The rich and storied history of mead dates back to ancient times, with references as early as 8000 BCE. Older than beer or wine, mead was quite possibly the first alcoholic beverage ever consumed.
Initially, naturally fermented honey would have been consumed, but it was only a matter of time before humans figured out how to initiate the fermentation process on their own by reverse engineering the process.
Mead can be found across the globe. For example, in Central Africa, a fermented honey beverage known as tej remains popular to this day. In Egypt, evidence of mead has been found in king Tut’s tomb, along with his other riches. The Vedic hymns from the Rig Veda in India contain the earliest surviving description of mead. The Greeks even coined the term “ambrosia” or “nectar of the gods” to describe the intense taste of mead.
Mead features heavily in Norse mythology. In a myth called the Mead of Poetry, mead made by the gods purportedly endowed whoever drank it with all the knowledge in the world plus the ability to write poetry. Odin is said to have stolen the Poet’s mead because he coveted intelligence. (Read here for the full story)
In Beowulf, written somewhere around 700 BC, Mead appears in the fourth line and virtually every few pages after that. Large quantities of mead are consumed in the mead hall to mark most major occasions in the story. (“The Compleat Meadmaker, K. Shramm). St. Bridgette of Ireland reportedly changed water into mead.
Mead slipped out of mainstream consumption over the last few centuries. The decline was largely due to competition from other alcoholic drinks such as wine, beer, and ultimately distilled spirits, all of which could be produced more cheaply and more consistently than mead. The decline probably began after the Norman Conquest in 1066 when the Normans brought their wines and ciders to England and Norway.
Mead has survived mainly through the efforts of beekeepers who keep the art alive and pass down their knowledge, and through medieval historians, especially those who like to recreate medieval and Renaissance culture.
We here at Trazo Meadery hope to bring the rich tradition of mead back into the mainstream with our line of high quality, all natural meads.
Schramm, K. (2003).The Compleat Meadmaker. Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications.