Environmentally friendly packaging: check. Light in alcohol: check. Natural: check. Ancient pedigree: check. Biodiversity-invested product: check. Delicious: check. What’s not to love?
From £3, SG$10.10 per 33-cl can, $12.99 per pack of 4 x 33-cl cans
There are some who argue that honey mead is the world’s oldest fermented beverage. There are some who argue otherwise, but we’re not going to get into that today. Suffice to say that mead has been made and drunk for more than 7,000 years throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, and has a firm place in the annals of history, mythology and folklore.
I came to mead a little late in its timeline. In 2018, in fact. I received an email:
Gosnells has launched its mead in a new 75cl format. The world will never be the same again.
I duly received a sample of the world-changing Gosnells mead from the mellifluous Rupert and was hooked. I can’t speak for the mellifluousness of Rupert, having never met him, but I can vouch for the mellifluousness of that Gosnells honey mead.
I have spent the last three years berating myself for not making time to write about it. So when I discovered, while ordering the new Gosnell’s low-alcohol 0.5% sparkling mead, that their canned ‘session’ meads were available in the US (we try to make our Friday recommendations as widely available as possble), it galvanised me into action.
Tom Gosnell started making mead from his London kitchen in 2014. He rapidly expanded and now has an unromantic-looking meadery in the unlikely setting of a small industrial unit in Peckham, out of which some magical beverages materialise. Tom Gosnell makes a fascinating and often-changing range of meads that include, at different times of the year, single vintage, mono-flora, barrel-aged, barrel-fermented and sake-blended. These are carefully crafted, stunningly complex, artisan drinks that deserve an article on their own. Today’s ‘beverage’ of the week, however, concerns his more cutting-edge, affordable cans.
Launched in June 2019, and billed as the first in Europe, the Gosnells’ 33-cl (11-oz) cans of draft mead are a cheeky foursome of delicately sparkling, naturally flavoured meads that clock in at just 4% alcohol.
Hopped, the green can, is IPA-inspired and spiced with hops. My tasting note read, ‘Intense hawthorn- and broom-blossom nose. This really smells of spring. Very delicate, white-honey notes with the almost-bitter florals of hops tracing a corsetry of definition and structure. A touch of cobnuts. A touch of fresh bread yeast. So fresh, so fragrant, and although there is a slight thumbprint impression of sweetness, the overall sense is dry. I wouldn’t even mind them pushing the hops flavour and bitterness just a bit more – and I am not a big hops-flavour fan.’
This one was a brilliant partner with chicken in a cream-and-mustard sauce; lime-, jalapeño- and cilantro-loaded enchiladas; and lamb jalfrezi.
Sour comes in an orange can and although they are not specific about what’s been added to the mead, there is an emphatic tang to this, a little bit kombucha- or shrub-like. As if there is a teaspoon of apple cider in the can… This one has a strong honey smell – the kind you get from warmed, thick, creamed midsummer honey. Tastes of baked apples and honeysuckle and the comforting soft warmth of just-baked white bread in the moment before you slather it with butter that melts into it. That sour note does a great job of balancing the pillowy softness, although I’d like it even more sour! But as it is, it is delicious – tastes a little sweeter and richer than the Hopped, but still super-refreshing.
Paired well with: kimchi omelette; pickled cockles; buttery toast; salty pretzels; chicken thighs cooked in sticky, hot lime pickle; pulled pork in a spicy, smoky barbecue sauce; chicken Kashmir curry; chicken-liver and almond pâté. The most food-friendly of all of them.
Citra Sea comes in a blue can and is flavoured with lemon, tarragon and Citra hops. It smells of pomelo zest and grapefruit pith. Very gentle citrus character – not as pronounced on the palate as on the nose, almost soapy in texture and florals. The creamiest honey flavours and aromas of them all. Like chestnut honey swirled into clotted cream. Very subtle vanilla and bay-leaf undertones. Perhaps it’s autosuggestion, but it seems to have an equally subtle saltiness on the finish. And a very, very delicate nutmeg note.
We tried this one with ceviche scallops and scallops cooked in a cream, white-wine and tarragon sauce. Both were great. On the other end of the scale, this is the mead that is just perfect with salt and vinegar crisps (aka chips). I can imagine it would be fabulous with good old fish and chips. Oddly, it was delicious with a simple roast celeriac-and-parsnip mash.
Hibiscus comes in a (surprise, surprise) pink can and is flavoured with hibiscus petals (surprise, surprise). It’s a deep pink colour and it really does smell like hibiscus and honey tea (which I drink fairly often, so I know that smell well!). There are also rose petals in there and the very delicately earthy nuttiness of buckwheat honey. Blueberry and raspberry fruitiness. This is perhaps the most soda-like of the four cans, but it is as pretty in the mouth as it looks.
Pair with: walnuts; soft fresh goat’s cheese on pumpernickel toast with redcurrant jam; smoked duck and pomegranate salad; pistachio shortbread with raspberries and cream.
Across the board, these are drinks that are relatively low in acidity and the sparkle is gentle – so for those who struggle with acidic drinks, these might be just your thing.
For all the vibrant colours, sassy names, quirky flavourings and obvious marketing/practical benefits (lightweight, light alcohol, stackable, recyclable, transportable, quick to chill), these are seriously good drinks with a decent degree of complexity. They’re also great with or without food. A dozen times better than most canned wine available, I’d far rather pack a few of these into a backpack for a picnic than cans of tinny 13% wine.
Plus, I noticed (complete coincidence), Gosnells are doing some March sales so it might be a good time to try them out.
Also, I see, it’s World Bee Day on 20 May 2021. Just in time to stock up with the appropriate gesture of support?
In the UK, you can buy direct from Gosnells at £12 for a taster pack of all four flavours, or (with the March 2021 discount) £60 for 24 cans. You can also buy from Beer Shop Albans, Chester Beer & Wine, and Hop Burns & Black from £3.25 per can. In Singapore you can pick up a can for around SG$10, and in the US you can get hold of the mixed four-pack for $12.99 from Total Wine & More in Washington state, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Connecticut and North Carolina.
Do it for the bees.