Best Fruits For Mead are commonly used to complement varieties of mead. The variety of fruit for mead can sometimes be overwhelming if you are not familiar with the different fruit types available. It’s important to correctly match the type of fruit that is used in the honey wine because it can greatly affect the flavor of your finished product.
Top 10 Fruits for Crafting the Perfect Melomel (Fruit Mead)
Mead is a natural drink to brew with fruit, and we here at Fierce Fruit are big fans! In fact, these fruit meads have their own name — melomels! Today we’re looking at the best fruits for crafting your own mead, from the classic to the totally new.
Historically, a blueberry honey wine was called “bilbemel.” It’s always been a popular combination because blueberries are easy to grow, earthy, and sweet. That helps them complement mead’s mellow flavor. Blueberries are commonly eaten with cream or honey as a dessert on their own, so it makes sense that they would go so well together when brewed, too.
Blackberries have also historically been brewed with honey wine, although they don’t have their own name. Today, blackberry melomels are still delicious! Our Andean Blackberry puree features an exotic variety of this classic fruit for a sour twist on a timeless beverage. The tart nature of these blackberries is mellowed out by the sweetness of honey, and the thick quality of the honey is brightened up with the potent flavor of the blackberries. They’re an ideal combination for any drinker.
It may not be an ancient brew, but strawberries are famous for how well they combine with any sweetener like chocolate or cream, and honey is no exception. That’s why they’re so delicious in a fruit mead. But, despite their famous flavor, strawberries are still soft, so they don’t overpower what you love about regular honey and mead.
You get an earthy flavor with plums, but don’t think that melomels brewed with them are going to be mellow. They’re still bright and tart, livening up the grassy and woody taste of the honey itself. The thick sweetness of plum goes hand in hand with the sweetness of the mead’s core ingredient, so together they create a match made in heaven.
So far, we’ve been looking at fruits that are juicy enough to cut through the hefty quality of honey. Acai lets you make nice, thick melomels with an earthy richness. If you want to lean into a deep and flavorful but mellow drink, this is the fruit for you. It’s still sweet enough to complement the honey part of the mead, too.
Sweet enough to pair with honey and floral enough to complement and enhance its flavor, pink guava is a tropical fruit that goes perfectly in fruit mead, even if the ancient mead makers had never heard of it. Including notes of strawberry, melon, and pear, it creates an endlessly drinkable brew. This combination is complex but delightful, with new flavors to explore in every sip.
With the melt-in-your-mouth, buttery texture of papaya and the sweet viscosity of honey, you can create melomels that are almost dangerously drinkable and smooth. The cantaloupe and mango-like flavor of the fruit combined with the floral taste in honey together creates a drink that has just enough exotic flavor to keep you coming back for more.
One of the best ways to consume curuba is in a juice with milk and honey, so it makes sense that the combination would work well when fermented. The earthy and tart curuba is rounded out by the honey wine, making a fruit mead that is full-bodied but distinctly tropical. It’s sweet, but also a little bit sour, creating a complex flavor profile.
As tart and tropical as its cousin curuba, but with a much more floral flavor and aroma, passion fruit combines well with the grassy, earthy notes of honey in melomels. This is another fruit that is best eaten with sweeteners, so these components complement each other beautifully. The passion fruit flavor elevates the mead, and the mead rounds out the passion fruit flavor.
The crisp, bold, luscious flavor of mango makes it a popular choice for just about any beverage. They’re colorful and distinct, but also balanced enough that they can showcase other tasting notes as well, which is why they work so well in melomels. If you want to get someone interested in meads, making one with mango is a great way to start.
Ultimately, the best fruits to go into meads are the ones that you like most. The honey base is adaptable, so there’s room to experiment and try new things. But if you’re looking to brew your first fruit mead, you won’t go wrong with any of these delicious options!
