How long to age mead?
Here's a question prompted by one 12-ounce bottle of mead.
I was given a bottle of mead a year ago by a home brewer who said it would improve with age, like good wine. It's been a year now. Will it continue to improve with age or is it time to drink it?
It depends on the mead...if it is a lighter one ("light" referring to the ratio of honey to water before ferment...12lbs honey per 5gallons for example), then six months or so is probably about right, a year even better...though if properly brewed and bottled under properly sanitary conditions, it would last several years.
On the other hand, if it is a strong mead (like 20lbs of honey to a 5 gallon batch) then 6 months wouldn't cut it...indeed, the ferment is slow and it could still conceivably be fermenting 6 months after brewing. After the ferment is completed, it would need to age for a minimum of a year or even two...and preferably longer. I currently am tending to a few batches of mead brewed between 6 and 8 years ago...they have been aging in bulk and have yet to even be bottled. The last taste taken through the wine thief says "maybe this year...maybe". The oldest mead I have is some strong mead I made back in 1986 (bottled in 1989...I was in a hurry)...and the age on it brings a remarkable character...a hint of sherry, with some residual sweetness still remaining. A standard mead would actually not necessarily be very sweet...traditional mead is actually more like a dry white wine with honey character but not excessive sweetness. If bottled in beer bottles, the continuing slow ferment in the sealed bottle (if it was not arrested by introducing a sulfiting agent) would transform the drink into something rather like a champagne.
ime homebrewed mead can be drank any time after it has aged for 6 months or so. i'd probably drink your mead now (after dinner, some meads can have quite a punch). if you did want to age the mead longer, make sure you are storing it correctly (same rules as wine-- protect from strong light, temp around 60 degrees, ideally in cellar)--but if you don't suspect your homebrewing friend is a master meadmaker, just drink it.