Commercial Competition – Styles

The following descriptions apply to all the mead styles, except where explicitly superseded in the sub-category guidelines. This introduction identifies common characteristics and descriptions for all types of mead and should be used as a reference whenever entering or judging mead.

Commercial Mead Characteristics Sweetness

Mead may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Sweetness simply refers to the amount of residual sugar in the mead. Sweetness is often confused with a fruitiness in dry mead. The body is related to sweetness, but dry meads can still have somebody. Dry meads do not have to be bone dry. Dryness in mead is distinct from tannic qualities, which are generally only detectable if adjuncts are used. All meads should exhibit good balance, and should not have a raw, unfermented honey character. Sweetness is independent of strength.



Mead may be still or sparkling. Still, meads do not have to be totally flat; they can have some very light bubbles. Sparkling meads may have a character ranging from mouth-filling to an impression akin to Champagne or soda pop. Bubbles should be short-lived.



Mead may be categorized as hydromel/session, standard, or sack strength. Strength refers to the alcohol content of the mead (and also, therefore, the amount of honey and fermentable used to make the mead). Stronger meads can have a greater honey character and body (as well as alcohol) than weaker meads, although this is not a strict rule. All meads should be well balanced.


Special Ingredients and Identifiers

Some types of honey have a strong varietal character (aroma, flavor, color, acidity). If a honey is unusual, additional information can be provided to judges as to the character to be expected. Different sub-styles may include fruit, spice, malt, etc. Judges may need to understand the ingredients that provide a unique character in order to properly evaluate the mead. Regardless of honey variety, or special ingredients, all meads should be well balanced.



Clarity may be good to brilliant. Crystal clear, reflective examples with a bright, distinct meniscus are highly desirable. Observable particulates (even in a clear example) are undesirable. Carbonated examples have a short-lasting head similar to Champagne or soda pop. The components of bubbles or head will vary greatly


depending on the carbonation level, ingredients, and type of mead. In general, smaller bubbles are more desirable and indicative of higher quality than larger bubbles. The color may vary widely depending on honey variety and any optional ingredients (e.g., fruit, malts). Some honey varieties are almost clear, while others can be dark brown. Most are in the straw to gold range. If no honey variety is declared, almost any color is acceptable. Hue, saturation, and purity of color should be considered. Stronger versions (standard and sack) may show signs of body (e.g., legs, meniscus) but higher carbonation levels can interfere with this perception.



Stronger or sweeter meads may have a stronger honey aroma than drier or weaker versions. Different varieties of honey have different intensities and characters; some (e.g., orange blossom, buckwheat) are more recognizable than others (e.g., avocado, palmetto). The aromatics may seem vinous (similar to wine), and may include fruity, floral, or spicy notes. The bouquet (rich, complex smells arising from the combination of ingredients, fermentation, and aging) should show a pleasant fermentation character, with clean and fresh aromatics being preferred over dirty, yeasty, or sulfury notes. A multi-faceted bouquet, also known as complexity or depth, is a positive attribute. Phenolic or diacetyl aromatics should not be present. Harsh or chemical aromatics should not be present. Light oxidation may be present, depending on age, and may result in sherry-like notes, which are acceptable in low to moderate levels (if in balance, these can add to complexity). An excessive unbalanced sherry character is a fault. Oxidation resulting in a papery character is always undesirable. Alcohol aromatics may be present, but hot, solvent, or irritating overtones are a defect. The harmony and balance of the aroma and bouquet should be pleasant and enticing.



Stronger, sweeter meads will have a stronger honey flavor than drier, weaker versions. Different varieties of honey have different intensities and characters. The residual sweetness level will vary with the sweetness of the mead; dry meads will have no residual sugar, sweet meads will have noticeable to prominent sweetness, semi-sweet meads will have a balanced sweetness. In no case should the residual sweetness be syrupy, cloying, or seem like unfermented honey. Any additives, such as acid or tannin, should enhance the honey flavor and lend balance to the overall character of the mead but not be excessively tart or astringent. Artificial, chemical, harsh, phenolic or bitter flavors are defects. Higher carbonation (if present) enhances the acidity and gives a “bite” to the finish. The aftertaste should be evaluated; longer finishes are generally the most desirable. A multi-faceted flavor, also known as complexity or depth, is a positive attribute. Yeast or fermentation characteristics may be none too noticeable, with ester, fresh and clean flavors being most desirable. Alcohol flavors (if present) should be smooth and well-aged, not harsh or solvent. Light oxidation may be present, depending on age, but an excessive sherry-like or papery character should be avoided. Aging and conditioning generally smooth out flavors and create a more elegant, blended, rounded product. Flavors tend to become more subtle over time and can deteriorate with extended aging.



Well-made examples will often have an elegant wine-like character. The body can vary widely, although most are in the medium-light to the medium-full range. The body generally increases with stronger and/or sweeter meads, and can sometimes be quite full and heavy. Similarly, the body generally decreases with lower gravity and/or drier meads, and can sometimes be quite light. Sensations of the body should not be accompanied by an overwhelmingly cloying sweetness (even in sweet meads). A very thin or watery body is likewise undesirable. Some natural acidity is often present (particularly in fruit-based meads). Low levels of astringency are sometimes present (either from specific fruit or spices or from tea, chemical additives, or oak-aging). Acidity and tannin should be used to help balance the overall honey, sweetness and alcohol presentation.

