History of Mead: The Oldest Alcoholic Beverage on Earth
Mead is an ancient beverage that has been around for centuries. It is made from fermented honey, water, and yeast and can range from sweet to dry depending on how it’s made. It’s a delicious drink that has a big history behind it!
Mead is the First Alcoholic Beverage Early Humans Drank
The earliest archeological evidence shows that mead was being made in Northern China as early as 7000 BC based on analysis of pottery finding chemical signatures of honey, rice, and fermentation. This means mead is the oldest known alcoholic beverage on earth. Mead’s fame only grows from there. Mead shows up in Sanskrit hymns, Aristotle’s writings as well as Pliny the Elder, where he explicitly differentiated wine sweetened with honey or “honey wine” from mead. Smart guy if you ask us.
In the old English poem Beowulf, the Danish warriors are drinking mead before and after battle. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about mead in his writings in the 5th century BC, describing it as “the most noble of beverages”. There are also references to mead in Norse mythology, where it was said to be Odin’s favorite drink. In some cultures, mead was even believed to have magical properties and was used as an offering for gods or spirits. We see mead being written about and revered throughout history, long before the advent of beer or spirits.
People love saying the word “honeymoon” originates from a medieval and/or Norse tradition of giving a married couple a month’s supply of mead after their wedding to bring luck and fertility. I wish this story was true but unfortunately it is not. The concept of a honeymoon and the use of the word didn’t start appearing historically until the late-1700s/early-1800s, completely unrelated to Medieval or Nordic cultural traditions.
The Ups and Downs of Mead Popularity Over Time
In Europe, mead became popular during the Middle Ages due to its abundance and relative ease of production compared to other alcoholic beverages such as wine or beer. Monasteries began producing large quantities of mead for sale throughout the continent and its popularity soared. By the Renaissance period however, beer had become more popular than mead due to its affordability and availability. Beer had finally won the battle and beaten mead.
By the 20th century, interest in mead had waned dramatically, but thankfully there has been a recent resurgence in its popularity over the past few decades with craft meaderies beginning to make their own variations on this ancient beverage. Nowadays you can find many different types of meads with varying levels of sweetness, alcohol content, and flavor profiles depending on what type of honey is used or what additional ingredients are added during the fermentation process.
Whether you’re looking for something new or just want to explore your love for history, why not give mead a try? With its rich history and delicious taste it’s sure to be a hit at any gathering or parties you host!