Difference Between Beer, Mead & Ale

When it comes to drinking horns, you can consume any beverage. But if you have ever wondered what the difference is between mead, ale and beer, then read on.

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Is mead equivalent to beer or ale? What is the distinction? Indeed, all three are alcoholic drinks that have their similarities and contrasts.

However, when looking at the differences, these three drinks vary in terms of ingredients, alcohol content, and the fermentation process.

While the main ingredient in mead preparation is honey, grain is the primary one in making beer. Ale is a type of beer, however it goes through a warm fermentation process and uses ingredients in different proportions to beer to produce a different result.

Overall Comparison

The differences of these beverages surpass their similarities. Although they all go through fermentation, there differences produce vastly different drinks.

Beer, mead, and ale are derived from ingredients that vary widely. Ale has hops, yeast, malt, and water while mead has water, honey, and yeast. On the other hand, beer has barley, hops, yeast, and water.

These changes in ingredients and processes cause the flavours and alcohol content to vary widely making the drinks quite versatile.

For example, when it comes to Flavour:

  • Ale is bitter
  • Beer is hoppy or malty
  • Mead is sweet

When it comes to Alcohol Percentage:

  • Beer and Ale have an average of 5%, which can go up to 8-14% but rarely higher.
  • Mead ranges from 3-20%, so even though it is sweet it can still pack a punch.

Another distinction is that when ale utilizes top-fermenting yeast, beer utilizes the bottom type. The latter has a low tolerance to alcohol.

The distinctive colour, taste, and aroma is what most people will look at when buying alcoholic drinks. This is because they differ widely as do people’s preferences.

If you wish to make one of these beverages at home and you don't want it to take too long, consider brewing ale or beer. Mead on the other hand will take longer to brew, but if you are willing to put in some effort it will be worth the investment.

How Mead is Made

With known production of 6,500 B.C, mead turns out to be the world's most established and oldest alcoholic drink. It was a favourite during the Vikings age, and today, it is still in production though not as common as beer or wine.

So what are the elements of mead? While wine is derived from grapes and cider from apples, the primary ingredient in mead is honey.

Water, honey, and yeast are mixed for the fermentation process to begin. The sugars in the honey must be converted into alcohol and this is the reason for pitching yeast. It is the only way the process will be a success.

Apart from these essential ingredients, there are numerous others that can be added that include herbs and fruits. Although the fundamental part of the process is honey, there are different preparation styles that give varying results.

On the chance that you prefer to add fruits, you will make a mead referred to as Melomel, while if you choose spices, you can make Metheglin.

Alternatively, you can opt to use berries, pineapples, and apples. In the event that you utilize yeast, water, and honey only, you will make the traditional mead.

This ancient drink turns out to be the most variable. Depending on the additives and preparation, it can be carbonated, sweet, dry, still, or even semi-sweet.

The type of honey used also determines the flavour. How does honey vary? It is dependent on the nectar and the pollen the bees in the hives feeds on.

Mead’s Alcohol By Volume (ABV) is between three and twenty percent. This is one of the biggest differences with beer as the latter does not normally go beyond eight percent.

Preparation is easy and differs from that of beer and ale. Once the ingredients are well mixed, the aging process begins and goes on for months or even years.

Make your own tasty mead at home. It's pretty simple!

How Beer is Made

Possibly the most widely known alcoholic drink today, Beer is made of grain, malt, hops, and water.

Beers differ broadly in terms of alcohol volume, aroma and flavour. Its preparation and that of mead differs widely. Keep in mind that beers are prepared in cool temperatures unlike ale.

Mead requires the basic ingredients for the aging process to begin while beers need more than this.

The first thing to do is make a mash. It involves heating the grains, drying, and cracking them.
Activating barley enzymes and putting out the sugar is an important part of the process. The grains should be soaked in hot water that is then drained.

The drained water is known as wort and needs to be boiled along with spices, hops, and flavours. The last step in preparing the beer is filtering the wort. Before the fermentation process begins, the wort is left to cool and then yeast is added.

The other distinction between beer and mead is how long it takes to ferment. Even when brewing at home, you do not have to wait for years for it to be ready. Some beers can even be ready within days depending on the type and preference.

Once the beer has matured, the next thing is to bottle it.

Instead of using the top-fermenting yeast, you use the bottom type. It is different as it settles at the bottom of the aging vessel.

How Ale is Made

Ales is a type of beer that has a sweet and fruity taste. Unlike most types of beers, ale goes through a warm fermentation. The rising agent used works in high temperatures.

Ale is made of hops, water, malt, and yeast.

Its production has evolved over time. Originally, the bittering agent used was gruit (a herb mixture) which was later replaced by hops. Also, instead of plain water that was used ages ago, today, calcium sulphate rich water is used.

The distinction between ale and mead is that the former does not require honey. On the other hand, smaller portions of hops are used in beer production.

There are various kinds of ale that include but not limited to brown, pale, golden, old, scotch, and mild. While brown is lightly hopped with a nutty taste, pale is bitter since roasted or dried hops are used.

With regards to alcohol content, the different kinds of ales measure from 3% to 6%. It is a top-fermented drink. It means that the yeast used floats to the top during aging and it takes place in warm temperatures.

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