Waxing Lyrical about Marvellous Meads

One of the best parts of this Quest is, of course, when I get to taste a wide range of amazing meads. I’ve got all kinds lined up to try, from traditional honey wines to more exotic flavours, and even a sparkling variety. With a choice of sweet, dry and somewhere-in-the-middle versions, there is, it seems, a mead for everyone, and anyone who thinks they don’t like it is in for a surprise. So prepare for a journey into the flavours of past and present, and let’s see what wonders we discover…

4 x EH meads.JPG

A Selection of English Heritage Meads, all ready to try out. This is going to be fun…

Where better to start, I thought, than to try out a selection sold at many of the castles I love to visit. Along with the success of TV shows like Game of Thrones, English Heritage is often credited with sparking the drink’s revival in recent years. As the biggest retailer of mead in the UK, they claim to sell a bottle either from their shops or online to a global market every 10 minutes. I picked four of their meads to sample, and they were all winners. First up, their Traditional version, which I was encouraged to see bears more than a little resemblance to a certain residential friend of ours:

Traditional Mead.jpg

Who’s this interloper?

Traditional Mead

This really has the feel of autumn in a bottle. With its rich, deep golden-brown hues and a sweet, luscious whack of honey, it really is a glass of cheer for the darker months. But it delivers on the history too, as this is your archetypal ‘nectar of the gods’, in which you can taste your way to the Viking raids, the castle revelry and the peasants’ tavern. And it does actually taste medieval. Like most meads, as well as the honey, there’s usually a characteristic musty flavour to this ancient drink, in a way I can only describe as reminiscent of a medieval bookshelf. But I mean that in a good way. It’s more prominent in some than others, but in any case it’s unique, distinctive and very evocative. So for a starting point, this is a good one – a great dessert wine, or a tipple to pour over ice or use in one of the cocktails I’m going to knock up. I can’t help wondering if our own Sticky Rogers will end up like his Traditional cousin, if looks are anything to go by. But only time will tell…

Heritage Mead

Heritage Mead.jpg

Spicing it up… Heritage, or Celtic Mead

Hot on the heels of the Traditional comes the Heritage, or Celtic Mead, depending on which English Heritage Property you’re visiting at the time. This was a surprise, but a very pleasant one, not quite as sweet as the Traditional and with a pleasing kick of warming spices. It’s like a golden spicy fruit wine, and I can see it pairing nicely with a strong cheeseboard or a good curry. It’s gorgeous as a treat on its own, and I found it  rather moreish. A warning here though, as at 14.5% Volume, this and the Traditional are the most alcoholic of the four varieties we tasted, and you really don’t notice it merrily slipping down. No wonder Vortigern got into such a pickle. Still, someone’s got to do all this research, and I’ll manage somehow. So after a thorough examination, it was a big thumbs up for the Heritage Mead!

Christmas Mead

Chritmas Mead.JPG

A real festive treat – Christmas Mead

Next on the list was a very special Christmas Mead. Winner of a ‘Great Taste’ Gold award in 2014, this is a particularly festive blend of honey wine and Christmas spices that would bring a big dose of winter cheer to any gathering, big or small. Similar to the Heritage in colour, just imagine a rich, golden yuletide drink with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, a sprinkling of citrus and, of course, the honey, and you have the perfect accompaniment to any Christmas pudding. My friends at Kenilworth Castle, where my bottle came from, also recommend mulling it, so we had a go. I put a few glasses into a saucepan and heated it gently with a slice of orange, and the result instantly swept me away into the thick of December with frosted pines and dancing flames in the hearth. I can honestly say, for me this is a true goblet of comfort and joy. I’ll definitely be stocking up on this one…

Chilli Mead

Chilli Mead.jpg

Turning up the heat with Chilli Mead

Finally, we tried one of the many meads with a modern twist. Not an obvious candidate for the favourites list, but Chilli Mead turned out to be a very pleasant discovery. The most deeply coloured of the range, this looks more like a glass of ale with its deep reddish glow, and I did wonder how the addition of chilli would work. But I needn’t have worried because you get all you expect from a delicious and rich mead, but with added extras. Not quite as sweet as the Traditional version, this is mead with afterburn. The chilli hits you as the drink goes down, and as long as you’re not scared of a little heat, this is really worth a go if you’re up for something a bit different.

And a Sticky Rogers Update:

And what of our own brew? Well, Sticky Rogers has actually been slowly going clear, with a sediment gradually building at the bottom of the demijohn. And as you’ve seen, he has a lovely deep amber colour making him really look the part. But as I want to preserve a little of his sweetness for the end result, it’s nearly time to stop the fermentation…

All this tasting and brewing has made me feel quite a connection to the ancient libation, and I have an urge to wax lyrical about the drink I’m discovering so much about. So I’ll draw on a sixth-century poem, The Gododdin of Aneurin, and a brief look at the role that mead played in preparations for war. For this was the drink that primed many an ancient people for battle, perhaps giving them Dutch courage to face the swords, spears and arrows to come. The poem describes the British struggle with the Teutonic incomers, and how it was mead that set them up for the fight:

The warriors marched to Cattraeth, full of words;
Bright mead gave them pleasure, their bliss was their bane.
The warriors marched to  Cattraeth, full of mead;
Drunken, but firm in array; great the shame.

Just fate we deplore.
For the sweetness of mead,
In the day of our need,

Is our bitterness, blunts all our arms for the strife;
Is a friend to the lip and a foe to the life.
I drank the Mordei’s wine and mead,
I drank, and now for that I bleed.

