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As I was chatting with Ken Schramm after the mazer cup, he said he thought that commercial meads would sell better if their quality were improved. I argued that the quality of beer is inversely proportional to how much is sold, so (in the case of beer) quality was neither necessary nor sufficient to be successful.

People do not buy mead because they do not know mead, not because they cannot find good mead. Little mead is sold because people do not look for mead, not because they cannot find any. This is why I think that more can be done on the side of the consumers than on that of the producers. Things such as mead day are very useful to make people know about mead. Invite friends over to your place and organize mead tastings to make them discover mead. Offer mead (be that yours or commercial) to your relatives and friends. Spread the word of mead.

Increasing the sale of mead is of importance as most of us mead drinkers would like to be able to find more meads in stores, mead of better quality and more diverse. As mead makers we would like to have some commercial references.

Mead, wine, beer

I am no marketing expert, but it seems that due to its price and alcohol content, mead is closer to wine than to beer. Yet mead is much more linked to beer than to wine: many meadmakers are also brewer or former brewers. I would guess that more people came to mead through beer than by any other way. Mead is a subcategory of mead in the BJCP categories and it is judged in beer competition not in wine competitions.

Currently, many meads are poorly labelled: the honey variety, the year the mead was made, etc. are not indicated on the bottle. If no care is taken, mead would be taken as some generic honey stuff, where there would be no significant difference between two competing products. Junk food. What makes wine so fancy? All the subtleties of its making, the grape used, the aging in oak, etc. Would you buy wine which is just labelled 'wine' with no detail? Nobody would. Take beer on the other hand: how many people know about the different kinds of beer (which are well defined and can easily be identified)? A few beer geeks. How many people know about cabernet sauvigon or chardonnay? A lot more. People who drink more beer than wine still know wine better. Why? Beer is some generic cheap stuff you drink watching TV. You don't care what you're drinking. Knowing beer is seen as derisory. Knowing wine is seen as education. In his article "Say it loud, 'I'm a Beer Advocate and I'm proud!'" 'Hopdevil' writes:

"At the beginning of the 1980s [...] to espouse the idea that different beers even had a unique and discernable taste character was tantamount to being - gasp - a snob! Of course wine drinkers have long been viewed as snooty, pretentious, affected and effete but they still enjoy a certain respect if not awe for their eonophilia, their sophistication and mastery of the arcane knowledge of wine. But for a guy, an American male, a beer drinker, to assert that one beer was not just as acceptable as any other was ... well, downright un-manly. Snobbery!

Mead is too expensive to compete with cheap beers: honey is expensive, the fermentation takes longer and mead needs aging. So mead must be positioned on the wine market. It is not that hard as wine is outrageously expensive in the U.S.


April 17th 2003