Drinking Mead – Woodcut, circa 1600Honey is the oldest sweetener known to man. Just when “man” first discovered this delightful treat is a matter of considerable conjecture. However, it is quite possible that Og, son of Ug, was the first to observe an animal raiding a bee’s storehouse. With his native curiosity aroused, he decided to see what was the particular attraction of this golden liquid. A dip… a sip… a lick of the lip… then “OUCH”! Og made his second discovery of the day. Bees have stingers! It wasn’t long before Og invented fire, so he could have smoke to put the bees to sleep, thus avoiding the painful consequences of his honey habit.One may only guess at how the “invention” of mead may have come about. Personally, I think it was more a matter of discovery! Consider this scenario; the bee tree has been broached and some of the honey drips into a hollow at the bottom. There it mixes with rainwater and sits around for several weeks. By happy chance, Ig, son of Og, son of Ug, sees this spill in the base of the tree and believes this to be more honey. He takes a taste and finds it somehow subtly different from the normal flavor. Maybe not quite so sweet, but with an extra little “tang”. Many sips later, the fermented honey is gone and Ig weaves and wobbles his way back to the cave.Now, you may think I am just making up tall tales, but it is quite likely that this is how man first discovered the joy of mild intoxication. Later, Ig’s great, great grandson would experiment and refine the process under more controlled conditions. Possibly, he started with hollow gourds, filling them with various mixtures of water and honey, and letting them sit at the back of the cave for differing lengths of time. This was sufficient for a small group of hunter-gatherers but, with the formation of clans from related families, there was a need for larger quantities of mead. Thus, pottery was invented. Large earthenware crocks were made for the sole purpose of containing the fermentation process. Now, the whole clan could get high! Eventually, the news of this remarkable discovery spread. How is that, you may ask. Because there was a need to tell the neighboring clans about the joys of mead, language was invented. By this time, the clan brewer had been elevated to a position nearly equal to that of the chief and the shaman. The language they created was simple at the first, but sufficient to communicate concepts like “Wow! What a blast!” and “Oh, my aching head!”. Of course, as mead evolved, so did the language. There came a need for words like, “bouquet”, “flavor”, and “lingering aftertaste”. Words were also invented to facilitate the trade in mead. Much later, money was invented as a means of exchange, so even clans without a competent brewer could enjoy the benefits of mead. Not long after that, taxes were invented as a way for the chief to get a little extra in his own pocket. Somewhere in all that, the wheel was built so large quantities of mead could be easily moved to the market.
Mead – Nectar of the Gods