Last Updated on May 10, 2023
When it comes to alcoholic drinks, mead reigns as one of the world’s oldest beverages, dating back to 7000 BC. In fact, some historians even believe it could have been the world’s first alcoholic drink, emerging long before beer or wine.
We had to learn more, so my husband and I traveled to Queen’s Reward Meadery in Tupelo to visit Mississippi’s first meadery business.
What is Mead?
For centuries, mead has been a beverage of choice across many cultures. Now, it’s making a comeback and becoming even more popular. The beauty of mead is its simplicity – all you need is honey, water, yeast, and some time for fermentation.
The ingredients necessary for producing mead were naturally available to ancient societies. They remain just as accessible for modern-day aficionados and experienced mead-makers.
Also, consider that mead’s high sugar content and honey’s natural antimicrobial properties would have made it more resistant to spoilage and, therefore, a conveniently practical and tasty drink for early societies.
Queen’s Reward Tupelo
Our visit to Queen’s Reward Meadery was a delightful experience. So much so that we visited four times over three days. The hospitality and ambiance were top-notch, and the mead was delicious.
Cheers to Mississippi’s first meadery!
Queen’s Reward Meadery creates small-batch meads with 100% Mississippi honey. Upon entering the venue, I absorbed the gentle, sweet honey aroma. Our first visit included a mead tasting of wine-like drinks. On our second visit, we sampled mead slushies paired with tasty selections from the charcuterie board. We returned the following day for a tour of the facility, and then just one more visit to purchase our favorite meads to enjoy at home.
Queen’s Reward Meadery is located on a busy street, but its park-like green space in front of the building sets a calming mood. Approaching the entry, floating, wing-like canopies tower above the main doors, a nod to the layered wings of a honeybee.
The theme continues inside where guests feel like they’re entering a well-tended honeycomb. Hexagonal coffee tables and hive-like overhead lighting create a cozy atmosphere.
The bar is covered in small hexagonal honeycomb tiles, and the bee theme continues with golden imprints on the wine glasses, logoed napkins, and even the mead bottle corks.
Subtle puns and playful phrases such as “Mead in Mississippi” or “It’s just you and mead” accent the vibrant atmosphere.
During our visits, owner Jeri Carter, or “Queen Bee” as she playfully refers to herself, shared the history of mead back to a time when it was believed to be a drink gifted by the gods. Honey and rainwater would absorb yeast from nearby plants and the mead drink, or “honey wine,” would develop in time.
We were curious about the connection between mead and medieval Vikings since we’d read about mead in “Beowolf” and other literature. There is a connection. In ancient times, when people figured out how to ferment grapes and grains in warmer climates, the northern regions were out of luck since they couldn’t produce the source products for wine and beer. Therefore, they continued to make alcoholic meads the old-fashioned way, using naturally available honey.
Queen’s Reward Meadery varieties
We were impressed by Queen’s Reward’s meads and their commitment to creating traditional meads with top-quality Mississippi honey. Despite its nickname of “honey wine,” not all mead is sweet.
“A common misconception with mead is that because we make it with honey, it’s going to be super sweet, but we get to pick if we want it to finish sweet or dry,” Carter explained.
My husband and I tried at least eight meads and four mead slushie flavors. It’s hard to choose, but these flavors were our favorites:
This semi-sweet mead delivers a luscious blend of sweet Mississippi honey and cranberries. The first sip brings out a bold cranberry flavor, followed by a pleasant burst of honey tones that linger until the last sip. The cranberries add a tartness that hits just the right spot, providing a delightful twist. Rubee is a crisp and refreshing choice to indulge in on a cozy night or share with friends at a party.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Mead
This decadent drink boasts a complex flavor profile showcasing the versatility of mead. What caught my attention was the unique finishing process during which the liquid soaks on a bed of cocoa beans. The bottle indicator explains what temperature is recommended for serving each mead. When Chocolate Covered Cherry is served warm, as directed, the flavors build to a rich chocolatey finish.
My husband loved this mead, particularly how the chocolate flavor lingers after each sip. We first sampled the Chocolate Covered Cherry mead at Hotel Tupelo when we checked in. Several Queen’s Reward meads are available at the hotel’s lobby marketplace.
This mead is sweeter than others and the blackberry flavor really shines. The taste reflects the essence of freshly picked blackberries with their sweet, slightly tart flavor. There are a few different methods for adding fruit flavors to mead. Carter explained that her fruit juices go directly into the tanks with the honey at the beginning of the process, infusing the flavors evenly into the fermented beverage.
Blackberry mead is a wine-like drink that can be enjoyed independently or paired with a meal. Its versatility makes it ideal for a warm summer evening outdoors or a fine-dining table presentation.
Delta Gold Mead
The name of this delightful drink comes from a combination of “Delta,” which is the region along the Mississippi River where the honey is sourced, and “Gold,” a nod to the gold-skinned young grapes along the Rhine River in Germany. The real magic happens when Riesling grape juices blend with pure Mississippi honey. The beautiful complexity of sweetness and tartness floods the tastebuds with fruity flavor.
While the slushies in our sampler were all bright, light, and delicious, the Peach Mead Slushie drink was like a relaxing walk through an orchard. The thoughtful combo of peach and honey flavors reminds me of homemade peach-flavored ice cream.
A Community – Just You and Mead
The Queen’s Reward Meadery opened in 2018 on land that was previously part of a farm estate. When the owner’s house burned in a tragic accident, this outbuilding was not damaged. The former shop is now the location of Queen’s Reward production facility and showroom.
After the farmhouse fire, the homestead lawns grew verdant underneath the refreshing shade trees. It’s a popular place for outdoor events and group gatherings.
At any time, there are games available – Scrabble, “Never Have I Ever,” and card games – but at least once a month, patrons gather for organized game nights. The events may include food truck service (but you’re welcome to bring your own meal), and the party can last for hours.
The meadery offers a delicious charcuterie board to pair with your mead for a hearty snack, however, they don’t have a full menu or provide meal services.
One popular event is Singo, the musical version of Bingo. Rather than calling out numbers, guests jam out to favorite tunes. Each player gets a Singo card with hit song titles. The announcer randomly plays snippets of the catchiest parts of these songs, and everyone joins in the music and matches song titles to the Singo card. The first person to successfully mark their card and yell “Singo” wins the round. And the party continues.
The perfect blend of Mississippi hospitality and award-winning meads awaits guests at this remarkable destination. The Carters, passionate about sharing their Southern roots and unique mead blends, have created a memorable experience for tourists and culinary experts alike.
“This is literally a sip of our backyard, and our backyard is beautiful,” Carter aptly explains.
The Queen’s Reward Meadery is situated four miles north of downtown Tupelo. There is ample free parking at the building.