Introducing Pat and the World of Mead

(A brief note from Matt: “I’m very excited to have my good friend Pat coming on board to offer his insight into the world of Mead.  Pat is a talented brewer and mead maker and I have no doubt everyone will learn from and enjoy his commentary and understanding on all things Mead.”)

Before we get started, I just wanted to briefly introduce myself. My name is Pat Gouin, I’ve been brewing beer since 2008, followed soon after by mead in 2009. In which time, I’ve brewed a substantial amount of both, with a wine and a cider here and there. Mat has graciously invited me to thebeerfiles as a contributing writer on mead. I’ll also be posting about my adventures in craft beer and brewing from time to time as well.

Introductions out of the way, let’s get to the important stuff….

What exactly is mead?

Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from just three simple ingredients: water, honey, and yeast. There are also fruit-flavored meads, called “melomels”, “methyglyns” made with herbs and spices, as well as a number of other styles, all using a variety of different methods and ingredients, but we’ll save that for a later post. For now, I want to briefly give a history of this interesting elixir.

Mead is arguably the world’s oldest fermented beverage, with some estimates reaching back to 10,000 BCE, based on a combination of archaeological findings and logical assumptions. However, proponents of both beer and wine are constantly debating the historical claims to such a statement. Regardless, it’s really old and tied into the evolution of human society, like beer and wine.

Mead, like the honey used to produce it, is very calorically dense, so it would have been an obvious choice for our very distant ancestors to forage for honey and store it for later use, along with other foodstuffs. Some have argued that ancient humans would have carried honey water around in animal skins or gourds only to find that after some time, their beverages had now taken on magical properties. They would have attributed this surprising transformation to the divine, even having a sense of awe over the animal skin vessel in which this transformation had occurred. This theory is a good one, since the earliest water-tight vessels were not pottery. Wine, beer and mead had already been well-established by 6,000 BCE, when the potter’s wheel was invented.

Drunk guy under tree

Mead is one of those ancient beverages that fell somewhat out of style but is now making a comeback. Many people don’t know what it is, and many more hear the word “mead” and envision a bunch of drunk, bearded barbarians celebrating a victory in a dimly-lit mead hall during the dark ages. Even the Old English epic Beowulf paints such pictures. Meaderies have been popping up around the United States at a rate that has tripled in the past decade, due in part to the Craft Beer Movement that emerged in the late 1970’s. American’s palates have shifted away from the yellow fizzy stuff that has dominated the landscape since the end of Prohibition to more flavorful ales and lagers, and mead has started following suit.

This was just a glimpse into the world of Mead. In the next several articles, I hope to delve deeper into this vast topic of mead-making. I’ll be going over some of the intricacies of honey and all it’s variations. We’ll be talking about this past National Mead Day, held on August 3rd; styles of mead, techniques, ingredients, and much more.

Happy brewing. Cheers!

1 Comment

  • Tom says:

    Hi Pat, great article thanks! Will you be sharing any of your mead recipes with us? Or maybe a blog where we could share with the whole mead making group? Please keep writing and I will keep reading. Thanks again Tom

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