Medieval brew mead, which was Beowulf’s favourite drink, is making a comeback as a trendy drink among hipsters.
Mead brewers in Cornwall are now selling about 50,000 litres of mead a year, and London producers are making around 2,500 bottles a month representing a huge surge in interest over the past six months.
The honey based drink was frequently referenced in Medieval literature, and was used for weddings and special occasions. In pagan times the bride and groom would drink mead for a month after their wedding, which is where the phrase ‘honeymoon’ originated.
It’s comeback is partly down to top chefs such as Britain’s Simon Rogan at the L’Enclume restaurant in Cartmel, Cumbria, and Fera at Claridge’s in Mayfair reintroducing it to their recipes.
According to legend, mead is a powerful aphrodisiac which enhances virility and fertility. It is believed to have been discovered by accident by drinking fermented water from beehives which would make the drinker intoxicated.
In the Miller’s Tale, Chaucer wrote: ‘He sent her sweetened wine and well-spiced ale and waffles piping hot out of the fire, and, she being town-bred, mead for her desire.’
Modern versions of the drink are brewed not just with honey but with elderflower, dried fruit and an assortment of herbs and spices instead and it is often used as an ingredient in trendy cocktails. It’s most recent appearance in popular culture was when the Harry Potter character Ron Weasley nearly died after drinking poisoned mead from an oak matured barrel.
Its new younger market is a step away from its original pagan drinkers and monks, but just as cider and craft beer have hit the big time, mead has made it onto the cocktail menus and could well be here to stay.