Brewsday: Trafalgar Citrus Mead
It may have been noted in these pages before that, when it comes down to it and all is said and done, I’m a nerd. It’s what comes of a high school life spent with my nose in Dungeons & Dragons books, playing hours of Tetris to the point where I’d see it when I closed my eyes to sleep, and a whole lot of time spent in comic book stores.
How I ever got Tina’s attention, I have no idea — but hey, Christmas is a time for observing miracles, right? And if a guy who knows the Rocket Robin Hood theme off the top of his head can score a woman like her, then how impossible is it really to believe in the Nativity, or for a jolly fat saint to fly at near-light speed around the world on Christmas Eve?
Or that a dude who had a website before he had his own car, and can still compute THAC0 off the top of his head, has never actually tried mead?
It’s incredible, I know. Mead is a renaissance-faire standard, a seriously friendly alternative for those whose palettes have yet to develop a taste for the harshness of cheap beer. For the longest time, I had thought mead was simply a form of mulled wine or a heavier form of cider, which is basically the opposite of the truth; in fact, mead is the very simple product of honey and water, fermented by a combination of yeast and fruit.
Not quite a wine, not at all a beer, mead is a sweet product whose appearance and flavor can vary based on all kinds of things: how it’s fermented, how long it’s aged, how it’s flavored, and the concentration of ingredients are just a few factors. You may find it carbonated or still; you may find it dry or cloying. It’s not worth getting too wound up about, to be honest — the important thing is that, at its heart, what you’re drinking is honey, fruit and water. If a drink like bourbon is a kick in the pants, then mead is definitely a kiss on the cheek.
And I like kisses! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try, though in my defence it’s not like mead is widely available. There’s no mead section at the liquor store; there’s not even a spot in among the Fortified Wines, that most eclectic junk drawer of the alcohol retailer. I actually had to comb through the oddities and party drinks at our local beer store to find some, and even then I wasn’t too sure about it.
You see what I mean? Not exactly subtle. For some reason mead always brings to my mind thoughts of casks and mugs and Viking women; Trafalgar‘s Citrus Mead, on the other hand, seems more interested in capturing the interest of people looking for cool decals for their skateboards. Even more concerning, the label instructs you that Trafalgar’s mead is “best served cold, over ice”, before saluting you with a “Wassail!”
I will not grumble again about “coldness” as a flavor (I did it enough here, anyway), but suffice to say that this felt like an uphill battle at best.
Not pictured is the mead’s cap, a standard beer top that requires you to dig out your bottle opener. It’s a little odd to pop the lid and not have any form of hiss or pop, and to see the mead pour out so still into the glass. It’s visually indistinguishable from lemonade, a nice bright lemony yellow with a cloudy texture. It makes me curious what the black currant flavor looks like, actually.
Where things get interesting is when the glass gets under your nose, and the expected lemonade-ness is complicated by an interesting, herbal undercurrent. On the first taste, it’s a disconcerting combination of sweet and green flavors, but the bright citrus flavor carries both of them along with balance. There’s a very, slightly, tiny little fuzzy finish to it as well, just to make everything tingly and playful.
At 9%, the mead is stronger than you might find in a Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice, but you wouldn’t notice. At least, not until you’ve found your way through most of the bottle — then you’re going to notice the alcohol, sneaky like a Chardonnay but (thank God) not headachy like a malt liquor bottled cocktail.
This being my first mead, I couldn’t tell you whether it’s a good or poor example of the type. I don’t really have the authority to say. Where I am a viking is in my experience with sissy fruity beverages, and so I feel no hesitation in saying that Trafalgar’s Citrus Mead is competent and enjoyable. It doesn’t knock you out of the park, but it’s sweet and citrus-y as promised, and provides a safe entry into a relatively unexplored territory of drink.
My only hedge — and this is where my skin-flinty Scottish heritage rears up and will never leave me alone — is that it’s $13 a bottle. That’s the price of a reasonable wine from some parts of the world (Ontario included), or a good six-pack from any part of the world. It feels more than a little dear for a drink I’d describe as “competent”, novel experience or not.
Rating: Two and a half Ebeneezers