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Historical research assistance


GotMead Owner
Staff member
Apr 5, 1996
North Carolina
I'm on the fence right now, with some of my meads being cold-pitched, and some being heated, depending on what I'm doing and the type of honey in that recipe. I do some historical approach recipes when I do my demos in Manteo, using some of the recipes from the historical section here. Cindy Renfrow was kind enough to let me both put them here for the GM folk and use them in my demos. I've linked her book below, if you like historical recipes, its probably the best written resource out there for historical brewing recipes (in book form, anyway).

Like Pewter, I don't usually enter competitions (I get enough of that judging them at the International Mead Festival! LOL - after 2 days of judging the home competition and then the pro competition, I've had enough of competition to last me all year.....). I prefer to make 'em and then get my friends to help me drink 'em. They always let me know if they like it or not, LOL. Most of my meads (and the cordials) end up disappearing at festivals and SCA events (Pennsic does a real number on my supplies...)

Tell you one thing though, the 2 gallons of meadowfoam honey that I've got stashed that I pried from a couple friends who were kind enough to let me have some of their last stash.... (hee-hee!) will be treated in the gentlest possible way to preserve as much as possible of that unique meadowfoam flavor......y'all want some of that, you'll have to sweet talk me *big* time.... ::). I haven't made a meadowfoam mead in years, and I am *so* looking forward to another batch.

I'm going to tweak the recipe some, and figure I'll pitch it in a couple weeks, with an eye to maybe bringing some to the Festival in February. So if you want to check out the meadowfoam, which is going to be a 'show' mead (i.e just a traditional, showcasing the honey), you'll have to catch me at the Festival, and keep me still long enough to grab some!! ::laughter:: Those of you there last year might have noticed that Oskaar and I hardly ever stood still. I think I'll see if I can get a few more folks to help run the GM sponsor booth this year, because keeping up with the taping, the booth, the judging and all the other stuff didn't leave me enough time for drinking!!!

I think I'll probably heat the orange blossom batch I've got waiting, the last one I made turned out *really* well with heating the water and dissolving the honey into it.

Now I've got a whole mess of blueberry honey a friend brought by last week, and I think I'm going to do my old 'summer sunshine' blueberry mel...I've got a girlfriend who wants a batch for her wedding. Oskaar and I are going to take that recipe and give it work-over and see if we can improve on what was pretty good the *last* time (that's why the friend brought by the honey, she had some of the first batch, and decided she wanted it for her wedding, LOL)

Pewter, the mead the you and Barons had this year at Pennsic was really good! I just wish I'd gotten down there more. I was *so* miserable in the heat and rain this year, I think I left camp maybe a half-dozen times.....and then didn't get out until *late* Sunday, we had so much tear down to do with the ship and all....was your trip home ok?

Stonecougar, there is a historical section to the site, and some recipes there too. Click on the logo at the top of the fourm, and mouse over 'History of Mead' to see all the sub-sections in that area. Some of the areas are in the process of being expanding, I've got a lot of links that have moved and I'm in the process of updating them, so drop me an email and I'll let you know when I get the new info up. And if you're interested in getting a book that specializes in historical recipes, I can personally recommend 'A Sip Through Time' by Cindy Renfrow. Cindy found a lot of great info and recipes (she's SCA too), and the book is a real fun read too. Cindy is a great gal, and she's put a *huge* list of references in the back that are a treasure trove for historical mead brewers. She's always been very nice when I spoke with her, and I think she may still be active SCA. Type her name in Google to get an email addy for her...

Katphish, I'd be curious to see your references for the recipe you mention that pertains to all those different cultures. I am always on the lookout for new information to expand the knowledge contained in the GM historical section, and I hadn't come across a philosophical approach that spans so many cultures yet in my research. So far, the information I've discovered tends to lean towards very diverse cultural approaches that incorporate local fruits and spices and family or clan influences. The Highlands Scots use of heather in their beer and meads is one that I ran across that I always liked (and it tastes good, too!!). The Polish meads are another really interesting example, they are *very* different from almost any other cultural style I've seen or tasted so far, much heavier use of honey, unusual spices, and a unique approach to aging, and a family-based tradition that goes back nearly 1,000 years (I carefully horde the several bottles I have left, *love* that stuff). And all the historical recipes I've uncovered are interesting because of the *family* twist that tends to arise, where clans/families/cultural groups would develop unique approaches that you only ever saw in that area or family. Then there is t'ej, the national drink of Ethiopia, possibly the oldest known mead. We've never found proof of that, but their family recipes (which are unique to each family, sometimes varying so much that the drinks couldn't be more different) go back into the mists of time, having been handed down for more generations than their culture can remember.

I love digging the historical info up. The King Midas project turned up a mead-like substance that had, among other things, saffron in it. A brewery in the Pacific Northwest has recreated it from the notes that the archaeologists took from their chemical analysis, and while I've not had the chance to try it yet (they don't distribute here in NC), my friends on the Left Coast tell me it's not bad. The dig at the Hochdorf Tomb turned up a cauldron that contained traces of honey, spices and grains. They speculate that it was a braggot-like mixture.

Whups, gotta blast. I'll be adding about quite a few new pages to the site this weekend, between MLD's and other new stuff, so those of you that venture of out of the forums from time to time might want to check it out...

Vicky - back, but working mostly on expanding.....


Registered Member
Sep 23, 2004
Cedar Rapids, IA
Vicky - GM Founder said:
Pewter, the mead the you and Barons had this year at Pennsic was really good! I just wish I'd gotten down there more. I was *so* miserable in the heat and rain this year, I think I left camp maybe a half-dozen times.....and then didn't get out until *late* Sunday, we had so much tear down to do with the ship and all....was your trip home ok?


The heat and rain did me in too. I think everyone seemed more tired and less courteous this year because the weather extremes were so bad. Whereas the previous year was almost as perfect as you could ask for. Yeh, I had hoped we'd hang out a bit more or at least that you'd make it over to sit under the tree and sip a mug of everything that was on tap at the time. I am soooooo spoiled at War... :cheers:

Did you get to have any of the heather mead? You talking about your meadowfoam honey made me think about that batch at War. Made with imported heather honey from Wales, it had a wonderful aroma BUT it had body like a flat beer. People either loved it or hated it. I had people that seemed knowledgable on meads sample some just so that they could say they had tried it when people mentioned Heather Mead in the future. I personally didn't like it because of the body being so radically different. I like things with a smooth or crisp mouthfeel...

The trip home was good but the van died once I got home. Transmission finally gave up after 200,000 miles. Have to rate the Plymouth Grand Voyager as the best automobile I have ever had. Too bad they don't make them any more...

Take care,

Viking Brew Vessels - Authentic Drinking Horns