hist-brewing: Strength of early medieval mead?

Phil & Carol Reed pcr at ic.net
Mon Jun 9 20:32:04 PDT 1997

At 12:05 PM 6/9/97 -0400, you wrote:
>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. 

According to Ann Hagen's "A Second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon
Food and Drink Production and Distribution", honey was indeed allocated
in what we would refer to as a tax, or sometimes a rent:

"Domesday Book contains numerous references to hives and honey.
The most noticable point is that important towns were paying tax in the
form of money ahd honey. Oxford paid the king twenty pounds and six
sesters of honey for toll, /gafol/ and all customs. Norwich paid six
sesters of honey to the king in 1066."

(Hagen concludes a "sester" to be the rough equivelant of 2 gallons,
more or less, though it's not easy to figure out - it varies over time,
and sometimes "sester" is used as a generic word for "measure" or

Now, two gallons sounds like a fair amount, but it becomes a matter
of how much total honey was available, and thus how much
was allocated per person. I suppose that if the king collected a 
substantial proportion of the available honey, rather than sit 
on it he could have had it made into strong mead.

>Wild honey was probably occassional, at best. 

It appears to have been more than just occasional. Hagen (again) points
out that posession of the production from wild hives was controlled
by Welsh law, so it must have been relatively common.

Hagen appears to be a substantial resource. I'm going to have to
read her closer.


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