Carbonation can vary widely (see definitions above). High carbonation will enhance the acidity and give a “bite” to the finish. A warming alcohol presence is often present, and this character usually increases with strength (although extended aging can smooth this sensation).


Overall Impression

A wide range of results are possible, but well-made examples will have an enjoyable balance of honey flavors, sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol. Strength, sweetness, and age greatly affect the overall presentation. Any special ingredients should be well-blended with the other ingredients and lead to a harmonious end product.



Mead is made primarily from honey, water, and yeast. Some minor adjustments in acidity and tannin can be made with citrus fruits, tea, chemicals, or the use of oak aging; however, these additives should not be discordant in flavor or aroma. If citrus, tea, or oak additives result in flavor components above a low, background, balance-adjusting level, the resulting mead should be entered appropriately (e.g., as a metheglin or open category mead, not a traditional).


Vital Statistics

ABV: session/hydromel: 3.5 – 7.5%; standard: 7.5 – 14%; sack: 14 – 18%

Residual Sugar: dry: 0%-2%; semi-sweet: 2.1%-5%; sweet: 5.1%+


Entry Guidelines

  • Entrants should use the Style Categories listed
  • Additional categories may be added if sufficient numbers of meads in a particular style cause the organizers to deem it


Category-Specific Requirements

  • Entrants must specify the honey variety used in the Varietal Mead Category. NOTE: Wildflower is NOT varietal honey. Varietal means a single identifiable honey source. Orange Blossom or Buckwheat are two examples of varietal honey.
  • Some categories require additional information particularly in categories other than traditional mead. For example, declaring specific fruit for melomels, spices for metheglin, grape varietal for pyment, or special
  • Supplemental materials may be provided to judges if an obscure ingredient or method is
  • If no attributes are specified, judges will evaluate the mead against the category


Style Categories

1.    Traditional Mead

Mead from a mixed variety of honeys. No flavor ingredients, fruits, herbs, or spices were added. 1A – Traditional – Dry

1B – Traditional – Semi-Sweet 1C – Traditional – Sweet

2.    Varietal Mead

Mead is made from single-bloom or variety of honey. No flavor ingredients, fruits, herbs, or spices were added. 2A – Varietal – Dry

2B – Varietal – Semi-Sweet 2C – Varietal – Sweet

3.   Session Mead

Mead with an ABV of 7.5% or lower. May include any ingredients from other categories. 3A – Session – Dry

3B – Session – Semi-Sweet 3C – Session – Sweet

4.   Dessert Mead

Mead with an ABV of 14% or higher. May also include any ingredients from other categories. 4A – Dessert Mead – Semi-Sweet

4B – Dessert Mead – Sweet

5.    Cyser

Mead made with apple cider, apple juice, or apples. No additional flavor ingredients, fruits, herbs, or spices were added.

5A – Cyser

6.    Pyment

Mead made with grapes/grape juice/grape concentrate. No additional flavor ingredients, fruits, herbs, or spices were added.

6A – Pyment

7.    Berry Melomel

Mead made with berry fruit/juice. No additional flavor ingredients, non-berry fruits, herbs, or spices were added.

7A – Berry Melomel – Dry

7B – Berry Melomel – Semi-Sweet 7C – Berry Melomel – Sweet

8.   Mixed Fruit/Other Melomel

This is an open category for all other melomels. This includes any Melomel made with fruits other than grapes (Pyment), apples (Cyser), or berries (Berry Melomel), including citrus fruits. This is also the correct category for any Melomel combining grapes, apples, berries, or other fruits, e.g., a melomel with grapes and berries. NOTE– meads made with Fruits AND Spices should be entered as Specialty/Open Mead. 8A – Mixed Fruit/Other Melomel – Dry

8B – Mixed Fruit/Other Melomel – Semi Sweet 8C – Mixed Fruit/Other Melomel – Sweet

9.   Metheglin

Mead made with any herbs or spices. Note: T’ej should be entered in this category. NOTE – meads made with Fruits AND Spices should be entered as Specialty/Open Mead.

9A – Metheglin – Dry

9B – Metheglin – Semi Sweet 9C – Metheglin – Sweet

10.   Bracket or Braggot

Mead made with malt. Must be fermented from at least 20% honey. 10A – Bracket/Braggot

11.   Specialty (Open Category)

This open category is for Mead that does not fit into any other category. This includes historical (e.g., Polish) meads, meads with additional sugars (e.g., Acerglyn with maple), and meads with Fruits AND Spices.

11A – Specialty (Open Category) – Dry

11B – Specialty (Open Category) – Semi-Sweet 11C – Specialty (Open Category) – Sweet

12.   Barrel Aged Mead

Mead aged in spirit/wine/beer barrels that displays characteristics of the wood or previous barrel content. 12A – Barrel Aged Mead

13.   There Can Be Only One

This is an open category for ANY style of mead. There will be only one winner in this category. Entries in this category may also be registered and entered in other categories.

13A – There Can Be Only One