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF FRUIT MEADS
The Melomel is a fruit mead, however there are some subcategories with specific names like Cyser (with apples), Pyment (with grapes) and berry or stone fruit meads. Melomels can be made with a combination of fruits from multiple fruit mead subcategories (such as grapes and stone fruit). Some examples include citrus fruit, dried fruits (dates, prunes, raisins, etc.), pears, figs, pomegranates, prickly pear, bananas, pineapples, and most other tropical fruit. If in doubt, enter the fruit here – judges should be flexible with fruit not explicitly named in other categories. The use of Melomel as a subcategory name does not imply that other meads in the Fruit Mead category are not also Melomels; the choice was made to avoid using the same word twice in different contexts. The culinary, not botanical, the definition of a fruit is used here. If you have to justify a fruit using the word “technically” as part of the description, then that’s not what we mean. Overall Impression: In well-made examples, the fruit is both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of fruit can result in widely different characteristics; allow for a variation in the final product.
A Cyser is a Melomel made with apples (generally cider apples). In well-made examples, the fruit is both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Some of the best strong examples have the taste and aroma of an aged Calvados (apple brandy from northern France), while subtle, dry versions can taste similar to many fine white wines. There should be an appealing blend of the fruit and honey character but not necessarily an even balance. Generally, a good tannin-sweetness balance is desired, though very dry and very sweet examples do exist.
A Pyment is a Melomel made with grapes (generally from juice). Pyments can be red, white, or blush, just as with wine. In well-made examples, the grape is both distinctively vinous and well-incorporated into the honey-sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. White and red versions can be quite different, and the overall impression should be characteristic of the type of grapes used and suggestive of a similar variety wine. There should be an appealing blend of the fruit and honey character but not necessarily an even balance. Generally, a good tannin-sweetness balance is desired, though very dry and very sweet examples do exist.
A Berry Mead are Melomels made with berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currants (black, red, and white), strawberries, boysenberries, elderberries, Marion berries, mulberries, lingonberries, huckleberries, cranberries, etc. Generally, any fruit with ‘berry’ in the name would qualify. Berries can have seeds, but do not have stones/pits; some are aggregates of druplets. Combinations of berries can be entered here. The culinary, not botanical, the definition of a berry is used here. If you have to justify a fruit using the word “technically” as part of the description, then that’s not what we mean. In well-made examples, the fruit is both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of fruit can result in widely different characteristics; allow for a variation in the final product.
A Stone Fruit Mead are Melomels made with stone fruit, such as cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, and mangoes. Stone fruit is fleshy fruit with a single large pit or stone. The culinary, not botanical, definition of stone fruit is used here. If you have to justify a fruit using the word “technically” as part of the description, then that’s not what we mean. Combinations of stone fruit can be entered here. Overall Impression: In well-made examples, the fruit is both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of fruit can result in widely different characteristics; allow for a variation in the final product.
FRUIT & SPICED MEADS
A Fruit and Spice Mead is a mead containing one or more fruits and one or more spices. See the definitions of fruit used in the various Fruit Mead subcategories; any ingredient qualifying there meets the “fruit” requirement here. For purposes of this subcategory, any ingredient qualifying for use in the Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Mead subcategory also meets the “spice” requirement here.
In well-made examples, the fruits and spices are both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey-sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of fruits and spices can result in widely different characteristics; allow for significant variation in the final product
SPICE, HERB OR VEGETABLE MEAD
A Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Mead contains one or more spices, herbs, or vegetables (in this style definition, these are collectively known as “spices”). The culinary, not botanical, definition of spice, herb, or vegetable is used here. If you have to justify a spice, herb, or vegetable using the word “technically” as part of the description, then that’s not what we mean. The same definitions apply to this category as to the similarly named beer category. In addition to the more obvious spices, herbs, and vegetables that fit into this subcategory, the following ingredients also are explicitly included: roses, rose hips, ginger, rhubarb, pumpkins, chile peppers, coffee, chocolate, nuts (including coconut), citrus peels/zest, and teas (except those strictly used for increasing tannin levels, not for adding flavor). Overall Impression: In well-made examples of the style, the spices are both distinctive and well-incorporated into the honey sweet-acid-tannin-alcohol balance of the mead. Different types of spices can result in widely different characteristics; allow for a variation in the final product.
A Braggot is a mead made with malt think of this as a beer mead hybrid. A harmonious blend of mead and beer, with the distinctive characteristics of both. A wide range of results is possible, depending on the base style of beer, the variety of honey and overall sweetness and strength. Beer flavours tend to mask somewhat typical honey flavours found in other meads.
