Making mead for modern age

HISTORIC BEVERAGE: Stephen Wilkins bottling and capping the latest batch of mead in his meadery at Dilston. Pictures: Piia Wirsu

HISTORIC BEVERAGE: Stephen Wilkins bottling and capping the latest batch of mead in his meadery at Dilston. Pictures: Piia Wirsu

Forget everything you ever thought you knew about mead. 

It’s no longer solely the beverage of drunk vikings slurping from a wooden tankard as they dig into a spit roast. 

It now comes in a variety of styles, flavors and has the finesse of any craft beer, cider or wine. 

Dilston resident Stephen Wilkins has been making mead since 1996, revelling in its unique taste and exploring and creating recipes. 

Wanderer Mead is all about stories. Mr Wilkins hopes once it is on the shelves people will wander with it and send back pictures of where it has wandered to.

Wanderer Mead is all about stories. Mr Wilkins hopes once it is on the shelves people will wander with it and send back pictures of where it has wandered to.

Mr Wilkins interest in the ancient beverage comes from history. For him it is all about stories. 

“It’s all the links to history that I find fascinating,” he said. 

“Mead’s interesting because it’s the oldest fermented drink ever … [It’s] got 2000 years of recorded history, let alone the stuff we don't know about from the early days of humans wandering around going, ‘Geez I wouldn’t mind getting turped up’.”

Mr Willkins has taken the age old recipe of fermented honey and water and tinkered; creating a range of flavours, with everything from orange peel, to apples and cinnamon, to hibiscus, to herbs. 

“The sky’s the limit, you can do so many different things,” he said. 

“As it evolves what I’ll be doing is [using] bush spices, for example a tea tree one that I’ll experiment with shortly.”

There is a range of styles, all flavoured from natural ingredients, ranging in taste from bright and spritzy to dark and similar to stout.

There is a range of styles, all flavoured from natural ingredients, ranging in taste from bright and spritzy to dark and similar to stout.

What has been a personal passion and indulgence in flavour has morphed into a business concept. To bring back the mead. 

“I actually think the time for it is now,” Mr Wilkins said. 

But, getting people to throw away their ideas of what mead is and just try it isn’t all that easy.

“Part of the opportunity about mead is that nobody knows about it; one of the problems about mead is nobody knows about it.”

Mr Wilkins has created meads to appeal to all palates. There are softly pink, yellow, honeyed golden and dark brown brews. 

Swirling the mead releases a blend of aromas, giving a hint to the flavour. 

The flavours are not what you might expect, it is not cloying or overly sweet. It turns out, mead can be surprisingly subtle. 

“I want subtle sweetness, I don’t want to be hit over the head with a bat,” Mr Wilkins said. 

Each flavour he has created has a story. One, Governor’s Bees, is a distinctly Tasmanian yarn. 

“The story behind that is the first honeybees came to Australia, there is some debate about it but, they came to Hobart … and they were given to the Governor Arthur,” Mr Wilkins said. 

“The first hive lived in government house grounds and then he gave swarms away to people he knew and so they spread into the Australian bush.

“It’s just a lovely story.”

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