Mead All About It!

Published in CSP Daily News

Ancient alcoholic beverage experiencing renaissance in Canada, U.S.

HALIFAX, N.S. -- Mead, the so-called "nectar of the gods," has made a resurgence in Canada over the past decade, reported the Canadian Press.

It's a drink that has been shared among Greek gods, Vikings, mythical dwarves and magical wizards. Made using honey, water and yeast, the origins of mead have been traced back nearly 10,000 years, predating wine and beer.

Its popularity has ebbed and flowed through time and throughout the world, popping up in places like ancient Greece, northern China and Ethiopia.

Vicky Rowe, owner of the Youngsville, N.C.-based Internet mead hub, www.Gotmead.com, said she counted about four meaderies in Canada in the mid-2000s. That number has since grown to more than 30 meaderies from coast-to-coast.

Mead's North American comeback began south of the border in the mid-20th century at Renaissance festivals until the 1980s, when people began producing it commercially, Rowe told the news agency.

Much like its accelerated growth in Canada, the number of meaderies skyrocketed in the 1990s in the United States, where there are now more than 200.

"Everything old is new again. It's unique, it's different, it's trendy," Rowe in an interview with CP. "We've got a young generation that's coming up and looking for new and exciting beverages."

Mead is widely drank among the wizards and witches in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. It's enjoyed in Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Mead is also prominently featured in the epic of Beowulf.

"People have read about it in their English [literature] classes," Bob Liptrot, co-owner of Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery on Vancouver Island, B.C., told CP. His family has been making mead for more than 50 years, commercially for about 15 years.

"There's a lot more general knowledge out there. But I also think there are people that are looking for something besides chardonnay and cabernet ... for pairing with food."

Canadian beekeepers are also looking to mead as another way to sell their honey and expand their business, said Liptrot.

Mead is easy to make and easily adaptable, said Rowe. Things like fruit, nuts, spices, hot peppers and chocolate can be added to create distinct flavors that tickles both the taste buds and a mead maker's creative juices, she said.

"Because we don't have a 400-year-old set of rules that is built up around what constitutes a merlot, people feel like they can get out there and they're free to express their creativity in the making of it," said Rowe. "There's always that yearning for something new and interesting."

Rowe said she doesn't expect mead will lose momentum any time soon. This spring, the American Mead Makers Association celebrated its first year and is looking at expanding into Canada, said Rowe.

"Everything goes in cycles," she said. "But there's so many possibilities that are yet unexplored. The sky's the limit."