An Experimental Mead is a mead where anything goes. This could apply to meads that blend multiple mead subcategories or using additional sources of fermentables (e.g., maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, or agave nectar), additional ingredients (e.g., liquors, smoke, etc.), alternative processes (e.g., icing), fermentation with non-traditional yeasts (e.g., Brettanomyces, Belgian lambic or ale, etc.), or other unusual ingredient, process, or technique would also be appropriate in this category. Oak-aging does not necessarily force a mead into the Experimental Mead style unless the barrel has another characteristic (such as bourbon) in addition to the wood. These meads should exhibit the character of all of the ingredients in varying degrees and should show a good blending or balance between the various flavour elements. Whatever ingredients are included, the result should be identifiable as a honey-based fermented beverage.
Making Melomels – How to Make the Best Fruit Mead
Melomels are meads made using honey and fruit. Why were fruits added to honeywine? Probably several reasons, to preserve the fruit harvest, to add fermentables to the mead thus increasing the alcohol (honey was a luxury in those days), to flavor the mead or possibly, in many cases, to hide fermentation problems which most certainly occurred back then.
Some kinds of fruit mead have been made for so long that they have a special name, given in antiquity, or before. These melomels are:
- Acerglyn-is a mead made with honey and maple syrup. I’m calling this mead a melomel because it just fits, even though maple syrup isn’t a fruit.
- Bilbemel-is a mead made with honey and blueberries (sometimes with blueberry blossom honey).
- Black Mead-is a mead made with honey and blackcurrants.
- Cyser-is a mead made with a blend of honey and apple juice or cider.
- Capsicumel-is a mead flavored with chile peppers (might also be considered a metheglin).
- Hydromel- a light refreshing mead (can be a melomel) with lower alcohol content, usually preceded by the fruit used, ie. Hydromel Mead Kit.
- Morat-is a mead made with honey and mulberries.
- Omphacomel-is a mead flavored with honey and verjuice (juice from unripe grapes), I guess you could call this a subtype of pyment
- Perry-mead made with honey and pears
- Pyment-is a mead made with grapes and honey.
- Red Mead-is a mead made with honey and redcurrants.
- Rhodomel-is a mead made with honey and rose hips (I think this would be considered a fruit), if it is made with rose petals, it could be classified as a metheglin (mead with spices or herbs).
- Rudamel-is a mead made with raspberries and honey.
All other melomels are usually named with the fruit, ie. Blackberry Melomel, Cherry Melomel, Elderberry Melomel etc. What makes it confusing is when you start crossing over into other categories.
For example, a Capsicumel is a mead made with chile peppers. Are chiles considered a fruit or a spice? I guess it depends on whether you used the chilies whole or just the seeds, or ground as in cayenne pepper.
Before you enter your mead into a competition, consult the internet and BJCP guidelines. You don’t want to mis-classify your mead and get points deducted for it being in the wrong category.
How and When to Add Fruit to your Melomels
Whatever you call your melomel, you will be adding fruit to a honey wine. There are several ways of doing this and each will impart different nuances from the fruit. Fruit can be added:
- During primary fermentation – This is a common way of adding fruit to mead (and beer or wine). There are several advantages of adding fruit in the primary.Fruit will add nutrients that the yeast need and will also help to regulate the pH of the must (name used in wine/mead making for the honey/fruit/water/yeast mixture).
The fermentation itself will typically take less time when fruit is added during primary fermentation. Although some of the most volatile aromatics will be gassed-off, most of the fruit’s character will be retained.
Many meadmakers will use a combination of primary and secondary fruit additions to attain that extra-fresh fruit character. There is a big debate on the merits of adding fruit to the primary. The main reason given for not doing so is the loss of those volatile aromatics which will be driven off with the CO2. All I can say is try it both ways and choose which ever works best for you.
