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Mead (/ˈmiːd/; archaic and dialectal "medd"; from Old English "meodu"[1]) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, and in adulterated form with various fruits, spices, grains or hops.[2][3][4] (Hops act as a preservative and produce a bitter, beer-like flavor.) The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV[5] to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage's fermentable sugar is derived from honey.[6] It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; and it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.[7]

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. "It can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks," Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat has speculated, "antedating the cultivation of the soil."[8] Hornsey considers archaeological evidence of it ambiguous;[9] however, McGovern and other archaeological chemists consider the presence of beeswax markers and gluconic acid, in the presence of other substances known to ferment, to be reasonably conclusive evidence of the use of honey in ancient fermented beverages.[10][11]

Claude Lévi-Strauss makes a case for the invention of mead as a marker of the passage "from nature to culture."[12] Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar.

The terms "mead" and "honey-wine" are often used synonymously.[13][14] Honey-wine is differentiated from mead in some cultures. Hungarians hold that while mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast (barm), honey-wine is watered honey fermented by recrement of grapes (or other fruits).