The birth of the term
'Traditional Mead'

When did usage of the term "Traditional Mead" begin to describe a beverage of fermented honey without flavor-contributing adjuncts?  

Below are instances of the bigram 'traditional mead' from written works that I have been able to find to date.  If the term was in use as slang (and thus not prone to being written down), its usage may predate the more definitive examples below. 

TL;DR: it may have seen informal usage in the 1970s, saw more technical written usage beginning in 1980, then began to be prescriptively defined as of 1986. 

Article first posted April 2024. 

Timeline of written examples

A. Standard Traditional Mead: Uses generic honey or a blend of honeys.

B. Varietal Honey Traditional Mead - Made from honey from a particular flower source (clover and wildflower honey are not acceptable in this category). The brewer must name the varietal honey. Examples include buckwheat, orange blossom, star thistle, fireweed, snowberry, raspberry blossom, mesquite, heather, alfalfa, tupelo, etc. The mead should showcase the distinctive taste of the particular varietal honey." 

Flavor: The flavor of honey should be featured and may include residual sweetness. Any additives, such as acidity or tannin, should enhance the honey flavor and lend balance to the overall character of the mead.

Comments: A mead made primarily from honey, water and yeast. Meads which feature the character of a blended honey or a blend of honeys. For meads made from a single variety of money [sic] see below “B, Varietal Honey Traditional Mead.” 

Sources which do not contain the T-word

Sources I have not yet looked at


By 1980 the seeds were sown by Papazian comparing Barkshack Gingermead to 'traditional' meads, if the term wasn't already seeing usage within less formal registers at honey shows during the 1970s.  By 1986, the term was clearly defined in a work published by the AHA.  By 1989, it was a national-level competition category.  Guidelines for the named style were widely published in 1991.  By 1993, the Mazer Cup was revisiting a debate that the Long Sutton honey show had considered more than a century prior.  By 1997, the BJCP had developed their own first set of mead style guidelines including the term.  As of the 2020s, the term is utilized by academics studying the mead industry. 


Big thank you to the staff at the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Oregon State University.

Thank you to Dan McFeeley, Dr. Michael Hall, Dick Dunn, Pamela Spence, Dr. Dewey Caron, Laura Angotti, Vicky Rowe, and others for correspondence.  

I would also like to acknowledge Boak & Bailey for inspiring a timeline-driven depiction.  And the False Bottomed Girls podcast for inspiring a closer look at how mead styles are curated.