The honey drink that’s simply mead to measure in Dorking

Dorking's foodie explosion continues with this new mead from Crowded Hive

Dorking's foodie explosion continues with this new mead from Crowded Hive - Credit: Archant

Often associated with medieval drinking, mead is looking to thrust its way back onto the British palate. Here, we catch up with Alex Rice, who recently launched Crowded Hive in Dorking, to find out more

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2017


So, what’s the deal with mead? It has an incredible history; it’s almost certainly the oldest alcoholic drink in the world. A lot of people associate it with the medieval period. I think its presence in Game of Thrones has probably reinforced that. We’ve got plans to host a live joust in the centre of London late next year with drinks, music, comedy and almost certainly severe injuries!

How do you make it? Exactly the same as making a wine, except the sugar for the fermentation comes from honey rather than grapes. Each mead is slightly different but the honey is always central.

What type of honey do you use? I tasted a number of honeys before settling on the orange blossom honey we use at Crowded Hive. This means the bees that produced it have fed almost entirely on orange blossom, giving it a really subtle citrus taste and aroma.

Does any honey work? I think one of the reasons we haven’t seen a UK mead revival on the same scale as the US is because our native honeys tend to be made by bees that have fed predominantly on heather and clover. This produces an exceptional, rich honey that’s great to spread on your toast but, in my view, not light enough to make the really sophisticated drink I was after.

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What inspired you to join the mead revival? I’ve always had an interest in food and drink, and love watching Rick Stein and Keith Floyd really locate a product in a place and its history. I knew I wanted to add something to the canon of the drinks industry rather than start just another craft brewery.

How would you serve it? Whilst mead works well in a number of cocktails, Crowded Hive’s signature serve is a very simple spritzer: mead and lemonade/soda water mixed at a ratio of 1:1. Add loads of ice and garnish with orange peel.

Have you come across any similar products in Surrey? I haven’t, no, though I suspect there are a number of amateur beekeepers and winemakers producing it in their homes. It would be great to see more people keeping bees. Many people are aware of the trouble British bees are in – facing climate change, invasive foreign species and the use of harmful pesticides. We donate five per cent of our profits to Friends of the Earth’s Save the Bees Campaign.

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