Mead is one of the quintessential medieval drinks, and no royal banquet or Viking feast would be complete without this charismatic drink. But what exactly is mead? Where does it come from? And is it really as medieval as we think?
Read on to discover five amazing facts about mead.
Mead isn’t just a drink from Medieval Europe, in fact, it is so old we are not exactly sure of its origins. It was drunk by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and even by the Mayans and other American civilisations. It is thought that it may have first been discovered by ancient people who accidentally drank fermented honey. What a great discovery! It has been enjoyed throughout history and is a favourite of kings and queens in the middle ages. Oxford likely has had its fair share of meaderies, and some are still going strong.
The primary ingredient of mead is honey and is flavoured with many different herbs, spices and other flavourings. The honey itself is one of the main complements of the flavour of the drink, traditionally being made with orange blossom, clover, or acacia. Many new brewers use wildflower, blackberry and buckwheat honey to create new and interesting flavours. We even sell chilli-flavoured mead in our own castle gift shop!
Royalty has always loved mead, and Queen Elizabeth herself was no different. Her Majesty enjoyed hers made with rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and sweet briar, and many other royal figures throughout history have enjoyed this regal drink. Legendary figures such as King Midas (maybe he loved the golden colour?) and Queen of Sheba and King Solomon are all thought to have drunk mead. The latter two probably drank T’ej, an Ethiopian honey wine with a bittersweet taste that’s still enjoyed today. Mead really is the drink of kings, so if you want to impress your friend and family with your sophistication, drink like a royal!
In medieval Europe, some historians have said married couples would spend a month after their wedding drinking only mead! This is said to improve fertility and happiness for the newlyweds, and that’s where the term honeymoon comes from. Honey from the mead and moon from one lunar month that the couple would drink the sweet drink. Some sceptics of this theory disagree with the origin of the term, but for those of us who would like to bring this tradition back, we do not need to worry about them.
Mead is still a specialist drink, but its popularity is growing fast around the country. Our partners over at Lyme Bay Winery are one of many brewers creating and exploring mead as a drink. Some people still see mead as a gimmicky drink, associated with Viking drinking halls and pagan rituals. However more and more customers are realising that it isn’t just for a Game of Thrones-themed party, and the growth of meaderies and brands selling this amber drink proves that the subtle and pleasant flavours are creating a buzz.
Mead has a truly ancient history, and its modern resurgence is part of that legacy. If you want to buy your own “nectar of the gods” you can find our favourite flavours in our castle shop.