- During secondary fermentation – When adding fruit to the secondary, the base mead is fermented most of the way to completion. I’ve seen various degrees from 2/3 completed to completely fermented. Again, there are many ways of accomplishing the same end, and only experimentation will determine which is best for you.When added prior to finishing, the fermentation will renew due to dilution of the alcohol by the water in the fruit and by the added sugars present. You can also get renewed fermentation even if you add the fruit after fermentation has completed for the same reasons, dilution and added sugars. Some fruit is 70% water and when added to a finished mead, will dilute the alcohol enough that the yeast are no longer at their alcohol tolerance level.With the added sugars and lowered alcohol levels, fermentation may sometimes resume.The primary benefit of adding the fruit to the secondary is that you can control the base mead’s fermentation completely, ie. you know what you are getting before you add the fruit.When fruit and honey are mixed and fermented together in the primary, there are a lot of variables in the mixture that the home meadmaker just can’t control such as nutrient levels, pH and acidity changes, etc.The main drawback to adding fruit in the secondary fermenter is that it will take a long time for the fruit and mead to blend fully and determining the optimum point to bottle may be difficult for many beginning meadmakers.
- You can also add fruit juices or extracts just before bottling. You will have to be sure that the yeast is dead so that you won’t get bottle bombs.The best way to do this is to sulfite (add metabisulfite or campden tablets to sanitize) the must, add potassium sorbate, then add the fruit juices or extracts to the bottling bucket (you must wait 24 hours before adding any yeast).The way I make my meads is by bulk aging for a very long time and racking several times before bottling.This method is generally safe, but you just never know with meads. They can sometimes take what seems like forever to finish fermenting and you have to be careful about adding fermentable sugars late in the aging cycle.
How Much Fruit to Add to your Melomels
How much fruit should you add? Most fruit melomels are going to be sweet when bottled. This allows you to add a lot of fruit.
It would be helpful to the meadmaker to know when a particular fruit will be harvested and in the supermarkets or road-side stands. Making fruit mead from the freshest fruit, organic when possible, is always a good idea.
Download a PDF version of Cuesa.org’s Fruit & Nut Seasonality Chart. Good information to have when planning your mead recipes.
Here are some guidelines on adding fruit to your melomels. The amounts listed will give you a medium fruit character from each fruit. Adjust accordingly for a milder or stronger fruit character. The list below is for a 5 gallon batch of finished mead:
- Cysers-Apples-Add 4 gallons of apple juice or cider in the primary. For stronger apple flavors, add 3 cans of apple juice concentrate (16 oz) in the secondary.
- Bilbemel (Blueberry Melomel)-Add 7 to 10 lbs of blueberries in the secondary 1.5-2 lbs/gal. When stronger blueberry flavor is wanted, add around 2.2 lbs/gal of blueberries in secondary.
- Cherry Melomels-For tart cherries, add 7-8 lbs of cherries to secondary (1.4-1.6 lbs/gal). When stronger flavors are wanted, add about 1.8 lbs/gal of cherries to secondary. For Sweet Cherries-add 8-9 lbs of sweet cherries to secondary (1.4-1.8 lbs/gal) and around 2 lbs/gal for a stronger sweet cherry flavor.
- Citrus Melomels-Adjust down for lemons and limes-For a medium citrus mead, use 6-8 lbs in the secondary (1.2-1.6 lbs/gal) and around 1.8 lbs/gal for a stronger citrus mead character.
- Currant Meads-Add 5-7 lbs of fruit to the secondary (1.2-1.6 lbs/gal) and for stronger flavor, add 1.8 lbs/gal or more.
- Melon Meads-Add 6-8 lbs of pulp in the secondary (1.2-1.6 lbs/gal) and for stronger melon character, add 1.8 lbs/gal or more to secondary fermenter.
- Peach Melomels-Add 8-12 lbs of peaches to the secondary (1.2-2.4 lbs/gal) and for stronger peach character, add around 2.5 lbs/gal or more to secondary.
- Plum Melomel-Add 8-9 lbs to secondary (1.4-1.8 lbs/gal) and for stronger plum flavor, add 2 lbs/gal or more to secondary.
- Rudamel (Raspberry Melomel)-Add 5-7 lbs of raspberries in secondary (1-1.6 lbs/gal) and for a very strong raspberry flavor, add 1.8 lbs/gal or more raspberries to secondary.
