Mead in India

Anjali Jhangiani
Thursday, 9 August 2018

Manu Mishra from Moonshine meadery tells you all you need to know about mead — the oldest fermented beverage known to man

Beer is made from grains, wine from grapes, and mead from honey. “There is documented evidence of the existence of mead dating back 9000 years. Historians believe that meads predated agriculture, so that says a lot about our ancestors who probably wanted to drink first and then grow some food,” quips Manu Mishra, Chief Whip, who is head of marketing and strategy at Moonshine Meadery. He adds, “How was it invented? Some honey probably fell into some water and somehow got fermented and we had alcohol.” 

In Norse mythology, a mythical beverage called the Mead of Poetry was believed to be crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir, and this turned the drinker into a poet or scholar. The Vikings used to drink it before going to battle. Even works of literature like Shakespeare, The Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter pay homage to this beverage.

Mead was present in India too a couple of thousand years ago. There are schools of thought that believe that the Sanskrit word for alcohol, madira and the word ‘mead’ are the same — madh meaning honey.

“Back in the day, the hallucinogenic plant was consumed by people by mixing it in mead. Then the beverage disappeared into the sands of time. We’ve decided to bring it back,” says Mishra. 

Mishra talks about the recent global trends that show mead making a resurgence. “Ninety-four per cent of about 450 meaderies in the US today have been founded in the last decade. This surge in popularity abroad is mirroring the interest in India,” says he. 

The founders of the company, Rohan Rehani and Nitin Vishwas (whose designations spell ‘Benevolent Overlords) have been fascinated with craft fermentation and gravitated towards brewing for a long time. While travelling to Europe for work, Nitin came across an article on meads in an inflight magazine which he shared with Rohan, and that was the genesis of Moonshine meadery. “We started experimenting with meads and by our fifth batch, we got some perspective. Rohan then went to intern at Colony Meadery in Pennsylvania, which really helped us understand the latest mead making techniques innovated in America. He also did a bee keeping course from the Central Bee Keeping and Training Institute, Pune to get an in-depth understanding of honey production. All these experiences coupled with our never-ending love of pushing the envelope by experimenting with new flavours and styles has brought us to where we are today,” says Mishra, adding, “We’ve met and spoken to both beer drinkers and wine enthusiasts who love our meads which are gluten-free, semi-dry, and pair very well with a variety of cuisines, including Indian food,” says he. 

Mead in Maharashtra
The meadery is responsible for the change in laws that now recognise meads as a separate category of alcohol. “In 2016, there was no law about making alcohol out of honey, so we got the laws changed in Maharashtra. It took us a year and a half to get our licence, which we did in September 2017, and bottles hit the shelves in mid February. The excise law did not include honey as a source of alcohol. We could have applied for a fruit wine license which would have saved us seven months but then we would never be able to establish mead as a category, and it would have been classified as just another fruit wine. But we got an audience with the excise minister who was extremely supportive.

Currently, Maharashtra is the only state with this benefit,” says Mishra.  

But going by the notion legal issues take a long time to be sorted out in India, these mead-makers took all the effort due to their sheer fascination with the history and diversity of the beverage. “We feel that meads are not pretentious but very straightforward. Meads can range from 5-20 per cent ABV and can be dry, semi dry or sweet and can be still or carbonated. Sitting at the intersection of art, craft and science, meads fit squarely in the space between beers and wines,” he describes. 

The meads manufactured by them are available in 330 ml bottles you can find at various retailers and restaurants across the city. “Our Apple Cyder Mead will smell and taste of apples and our Coffee Mead has a lovely coffee aroma with a balanced coffee profile. Add to this some floral notes from the honey and you have your tasting notes for a beverage that is making a huge comeback. Both varieties are made from locally sourced multifloral honey, with the apple juice from Kashmir and ‘artisanally’ roasted coffee from Chikmagalur, Karnataka. We get the coffee roasted ourselves and cold steep it into our meads. This apart, we also do small batch experiments in our Mead Lab which have resulted in a varieties like Strawberry Mead, Jamun Mead, Guava Chilli Mead and even a Gooseberry Mead,” shares Mishra.

ST Reader Service
Meads from Moonshine meadery, along with serveral other varieties of craft beers and a delectable selection of food will be available at The Poona Brewout on August 12, 12 noon-10 pm at Balkrishna Lawns, Mundhwa.

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