Considered the oldest known alcoholic drink, mead, a fermented beverage made with honey, begs to be served in Old English-style pewter mugs and nursed over poetry beside a fire of pungent peat. But really, that’s just a serving suggestion. WNC’s maker culture first insists you learn how to brew your own. Gary German leads a “Magic of Mead” class on February 27 at the Hendersonville Community Co-op for hobby drinkers and potential micro-preneurs (mead has recently gained some hold on the micro-brew scene, with Fox Hill Meadery in Marshall being the top local example).
“Mead is thought to be the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man, dating back as far as 40,000 years,” German said this week in a talk with Bold Life.
“Fermentation was not understood until the mid-1800s,” he explains. “As a result, two things occurred: the final product was very unpredictable, and fermentation took on mystical qualities. Legend says that the Vikings drank mead to psyche themselves up for battle.”
When beer and wine became cheaper to produce in the Middle Ages, mead fell out of favor, though newlyweds were still gifted a robust supply of the stuff to encourage a fruitful union (hence the term “honeymoon”).
Mead contains only three ingredients — honey, water, and yeast — and is relatively easy to make in the modern age. However, German notes, “fermentation is still a mystical process. Two of the most difficult things about brewing mead are patience and timing. I have little patience, and timing is, quite often, a matter of luck. How long to leave in primary? Secondary? How long to age in the bottle? Testing methods are limited for most home brewers; furthermore, I hate to waste good beer/mead in a testing process because it’s going to go down the drain after I’m done.”
While the rise of mead on the craft-beverage scene is encouraging, German remains cautious. “Most commercial meads I’ve had aren’t very good, in my personal opinion. One of the best meads I’ve had was brewed by a friend in a two-gallon plastic bucket and bottled in old plastic soda bottles with screw caps. Go figure.”
“Magic of Mead,” February 27. $10 for owners, $15 non-owners. 60 S. Charleston Lane. 828-693-0505. Hendersonville Community Co-op.