hist-brewing: Strength of early medieval mead?

Ian Gourdon of Glen Awe agincort at imperium.net
Mon Jun 9 09:05:21 PDT 1997


G'day Fermentors,
Arwenna of Kelsley and I are kind of jointly using this address, for
this group. Mead is certainly an interest, after cordials.(and for me,
beer) We wonder if the adjustment when honey was limited wasn't to make
less, per an understanding (traditional knowledge, like bread making) of
how to 'make it right'? We are certainly curious if honey and or mead
was used to pay taxes. Perhaps not, if the monasteries did most of the
bee keeping. Wild honey was probably occassional, at best.  We're
inclined to doubt that honey as a recipe was altered much - and we're
guessing that wine style was the standard. The 'fermenting what you had
in excess' comment sounds right. If honey was in very limited supply,
would they have made mead at all? We know they used it before sugar...
Only the facts will tell. We need more...
Ian Gourdon


Phil & Carol Reed wrote:
> 
> To the historical fermenters, greetings!
> 
> I've been doing some thinking about the potency of early mead,
> in the 1000-1300 AD time frame. The tentative hypothesis I'm
> coming to is that it's unlikely that mead would have been
> what we normally run in to (i.e. wine-style), due to the amount
> of honey that would have been available.
> 
> My typical mead uses 3+ pounds of honey per gallon. This means
> a case of mead (in traditional wine bottles) might take 15-20
> pounds of honey. My question is - how much honey would have
> been available in early medieval times? If 15-20 pounds of honey
> put a substantial dent in the regional honey supply, how likely
> would it been for the honey to be diverted to this purpose?
> Certainly the end result would have been that wine-style mead
> would be amazingly expensive.
> 
> The normal mode of thinking is that people fermented what they
> had available, and what they could afford. In the warmer climates
> of southern Europe, grapes were relatively easily grown, so
> grape wine would be produced. Move further north, where
> grapes don't grow so well, and we find beer from grain. Move
> yet further north, and we find less grain and thus more fermentation
> activity using honey.
> 
> However, if there isn't much honey available, then it seems unlikely
> that the resultant mead would be wine style. It seems to me more
> probable that the mead would be what we call 'quick mead' - a
> quickly-produced, fizzy, slightly alcoholic honey drink.
> 
> I'm interested in reactions to this hypothesis. Anybody got any
> input for or against it?
> 
> To support or dismiss this thesis would require information on the
> amount of honey produced per year in a certain region. The only
> place I can think of to get this kind of information would be medieval
> tax records. Does anybody have any ideas on how to proceed to
> get access to this kind of info?
> 
> phil reed
> pcr at ic.net
> 
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