- Strawberry Melomel-Add 8-10 lbs of strawberries to secondary (1.2-2 lbs/gal) and for strong flavor, add 2.2 lbs/gal or more to secondary.
- The numbers above are for fruit in secondary, as a guideline, if you want a strong sweet melomel, add up to 4 lbs/gal of berries or stone fruits to primary fermenter. If you prefer a dry mead, reduce the levels to 1 to 1.5 lbs/gal and keep the alcohol content below 10% ABV to reduce the harshness of the final melomel.
When preparing and selecting fruit for your melomels, take as much care as possible. When picking or choosing fresh fruit, discard any fruit of poor quality. If you wouldn’t pop it into your mouth, then don’t make mead with it.
Try to remove all leaves and stems from the fruit. Wash and clean thoroughly, then freeze the fruit to help break-down the cell walls.
If you are making stone-fruit melomels, remove the pits (except cherries which can be allowed to ferment for about 4 weeks, then removed).
You don’t need to puree the fruit if using it in the primary because fermentation will take care of breaking down the fruit. Add the fruit to fine mesh bags and then add it to the fermenter. You can mash the bags with your sanitized hands the first time and then mash against the sides with a sanitized spoon when stirring the must.
When using canned purees or concentrates, you must stir frequently as they will settle to the bottom quickly. Sometimes adding some fresh fruit with a fruit concentrate or extract will add some freshness to your melomels.
If you have never made wine or mead before, you may not know about cap management. When the must begins to ferment and generate CO2, the fruit will float to the top and form a cap.
The temperature underneath the cap can get pretty warm because it cannot escape. CO2 will collect under the cap and is toxic to yeast. The top of the cap will get dry and this environment is ideal for molds and bacteria to flourish.
The cap must be “punched down” at least three times daily during the period of active fermentation. This accomplishes several key things.
It keeps the fruit in contact with the yeast, allowing for a quicker fermentation and better extraction of the fruit characters.
It keeps oxygen in the must at a time when the yeast need it most. Many meadmakers will add pure O2 at the same time they are punching the cap for added assurance that the yeast is getting plenty of oxygen for growth.
Punching the cap releases CO2 from below, keeping the yeast healthy and maintaining a steady temperature so the yeast will continue to ferment to completion without adding any off-flavors or fusel alcohols from the warm fermentation.
Some fruits will be deficient in nutrients for a healthy fermentation. How much nutrients the must requires is a guessing game and is dependent on the particular fruit, the area the fruit was grown in and a host of other variables.
Add your nutrient additions per this schedule: Nutrient Addition Schedule (at the bottom of the page).
Too many chemical nutrients may cause a metallic taste which will take months to age out. Try adding yeast hulls to your must for a more natural nutrient which will not cause these off flavors.
Here is what Curt Stock, one of AHA’s meadmakers of the year, recommends for nutrient additions in your melomels, “I prefer to use Fermaid-K (yeast energizer) and diammonium phosphate or DAP (yeast nutrient) for adding the additional nutrient requirements of the yeast during fermentation. One teaspoon of Fermaid-K and two teaspoons DAP should be adequate for a 5 gallon batch. You can mix them together for a stock blend and add them using the following schedule:
- Add ¾ teaspoon yeast energizer/nutrient mix immediately after pitching yeast.
- Add ¾ teaspoon yeast energizer/nutrient mix 24 hours after fermentation begins.
- Add ¾ teaspoon yeast energizer/nutrient mix 48 hours after fermentation begins.
- Add ¾ teaspoon yeast energizer/nutrient mix after 30% of the sugar has been depleted.”
Just be careful when you add nutrients to fermenting must. The addition can cause an explosion of CO2 foam. Try mixing the nutrients with some of the must first, then add the nutrient/must mixture back into the fermenting mead.
Stir slowly and increase the speed as the CO2 is released. Introduce as much oxygen as you can during the nutrient additions.
Once the last addition is done, or the mead is near the 50% sugar break, you can stop adding oxygen to the must. Keep stirring the cap, but do so gently so you don’t introduce oxygen and oxidation.”