A glass of mead

Mead: Properties, Recipe and Connection to Norse Mythology

Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water renowned for its connection to the Vikings

A glass of mead
Mead: Properties, Recipe And Connection To Norse Mythology | iSTOCK
Mead, also known as honey wine, is the first ever alcoholic beverage recorded in history. In recent years, mead has gained popularity due to its feature in TV series such as "Vikings", "Harry Potter", "Game of Thrones", "Lord of The Rings", and "Beowulf" as well as due to Dylan Sprouse, former Disney Channel child actor, opening his craft mead brewery. 

Healthy Way Mag aims to explain the  definition of mead, explore its history, and relation to the Norse mythology (and with Valhalla in particular), as well as offer an easy-to-make mead recipe. 


What is mead: History and origin 

Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, and grains. The main characteristic of this alcoholic drink is the fact that all the fermentable sugar is derived from honey and it can be still, carbonated, dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. 

The English term mead – "fermented honey drink" – derives from the Old English meodu or medu, and Proto-Germanic meduz. The name has connections to Old Norse mjöðr, Middle Dutch mede, and Old High German metu, among others. Mead was literally everywhere in the olden days. It is considered the oldest of alcohols and its origins lead back to China’s Henan province in 7 B.C. The ancient records tell the story of rain falling into a pot of honey and thus creating mead.


Ancient cultures all over the world enjoyed this drink at some point in history, and there are references to it in the Bible, in Chaucer’s poems, and Aristotle’s writings. This honey-based drink is the source of the term “honeymoon” as it was overflowing at weddings and newlyweds used to drink it for a moon (i.e., month) after their wedding ceremony, hoping that a child would be born nine months later. Ireland still maintains the tradition of giving newlyweds a bottle of mead before they set off for their honeymoon. Currently, mead is making a global comeback, with more than 300 meaderies in the United States and even more across Europe. 

Health benefits of mead

Mead, also known as the drink of the gods, is a highly nutritional drink with enzymatic properties which can be served as a tonic or to improve digestion. Honey is a product with high amounts of sugar, (80%) which prevents microorganisms from developing as long as its water content is lower than 18-20%. Anything above this value will result in natural fermentation of the honey. 


Although not fully supported by medical evidence, most recent health reports related to drinking mead are focused on the honey from which the drink is made and the probiotic content it’s presumed to have as a result of the fermentation process.



Types of mead: Composition and strength 

There are many types of mead available on the market, and many of them have fruit, spices, and nuts as ingredients although the classic recipe only contains three components: honey, water, and yeast. 

Mead drinks are named depending on how you make them and what you add to them. Typically, if you add fruit to the mead, then you are making a melomel, which applies to any mead made with fruit. From lightest to strongest, we have listed below six types of meads:

  • Hydromel  - 3.5% to 7.5% alcohol
  • Session Mead - under 10% alcohol
  • Standard Mead - 7.5% to 14% alcohol
  • Sack Mead (or Great Mead) 14% to 18% alcohol
  • Dessert Honey Wines - very sweet and 14% - 22% alcohol
  • Fortified Mead  - also known as Honey Liqueurs can go as high as 60% alcohol


Mead, Vikings, and Valhalla

For the Vikings, meade was King Odin's drink of choice, and many Nordic legends praise the properties of this liquor  and talk about its role in celebrations in the afterlife in Valhalla. Chosen by Odin, half of  those who died in combat traveled to Valhalla upon death and spent their eternity in this majestic hall drinking mead. 


The importance of mead in Norse mythology is connected to a poem - the Poetic Mead, Mead of poetry, which tells the story of a  mythical beverage that whoever "drinks becomes a scholar" and can recite any information and solve any question. The drink is also believed to have contained ergot fungi, a fungus which grows on rye, and has hallucinogenic properties (due to lysergic acid). 



Step by step mead recipe 

If you've ever wondered how to make mead, then you've come to the right place as we have  a simple method that will allow you to enjoy this honey-based drink at home. You will need the following:


  • 1 ½ l water 
  • ½ Kg pure honey
  • 1 gr yeast


1. Warm the honey

The first step is to warm up the honey until it reaches a liquid consistency and then remove any potential impurities. These are usually pollen residue, which happens with pure honey. 


2. Warm the water

Warm up the water in a brew pot and slowly add the liquified honey, stirring continuously. The goal is to mix until a light and homogenous mass is obtained. 


3. Let cool

When the mead reaches its boiling point remove from fire and let cool. Typically,  some foam may form at the top of the pot which you can be removed depending on preference. 


How to make mead?

4. Add yeast

The following step is just as simple - pour the result in a glass or plastic bottle and  add the yeast, the final ingredient in our medieval honey-based concoction. 


5. Eliminate fermentation gases 

To eliminate fermentation gasses, you need to insert a tube in the mead bottle and place its other end inside another container that contains a little water, this way you should  get rid of the CO2 generated. For ideal results, use a carboy bung or put a cork in each bottle and then make a hole in them so that when you insert the food grade tube air doesn't escape. 


6. Leave rest

Once we have our mead ready, we need to  change the container it's in and leave it to rest for three weeks. 


7. Strain

Finally, after this period, strain the resulted mead to remove any unwanted impurities from the bottom of the bottle and enjoy!



Where to buy mead?

As mentioned earlier, this historic beverage has seen an extraordinary comeback due to popular TV shows and has become a real trend in itself. Most of the times, we will not have the means, or the time, to brew this honey-based drink at home so, the best option is to buy it from a specialized shop or a meadery.


Check out the original article: Hidromiel: propiedades, relación con los vikingos y receta at viviendolasalud.com 



Carmona, M., Zalcain, A., Alonso, G. L., & Salinas, M. R. (2002). La hidromiel y el vino, comparación de los aromas producidos durante su envejecimiento.  Revista de la Escuela Universitaria de Magisterio de Albacete, 17: 281-290.

Kalif, W., (2006) The Comprehensive guide to types of Mead, http://www.stormthecastle.com/mead/articles/the-comprehensive-guide-to-types-and-names-of-mead.htm