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How Old is Mead?

Posted by Groennfell Meadery on

Evolution of MeadNot pictured: wine skin

Many people want to know just how old mead is. Our usual response is, “look on the label.” That’s just because we’re a little sassy, though. We know what you really want to know: Is mead the oldest fermented beverage in the world? The short answer is: Possibly. The long answer is: Possibly, but does that really matter?

People want to feel like they’re part of some tradition linking us with our most distant human ancestors. Archeological evidence points to beer, wine, and mead fermentation from roughly 10,000 years ago. The thing is, if it has sugar and water, humans have probably tried to ferment it. We as mead makers are indeed part of a very very very old tradition, but so are the folks at Magic Hat, Shelburne Vineyard, Budweiser, and Little Penguin, not to mention tens of thousands of home brewers.

But just because something is old, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically good. Mead comes from the same time period in which we punched holes in people’s sculls to let the evil spirits out. So, y’know… What matters is that mead – after ten millennia – is still around.

The fundamental rules of mead have not changed in 10,000 years: Add together honey and water then be patient. In the modern world, however, we no longer have to wait for wild yeast and bacteria to fall out of the air into our pot of sugar water. We needn’t be subject to random fluctuations in temperature which might kill the poor yeast before it’s done its work. We can bottle up our product without the fear that it will explode and send shards of glass or pottery into the walls (or worse yet, into our customers).

Every generation of mead makers gets to stand on this cusp of the breathtakingly old and the startlingly new. Mead is both an ancient tradition and a complex modern science. We at Groennfell, like so many others in the world of brewing, are thrilled to embrace both the old and the new.

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