The oldest alcoholic drink known to man is making a resurgence and it’s not just down to it being the choice of drink for Vikings or even Harry Potter in the Three Broomsticks Inn. This humble, yet intoxicating, mead of antiquity is being found in trendsetting establishments from London to New York, Tokyo to Trondheim and everywhere in between.
So what is it about this simple fermentation of honey, yeast and water that is proving so popular? Is it the subtleties of flavours that pop along your tongue as you roll the golden nectar around your mouth, or is it the seemingly endless varieties on offer from master mead brewers from many different countries? Maybe it is the fact that almost every country in the world has brewed mead at some point in their history so that every nation finds it a familiar drink. We can start with Mexican balche which was brewed by the ancient Mayan culture and still drunk today by the Yucatec Maya or move towards China and their mead with rice and honey that dates back to 7000BC. Most people stick with their native brews which gives us mead drinkers a wonderful opportunity to try out some fantastic brews.
I recently got a chance a try a bottle of Jarl’s Brew Sweet Honey Mead from Grimfrost with some Swedish friends. Grimfrost is a small Swedish company that produces authentic Viking replicas and their mead is a collaboration with Mjödhamnen, Sweden’s largest and most distinguished mead producer. The Jarl’s Brew is sweet and strong, almost like a dessert wine and at 13% ABV you certainly won’t be quaffing it like Ragnar Lothbrook in his great hall. For me it was like stepping back in time; from the design of the bottle to the richness of the honey flavouring that harks back to bygone ages when it was considered a gift from the gods and only fit for royalty.
For those mead drinkers in New Zealand you have some exciting times ahead with fresh new mead producers exploding on the scene. Try and grab a taste of Mac’s Love Buzz Mead that you can find on tap at selected Mac’s Brew Bars. Served ice-cold the Love Buzz Mead is only available for a limited time, but it is said it will be making a comeback if you miss out this year.
The USA has mead producers that have expanded from small home set-ups into commercial enterprises that cater for a wide range of palettes and strengths; in fact mead is the fastest growing segment of the alcohol industry in the States. Check out Maine Mead Works, Honeymaker series of meads; their spiced mead is just perfect for cool spring evenings around a fire pit.
But what if you want to have a dabble at making your own? Give it a go, you will find it surprisingly simple and rewarding; you can buy kits at most good homebrew retailers or why not follow the 1669 recipe from the book ‘The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie’. Luckily you won’t have to go out and buy a copy just do a quick Google search and you can find this amazing work online; if you are lazy, click on the link to jump straight there (http://realbeer.com/spencer/Digby-recipes/recipe-94-08-18.html)
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and raise your glass to this mightiest and most ancient of beverages; after all, 10,000 years of history can’t be wrong.
Grimfrost mead products can be found online at mjodhamnen.se/uk