I don’t know about fighting battles, but my first foray into proper mead tasting has certainly spurred me on in my Mead-ieval Quest, and I can’t wait to find out more. But for now, I think I’ll just go and have a little lie down, and dream of those warrior Britons and raiding Vikings, and all their wonderful mead-soaked adventures…

 

53 thoughts on “Waxing Lyrical about Marvellous Meads

    • I thought you’d like the poem, Martha. I thought of you as I was typing it out. I wish you were closer too. What a perfect mead-andering companion you’d be! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • As I get back into the Goliards, I was reading Umberto Eco’s and I thought of you when I read this, “To this day, many people, victims of the conventional “Dark Ages” image, think of the Medieval Period as a somber epoch, even as far a as color was concerned. When evening fell, in those days, people lived in poorly lit surroundings; huts illuminated — at best — by the fire in the hearth; in enormous castle chambers lit by torches; or in the monastery cells it by the feeble light of a lantern, while the streets of the villages and cities were dark, as well as treacherous. But these were also the characteristics of the Renaissance [IMO a vastly overrated era said Martha], of the Baroque age, and of successive periods that extend to the discovery of electricity. Medieval people, however, saw themselves as living in extremely bright surroundings…” And he gives page after page of evidence and re-inspired my project. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love this man’s approach! I couldn’t have put it better myself. The Medieval period was indeed bright, and colourful – that’s why I love it – and as you’ve probably guessed, the dark and dismal image is one of the biggest misconceptions about the era I’m trying to dispel with my blog. He’s so right. Fantastic stuff, Martha, and thanks for thinking of me. ❤ And I'm with you on the Renaissance too – I've long thought that.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The last and ONLY time I got insanely drunk was in Ireland. it was our honeymoon and they gave us gallons of mead and I thought it was so yummy, I just kept drinking it. I don’t remember much after a certain point, only Garry telling me to SHUT UP he was having trouble staying on the right side of the road.

    I have never touched it since … but it sure was delicious. And insidious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly what I’ve found – it slips down so easily you don’t notice it creeping up on you. At least I’m wise to that now, so I always keep a huge jug of alkaline water next to me and that helps. You’re right though, it is delicious! 🙂

      Like

    • Oh yes, Mike, there’s loads of flavours out there now – as you’ll see over the next couple of months. I’m even going to try a pirate mead! I had a cherry one last year, and that was gorgeous. It’s turning out to be a very interesting Quest indeed! Glad you enjoyed this taste of the wider world of mead. And I can definitely recommend tasting! 🙂

      Like

  2. I didn’t think that I was a great lover of Mead until reading this – and now I’ll be looking out for a bottle on my travels.

    I can’t help but think that the best way to beat the enemy was to make sure their goblets were always filled up with the strongest mead going. Great blog as always Alli.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Malc, and I’m glad you enjoyed the mead tasting, and that it’s inspired you to try it out. English Heritage always have tastings in their shop, so if you happen to drop into one of their properties, that’s a good way to dip your toe into the honeyed water. 🙂 There’s more to come too, all sorts – even, surprisingly – a pirate mead! And the meadery we’re going to in a couple of weeks makes a sparkling one, which I can’t wait to try.

      Mead’s place in battle is, it seems, very prominent indeed. And yes, you’d think a sloshed enemy would be easier to beat. On the other hand, I guess it could make them fearless and ferocious, if a little inaccurate in aim. 😉 Fascinating stuff.

      This post has seen me emerge from my first assignment, which was incredibly hard and took ages, so I’ll be able to catch up properly soon. So thanks for your lovely comments, as always, and I’ll be over to your site very soon. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have tried mead in the past, but I found it a bit too sweet. Now that I see there are several different varities to choose from I’m sure that I could find something to suit, especially if there’s nothing else alcolholic hanging around 🙂

    Your university challenge sounds very daunting to me. I know nothing about how universities work and what your real aims are. Maybe one day you can explain it all to me.

    There’s no rush to catch up my humble efforts, so don’t fret about not checking them out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is very daunting this year, Malc, mainly because Dundee does things very differently and there’s hardly any support and no tutorials. They’re not geared up for distance learning like the OU is. It’s a real baptism of fire, and as I said to my previous tutor recently, I think the scorch marks will show. Maybe we’ll have a chat about it all and catch up ‘off grid’ in the near future. And I’m looking forward to catching up with your posts – it takes my mind off the study stress! 🙂

      As for mead – yes, watch this space, there’s all sorts to come. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Alli,
    Another very enjoyable update and read
    You’ve set yourself an arduous quest, but I’m sure you are up to the challenge.
    I’m sold on the mulled Christmas mead, anything that can conjure up images of ‘frosted pines’ preferably against a back drop of snow covered mountains does it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Graham, glad you enjoyed all this mead tasting, and I’ll find the strength to go on somehow… 😉 My favourite was probably the mulled Christmas mead as well, and snow-covered mountains and frosted pines are a definite bonus for me too. Looking forward to tasting some more different ones – even a ‘pirate mead’, believe it or not!
      Love the gravatar! 😀

      Like

      • It’d make a lovely gift – something different, and really scrummy. I’m going to do some meady Christms shopping too this year. Looking forward to tasting a sparkling one while visiting a meadery in Chepstow in a couple of weeks. That should be fun… 🙂

        Like

  5. I drank mead in Holy Island and it was delicious, maybe a little too more-ish! I love the idea of going on a mead tasting session but I’d give the chilli one a miss. I don’t think I would enjoy that one. Maybe I’d have two glasses of one of the others to make up for missing the chilli one! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s