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History of Mead
The history of mead may go back more than
8,000 years. The oldest known meads were created on the Island of Crete. Wine
had not yet been created. Mead was the drink of the Age of Gold, and the word
for drunk in classical Greek remained "honey-intoxicated."
Polish mead produced in LublinMead was once very popular in Northern Europe,
often produced by monks in monasteries in areas where grapes could not be grown.
It faded in popularity, however, once wine imports became economical. Especially
partial to it were the Slavs. In Polish it is called miód pitny (pronounced [mjut
pi:tni]), meaning "drinkable honey". Mead was a favored drink among the
Polish-Lithuanian szlachta (nobility). During the Crusades, Polish Prince Leszek
I the White explained to the Pope that Polish knights could not participate in
the Crusades because there was no mead in Palestine.
In Norse mythology, mead was the favorite drink of the Norse gods and heroes,
e.g. in Valhalla, and the mead of the giant (Jotun) Suttung, made from the blood
of Kvasir, was the source of wisdom and poetry. The nectar and ambrosia of the
Greek gods are often thought of as draughts of fermented honey.
In Russia, mead remained popular as medovukha and sbiten long after its
popularity declined in the West. Sbiten is often mentioned in the works by
19th-century Russian writers, including Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. Some
beer producers attempt to revive sbiten' as a mass-produced drink in Russia.
In Finland, a sweet mead called Sima (cognate with zymurgy), is still an
essential seasonal brew connected with the Finnish Vappu (May Day) festival. It
is usually spiced by adding both the pulp and rind of a lemon. During secondary
fermentation raisins are added to control the amount of sugars and to act as an
indicator of readiness for consumption — they will rise to the top of the bottle
when the drink is ready.
Ethiopian mead is called tej and is usually home-made. It is flavored with the
powdered leaves and bark of gesho, a hops-like bittering agent which is a
species of buckthorn. A sweeter, less-alcoholic version called berz, aged for a
shorter time, is also made. The traditional vessel for drinking tej is a rounded
vase-shaped container called a berele.
Evidence exists that mead was also made in India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan,
and Central Africa. Mead is also mentioned in many old north Anglo-Saxon
stories, including in the epic poem Beowulf, and in early Welsh poetry such as Y
The word "honeymoon" in English is supposedly traceable to the practice of a
bride's father dowering her with enough mead for a month-long celebration in
honor of the marriage. Mead is still manufactured in Britain, France, and
various other locations, though the traditional status of most such manufacture
is dubious. One of the most famous producers is the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
in North East England, where mead has been produced since Anglo-Saxon times.
Varieties of mead
Mead can have a wide range of flavors, depending on the source of the honey,
additives called "adjuncts" or "gruit" (including fruit and spices), yeast
employed during fermentation, and aging procedure. Mead can be difficult to find
commercially, though some producers have been successful marketing it. Consumers
must bear in mind that some producers have marketed white wine with added honey
as mead, often spelling it "meade." Blended varieties of mead can be known by
either style represented. For instance, a mead made with cinnamon and apples can
be referred to as a cinnamon cyser or as an apple metheglin.
Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some
can even be considered as dessert wines. Drier meads are also available, and
some producers offer sparkling meads, which (like champagne) can make for a
delightful celebratory toast. There are a number of faux-meads, which are
actually cheap wines with large amounts of honey added, to produce a cloyingly
sweet liqueur. It has been said that "a mead that tastes of honey is as good as
a wine that still tastes of grape".
Historically, meads would have been fermented by wild yeasts and bacteria
 residing on the skins of the fruit or within the honey itself.
Wild yeasts generally provide inconsistent results, and in modern times various
brewing interests have isolated the strains now in use. Certain strains have
gradually become associated with certain styles of mead. Mostly, these are
strains that are also used in beer or wine production. Several commercial labs,
such as White Labs, WYeast, Vierka, and others have gone so far as to develop
strains specifically for mead.
Mead can also be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength. Krupnik is a sweet
Polish liqueur made through just such a process.
Different types of mead include, but are not limited to:
Braggot - Braggot (also called bracket or brackett) marks the invention of Ale.
Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt - with or
without hops added.
Black mead - A name sometimes given to the blend of honey and black currants.
Cyser - Cyser is a blend of honey and apple juice fermented together. See also
Great mead - Any mead that is intended to be aged several years, like vintage
wine. The designation is meant to distinguish this type of mead from "short
mead" (see below.)
Hydromel - Hydromel literally means "water-honey" in Greek. It is also the
French name for mead. (Compare with the Spanish hidromiel and aquamiel, Italian
idromele and Portuguese hidromel). It is also used as a name for a very light or
Melomel - Melomel is made from honey and any fruit. Depending on the fruit-base
used, certain melomels may also be known by more specific names (see cyser,
pyment, morat for examples)
Metheglin - Metheglin starts with traditional mead but has herbs and spices
added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel,
coriander, cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins
were originally employed as folk medicines. (Though the Welsh word for honey is
medd, the word "metheglin" actually derives from meddeglyn, a compound word
comprised of meddyg, "healing" + llyn, "liquor".)
Morat - Morat blends honey and mulberries.
Omphacomel - A medieval mead recipe that blends honey with verjuice; could
therefore be considered a variety of pyment.
Oxymel - Another historical mead recipe, blending honey with wine vinegar.
Perry - Perry-mead blends honey with milled, ripe pears. (See entry for the
modern drink Babycham.)
Pyment - Pyment blends honey and red or white grapes. Pyment made with white
grape juice is sometimes called "white mead."
Rhodomel - Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, petals, or rose attar, and
Sack mead - This refers to mead that is made with more copious amounts of honey
than usual. The finished product retains an extremely high specific gravity and
elevated levels of sweetness. It derives its name from the fortified dessert
wine Sherry (which is sometimes sweetened after fermentation, and in England
once bore the nickname of "sack".)
Short mead - Also called "quick mead". A type of mead recipe that is meant to
age quickly, for immediate consumption. Because of the techniques used in its
creation, short mead shares some qualities found in cider (or even light ale):
primarily that it is effervescent, and often has a cidery taste.[citation
Show mead - A term which has come to mean "plain" mead; that which has honey and
water as a base, with no fruits, spices or extra flavorings. (Since honey alone
does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life-cycle, a
mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. will require a special yeast nutrient and
other enzymes to produce an acceptable finished product.)
Tej - Tej is an Ethiopian mead, fermented with wild yeasts (and bacteria), and
with the addition of gesho. Recipes vary from family to family, with some
recipes leaning towards braggot with the inclusion of grains.
Mulsum - Mulsum is not a true mead, but is unfermented honey blended with a
Medovina - Macedonian (of the Republic of Macedonia) for mead. Unfortunately,
very few people still brew this for their own consumption. It is not available
Medovukha - Eastern Slavic variant, very alcoholic. In principle, a vodka with
distilled honey addition.
Półtorak - A Polish mead, made using two units of honey for each unit of water
Dwójniak - A Polish mead, made using equal amounts of water and honey
Trójniak - A Polish mead, made using two units of water for each unit of honey
Czwórniak - A Polish mead, made using three units of water for each unit of
Gverc or Medovina - Croatian mead prepared in Samobor and many other places.
Word “gverc” or “gvirc” is from German "Gewürze" and it refers to different
spices added to mead.