M3. Spiced 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.

M3A. Fruit and Spice Mead

M3A. Fruit and Spice Mead

A Fruit and Spice Mead is a mead containing one or more fruits and one or more spices. See the definitions of fruit used in the various Fruit Mead subcategories; any ingredient qualifying there meets the “fruit” requirement here. For purposes of this subcategory, any ingredient qualifying for use in the Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Mead subcategory also meets the “spice” requirement here.
Overall Impression: In well-made examples of the style, the fruits and spices are both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey-sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of fruits and spices can result in widely different characteristics; allow for significant variation in the final product.
Aroma: Depending on the sweetness and strength, a subtle to distinctly identifiable honey, fruit, and spice character (dry and/or hydromel versions will tend to have lower aromatics than sweet and/or sack versions). The spice character should display distinctive aromatics associated with the particular spices; however, note that some spices (e.g., ginger, cinnamon) have stronger aromas and are more distinctive than others (e.g., chamomile, lavender) — allow for a range of spice character and intensity from subtle to aggressive. The spice character should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial and inappropriately overpowering (considering the character of the spice). The fruit character should display distinctive aromatics associated with the particular fruit; however, note that some fruits (e.g., raspberry, cherry) have stronger aromas and are more distinctive than others (e.g., peach) — allow for a range of fruit character and intensity from subtle to aggressive. The fruit character should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial, raw (unfermented) and/or inappropriately overpowering (considering the character of the fruit). In a mead with more than one fruit and/or spice, not all fruits and spices may be individually identifiable or of equal intensity. The honey aroma should be noticeable, and can have a light to significant 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). The bouquet should show a pleasant fermentation character, with clean and fresh aromatics being preferred. Stronger and/or sweeter versions will have higher alcohol and sweetness in the nose. Some spices may produce spicy or peppery phenolics. Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.

Appearance: Standard description applies, except perhaps to note that the color usually won’t be affected by spices (although flowers, petals and peppers may provide subtle colors; tea blends may provide significant colors). The fruit may provide significant color, and is generally evocative of the fruit used (although it may be of a lighter shade than the fruit skin).
Flavor: The spice flavor intensity may vary from subtle to high; the fruit flavor intensity may vary from subtle to high; the honey flavor intensity may vary from subtle to high; the residual sweetness may vary from none to high; and the finish may range from dry to sweet, depending on what sweetness level has been declared (dry to sweet) and strength level has been declared (hydromel to sack). The distinctive flavor character associated with the particular spices may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive (although some spices may not be individually recognizable, and can just serve to add a background complexity). Certain spices might add bitter, astringent, phenolic or spicy (hot) flavors; if present, these qualities should be related to the declared ingredients (otherwise, they are faults), and they should balance and blend with the honey, sweetness and alcohol. The distinctive flavor character associated with the particular fruits may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive (although some fruits may not be individually recognizable, and can just serve to add a background complexity). Certain fruits might add acidic, bitter, astringent or flavors; if present, these qualities should be related to the declared ingredients (otherwise, they are faults), and they should balance and blend with the honey, sweetness and alcohol. Meads containing more than one fruit or spice should have a pleasant balance of the different fruits and spices, but this does not mean that all fruits and spices need to be of equal intensity or even individual identifiable. The mead may have a subtle to strong honey character, and may feature noticeable to prominent varietal character if a varietal honey is declared (different varieties have different intensities). Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Mouthfeel: Standard description applies. Some fruits and spices may contain tannins that add a bit of body and some astringency, but this character should not be excessive.
Ingredients: Standard description applies. See the various Fruit Mead descriptions, as well as the Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Mead description for additional details.
Comments: Often, a blend of fruits and spices may give a character greater than the sum of its parts. The better examples of this style often use spices judiciously; when more than one spice are used, they are carefully selected so that they blend harmoniously with the fruit and with each other.

M3B. Spice, Herb or Vegetable Mead

M3B. Spice, Herb or Vegetable Mead

A Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Mead contains one or more spices, herbs, or vegetables (in this style definition, these are collectively known as “spices”). The culinary, not botanical, definition of spice, herb, or vegetable is used here. If you have to justify a spice, herb, or vegetable using the word “technically” as part of the description, then that’s not what we mean. The same definitions apply to this category as to the similarly- named beer category. In addition to the more obvious spices, herbs, and vegetables that fit into this subcategory, the following ingredients also are explicitly included: roses, rose hips, ginger, rhubarb, pumpkins, chile peppers, coffee, chocolate, nuts (including coconut), citrus peels/zest, and teas (except those strictly used for increasing tannin levels, not for adding flavor).
Overall Impression: In well-made examples of the style, the spices are both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey- sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of spices can result in widely different characteristics; allow for a variation in the final product.
Aroma: Depending on the sweetness and strength, a subtle to distinctly identifiable honey and spice character (dry and/or hydromel versions will tend to have lower aromatics than sweet and/or sack versions). The spice character should display distinctive aromatics associated with the particular spices; however, note that some spices (e.g., ginger, cinnamon) have stronger aromas and are more distinctive than others (e.g., chamomile, lavender) — allow for a range of spice character and intensity from subtle to aggressive. The spice character should be pleasant and supportive, not artificial and inappropriately overpowering (considering the character of the spice). In a blended spice mead, not all spices may be individually identifiable or of equal intensity. The honey aroma should be noticeable, and can have a light to significant 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). The bouquet should show a pleasant fermentation character, with clean and fresh aromatics being preferred. Stronger and/or sweeter versions will have higher alcohol and sweetness in the nose. Some herbs and spices may produce spicy or peppery phenolics. Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.

Appearance: Standard description applies, except perhaps to note that the color usually won’t be affected by spices and herbs (although flowers, petals and peppers may provide subtle colors; tea blends may provide significant colors).
Flavor: The spice flavor intensity may vary from subtle to high; the honey flavor intensity may vary from subtle to high; the residual sweetness may vary from none to high; and the finish may range from dry to sweet, depending on what sweetness level has been declared (dry to sweet) and strength level has been declared (hydromel to sack). The distinctive flavor character associated with the particular spices may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive (although some spices may not be individually recognizable, and can just serve to add a background complexity). Certain herbs and spices might add bitter, astringent, phenolic or spicy (hot) flavors; if present, these qualities should be related to the declared ingredients (otherwise, they are faults), and they should balance and blend with the honey, sweetness and alcohol. Meads containing more than one spice should have a good balance among the different spices, though some spices will tend to dominate the flavor profile. The mead may have a subtle to strong honey character, and may feature noticeable to prominent varietal character if a varietal honey is declared (different varieties have different intensities). Standard description applies for remainder of characteristics.
Mouthfeel: Standard description applies. Some herbs or spices may contain tannins that add a bit of body and some astringency, but this character should not be excessive. Warming spices and hot peppers/chiles might impart a warming or numbing impression, but this character should not be extreme or make the mead undrinkable.
Ingredients: Standard description applies. If spices are used in conjunction with other ingredients such as fruit, cider, or other fruit-based fermentables, then the mead should be entered as a Fruit and Spice Mead. If spices are used in combination with other ingredients, then the mead should be entered as an Experimental Mead.
Comments: Often, a blend of spices may give a character greater than the sum of its parts. The better examples of this style use spices subtly; when more than one spice are used, they are carefully selected so that they blend harmoniously. A mead containing only culinary spices or herbs is known as a metheglin.

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