hist-brewing: Beer or Wine?

Magnus the Black jcorvo at swbell.net
Tue Jun 6 22:13:42 PDT 2000


I would have to diagree. Mead is not a wine nor is it a beer. Beer
makers often claim mead as a beer because it is not based on fruit
(solely). Wine makers claim it is a wine because of its lack of grains
(sometimes) and it alchohol level (not always real high). As far as
yeasts go I've used ale yeasts very effectively in my meads before and
they ended up quite dry with a very winelike alchohol level. I would
have to say true perrys and ciders are made not from grapes but that
does not make them meads any more than it makes them beers. I say there
is three catagories. 1 "Wine: an beverage containing alcohol made by the
fermentation of mainly fruit usually grapes." 2 "Beer: an beverage
containing alcohol made by the fermentation of mainly malted barley
usually containg hops." 3 "Mead: an beverage containing alcohol made by
the fermentation of mainly honey, May contain other ingredients." These
deffientions conatin nothing about alcohol levels as those vary with
styles. Some wines may be sparkling and dry and others are flat and
sweet. Some beers may be dark and bitter being served cold, others are
served hot and may be flat sweet and golden. Meads are served a variety
of ways. The real determiner of what a beverage is is what the main
ingrediant is. Is it Honey, Fruit, or Barley?



> I've been reading the discussion of whether a fermented honey/fruit beverage is
> beer or wine, and the comments above make me think we've got the species before
> the genus, so to speak.  Just like other specialized words to describe a
> particular fermented fruit (cider, perry, etc) the word "wine" describes
> fermented grapes, which makes it, like the others, a type of "mead" (non-grain
> based fermented beverages).  The two categories, then, are Beer and Mead, not
> Beer and Wine.
> 
> Of course, there is the historically-based perspective, in which one can argue
> whether grapes were first artificially fermented (using botrytis fungus
> naturally found on grapes, and yielding what is today "late harvest" type wines)
> or whether a "sweet water" (water with honey) was fermented using yeasts on
> plants/herbs or on the honeycomb itself.  I tend to think the process was
> parallel, separated by geography (grapes tending to be limited to relatively
> small temperate mini-climates) which doesn't help to resolve the issue in my
> mind.
> 
> I'm not sure that alcohol content determines the category, either, since beers
> can reach 18% (Sam Adams Triple Bock) and some wine is 10.5% (Beringer 'Late
> Harvest', I believe, is less than 10.5%).  As far as that goes, carbonation
> isn't a determining factor either, nor is the ability to age (though, as far as
> that goes, high sugar and high alcohol do make for better long-term stability).
> I believe that it's only the vast amount of research and experimentation that
> have gone into grape wines that make them survive longer in bottle than any
> other beverage - a 100 year old Chateau Margaux or Pauillac red are just as
> drinkable as a 5 year old.  I don't think I can say the same for any of my
> meads, though the oldest one I have remaining at this point is only 3 years old.
> I can imagine, however, a cyser or melomel aging for decades and becoming smooth
> and "fruitless" - the complex flavor molecules slowly breaking down into simpler
> ones with an underpinning of honey sugars.  All it takes is a sterile process
> and a good cork, two things which us homebrewers seldom get perfect.
> 
> Fred Bourdelier
> (lurker in Tucson AZ)
> 
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