A Brief History of Mead
Honey is probably mans oldest sweet food. In many early civilizations it was extolled as food for Gods, as a gift from the Gods or as a giver of immortality. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and other ancient peoples used honey in making cakes and candies as well as beverages. It was also used to make salted meat more palatable, hence honey hams. Wherever there was a large orchard there was sure to be an apiary. It was very common for households to have a small orchard as well as a small apiary, or for locals to come together and contribute the honey that had been gathered over the summer to a brewer who could make mead for them.
Until the late middle ages both still meads and sparkling meads were highly popular beverages, especially in northern regions of Europe, where wine grapes could not easily be grown. It was produced by organized industry during the 15th-century, controlled as with other trades by guilds. The largest guild of brewers in London during the time was the Guild of Free Brewers, who at the time controlled all aspects of brewing both wine, mead and ales. Not only did they control the manufacture of these products, but the distribution and laws governing the measurement when dispensed. The guilds controlled the trade and production of ale and mead and only toward the end of the 16th-century wines. As the importance of honey was displaced by less expensive sugars in the late Middle Ages, mead was gradually displaced by less costly beers and ales, and, to a lesser degree by imported wines. Nonetheless, it was always considered for medicinal value and was even prescribed to royalty.
If you are interested in making mead yourself, please take a look at our short ‘A Guide to Mead‘.