June 2018 Feature Wine

Allow your imagination to transport you several thousand years into our prehistoric past.  Somewhere in Northern Europe, a thirsty nomad treks through wheatfields and comes across a honeycomb that had been saturated by rainwater.  Unbeknownst to him, the natural yeast in the air from the nearby wheat has caused the honey in the comb to ferment. This happy accident thus created a magical ambrosia that, as he gulps it down, imbues him with feelings of euphoria, godlike wit, heroic courage and great strength.  

It is unknown exactly which ancient culture first discovered the process of making Mead, but this “nectar of the gods” literally flows through myths, legends, and literature across continents, and all through recorded time!  The Vikings believed that the “Mead of Poetry” was made from the blood of one of their gods (Kvasir), and when consumed, inspired the composition of epic poems like Beowulf. The opening scene of Beowulf itself is a bragging competition that takes place in the Mead hall of King Hrothgar. The pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales find the courage to spin their yarns in a bottle of Mead.  When the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon drank each other’s good health it was with T’ej (Ethiopian Mead). Remember King Midas and his golden touch?  Apparently, his actual tomb was found in Turkey and when it was opened, residual traces of Mead were found in his golden drinking vessels.

One tradition involving Mead has endured until modern times, and serves as my inspiration for featuring this natural aphrodisiac for the month of June.  It is Summer in the Interior, and that means wedding bells are chiming throughout the land. Nowadays, couples court and fall in love before tying the knot.  For many centuries however, marriages were arranged affairs, and rarely based on any romantic feelings. In order to encourage the bridal couple to get about the business of procreation, they were absolved of any communal responsibilities for a lunar month. To further aid the bridal pair with overcoming any bashfulness, it was expected that the bride’s dowry include enough Honey Wine (Mead) to last them those 27 days. Thus the origins of the Honeymoon!

Mead is a naturally gluten free beverage, and has been used as a vehicle for medicinal herbal remedies for centuries.  This variety of Mead is called “Metheglin.” Mead varies in flavor and color depending on the diet of the bees whose clover is harvested for its creation. When Mead serves as a delicious base for an endless variety of fruit juice enhancements, it is called “Melomel,” and when made with maple syrup, it is called “Acerglyn.” These tantalizing varieties are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

Like beers and ciders, Mead is also enjoying a resurgence in craft brewing. Case in point, we are fortunate to carry the Alaskan Meadery’s offerings; Razzery and Belgique. As the name implies, Razzery is infused with Alaskan raspberries, along with sour cherries and apples, so thus falls into the “Metheglin” category.  Belgique features notes of orange peel and coriander, and is described as having a marmalade flavor with a dry, balancing finish.

 Formerly Celestial Meads, Alaskan Meadery is a fairly new acquisition of the Denali Brewing Company.  Mike Kiker was the wizard behind the curtain at Celestial Meads, and he has been advising the cider makers (as to how to make their own delicious Meads) at Denali Brewing Company as part of the transition.  We are still fortunate to have a number of his Celestial Meads on our shelves. However, they are officially limited offerings!

For millennia people have been celebrating with and enjoying Mead.  It has been the beverage of choice of epic heroes, royalty, and gods.  Join their ranks today, and take home a bottle of this ambrosia for yourself.  Or, bless a newlywed couple with a bottle for their honeymoon.