A Brief History of Mead

by Lady Bridget and Lord Riekin @ 2001

The history of mead goes so far back into antiquity that we may never have a true idea of the origins of it. However, one indication of it's age might be the abundance of bee goddesses in the ancient mediteranean. Why else would the bee have recieved such a magical and godlike respect, other than it's ability to create a reality-altering elixir?

It has been established that the ancient Egyptians were the first to create beer and that they had mead for a long time prior to that. Mead is, simply put, fermented honey and water, and can be created naturally without the help of man. It stands to reason that man would develop the ability to recreate what nature provided almost accidentally, and certainly could put the origins of mead into the neolithic period.

Mead has long been associated with Kings and Gods, but in the middle ages there was the phenomenon of the "small mead". At the same time as the harvest of the early fruits, the beehives were also raided. The honey in the comb was squeezed out and stored for use by the nobility as a sweetner. The wax was desired for candles, medicinal salves, jewelry making, and a wide host of other uses. It was processed by throwing it into large vats of boiling water where the wax melted, and the residues of honey dissoved into the water. This then cooled and slabs of wax were lifted from the surface, for remelting and other processing.

The weak sugar solution in the pots was allowed to ferment with the naturally occuring yeast in the air and was ready for drinking when the harvest of the grain began. It was long, hard work, and was made far more cheerful by the bubbling, carbonated pots of thin, honey "beer" that was liberally passed out to the workers. They would simply scoop their mug right into it and get a dose of bee vitamins and protein right along with their alcohol.

A portion of the honey that had been pressed from the comb would of course end up in the much stronger, sweeter "high mead" destined for the Lord's table, and prepared by his castle brewer. After the introduction of wine from the mediteranean countries, mead was looked upon as more of a countryman's drink, and lost it's popularity among the nobles. But it did not lose it's popularity among the commonfolk because, like beer, it could be made from materials at hand and unlike wine, it didn't require special temperatures for storage or ageing.

However, beer was much less expensive to produce and replaced mead as the daily drink of all classes. Mead was still produced for special events, like marriages. It's lure made have faded but was never totally lost.

There is a lot of research into the history of this wonderful drink and if you would like more information, check out our books section, which can also direct you to other websites as well.

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