levels are minimal to none. Dry finish. May have more noticeable acidity due to low sweetness levels. Tannin levels may make a sweeter mead seem dry. Sulfury, harsh or yeasty fermentation characteristics are undesirable. Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Mouthfeel: Standard description applies, although the body is generally medium to light (but not watery). Note that stronger meads can have a fuller body. Sensations of body should not be accompanied by noticeable residual sweetness.
Ingredients: Standard description applies. Traditional Meads feature the character of a blended honey or a blend of honeys. Varietal meads feature the distinctive character of certain honeys. Show meads feature no additives, but this distinction is usually not obvious to judges.

M1B. Semi-Sweet Mead

M1B. Semi-Sweet Mead

Overall Impression: Similar in balance, body, finish and flavor intensity to a semi-sweet (or medium-dry) white wine, with a pleasant mixture of honey character, light sweetness, soft fruity esters, and clean alcohol. Complexity, harmony, and balance of sensory elements are most desirable, with no inconsistencies in color, aroma, flavor or aftertaste. The proper balance of sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and honey character is the essential final measure of any mead.
Aroma: Honey aroma should be noticeable, and can have a light sweetness that may express the aroma of flower nectar. If a variety of honey is declared, the aroma might have a subtle to very noticeable varietal character reflective of the honey (different varieties have different intensities and characters). Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Appearance: Standard description applies.
Flavor: Subtle to moderate honey character, and may feature subtle to noticeable varietal character if a varietal honey is declared (different varieties have different intensities). Residual sweetness levels are subtle to moderate. Medium-dry to lightly sweet finish. Tannin levels may make a sweet mead seem medium-dry. Sulfury, harsh or yeasty fermentation characteristics are undesirable. Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics. Mouthfeel: Standard description applies, although the body is generally medium-light to medium-full. Note that stronger meads can have a fuller body. Sensations of body should not be accompanied by a residual sweetness that is higher than moderate.
Ingredients: Standard description applies. Traditional Meads feature the character of a blended honey or a blend of honeys. Varietal meads feature the distinctive character of certain honeys. Show meads feature no additives, but this distinction is usually not obvious to judges.

M1C. Sweet Mead

M1C. Sweet Mead

Overall Impression: Similar in balance, body, finish and flavor intensity to a well-made dessert wine (such as Sauternes), with a pleasant mixture of honey character, residual sweetness, soft fruity esters, and clean alcohol. Complexity, harmony, and balance of sensory elements are most desirable, with no inconsistencies in color, aroma, flavor or aftertaste. The proper balance of sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and honey character is the essential final measure of any mead.
Aroma: Honey aroma should dominate, and is often moderately to strongly sweet and usually expresses the aroma of flower nectar. If a variety of honey is declared, the aroma might have a subtle to very noticeable varietal character reflective of the honey (different varieties have different intensities and characters). Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Appearance: Standard description applies.
Flavor: Moderate to significant honey character, and may feature moderate to prominent varietal character if a varietal honey is declared (different varieties have different intensities). Residual sweetness levels are moderate to high. Sweet and full (but not cloying) finish. Balanced acidity and/or tannin helps keep the sweetness agreeable to the palate without being overwhelming. Sulfury, harsh or yeasty fermentation characteristics are undesirable. Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Mouthfeel: Standard description applies, although the body is generally medium-full to full. Note that stronger meads will have a fuller body. Many examples will seem like a dessert wine. Sensations of body should not be accompanied by cloying, raw (unfermented) residual sweetness.
Ingredients: Standard description applies. Traditional Meads feature the character of a blended honey or a blend of honeys. Varietal meads feature the distinctive character of certain honeys. Show meads feature no additives, but this distinction is usually not obvious to judges.

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