Now that the German Market has come to town in Birmingham, I thought I’d do a short piece on the joys of mead, or ‘honeywine’. Not many people have had mead, and yet it is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) drink we have. The Anglo-Saxon heroic culture brought mead into prominence, with scenes from Beowulf describing the joyous carousing in the ‘medo-heal’ [Old English for “mead-hall”]. Books like The Lords of the Rings and even videogames like Skyrim resurrected many aspects of that culture in our consciousness, including mead-drinking. But it’s never quite taken off in England in the same way it used to. It’s become the surreptitious hobby of battle-recreaters, D&D fanatics and war-gamers (like me).
It’s made from honey and sometimes has elderberry as well. My personal preference is for the elderberry mead, as the sweetness is balanced by the sharpness of the berry, but I do also love ‘white mead’, which is pure honey and alcohol goodness. The reason I love mead so much, and that for the six week period the Christmas market’s in town the stands are swamped with people, is because the taste reflects its process. You can’t mass-produce or artificially create mead. It’s an organic seven year process that can’t be expedited with chemicals, or manufacture. In short, it’s the most natural-tasting alcoholic drink you’ll ever have.
Many people say that when they drink mead they don’t experience the alcoholic effects in the same way. They feel ‘merry’, ‘light-hearted’, ‘up’, rather than simply fuzzy, slow or intoxicated. Again this is probably due to the way it’s made, and also the fact it’s primarily made from honey rather than yeast or hop or fruit.
So, next time you feel like treating yourself, or celebrating, go the full mile and get a bottle of mead. It’s only £12 to £15 at the German Market for a 750 ml bottle, but you can also get them at various stores around the country that stock specialist wines and drinks. As a guard from Skyrim once said:
‘I’d be a lot happier with a belly full of mead.’