Mead

Drinking as a God in Stanford

Mead (or ‘Meade’) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, and in adulterated form with various fruits, spices, grains or hops.(Hops act as a preservative and produce a bitter, beer-like flavor.) The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; and it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar.

Mead is featured in many Germanic myths and folktales such as Beowulf, as well as in other popular works that draw on these myths. Notable examples include books by Tolkien, George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman. It is often featured in books using a historical Germanic setting and in writings about the Viking era. Mead is mentioned many times in Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, American Gods; it is referred to as the Drink of the Gods. Also, in the books of the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, it is often drunk by Eragon Shadeslayer at feasts in honor of him. Mead is also referenced in The Kingkiller Chronicle novel series by Patrick Rothfuss.

the beginning of the process of mead making

Bee gather main ingredient for Mead

Nowadays the old tradition of making Mead has come alive again in the tranquility of a small village in South Africa. Farmer/beekeeper Athol McOnie introduced mead in Stanford (near Hermanus in the Overberg region, Western Cape). On his farm Elands Valley (including Stanford Harvest) Athol keeps many bee hives with millions of hardworking bees gathering the main ingredient of Mead from a wide diversity of native Fynbos and other local vegetation. In the Mead Cellar the ingredients are mixed, fermented and stored. And since Athol is of Scottish descent herewith a Scottish poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

HEATHER ALE

From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
Was stronger far than wine.
They brewed it and they drank it,
And lay in a blessed swound
For days and days together
In their dwellings underground.

There rose a king in Scotland,
A fell man to his foes,
He smote the Picts in battle,
He hunted them like roes.
Over miles of the red mountain
He hunted as they fled,
And strewed the dwarfish bodies
Of the dying and the dead.

Summer came in the country,
Red was the heather bell;
But the manner of the brewing
Was none alive to tell.
In graves that were like children’s
On many a mountain head,
The Brewsters of the Heather
Lay numbered with the dead.

The king in the red moorland
Rode on a summer’s day;
And the bees hummed, and the curlews
Cried beside the way.
The king rode, and was angry,
Black was his brow and pale,
To rule in a land of heather
And lack the Heather Ale.

It fortuned that his vassals,
Riding free on the heath,
Came on a stone that was fallen
And vermin hid beneath.
Rudely plucked from their hiding,
Never a word they spoke:
A son and his aged father –
Last of the dwarfish folk.

The king sat high on his charger,
He looked on the little men;
And the dwarfish and swarthy couple
Looked at the king again.
Down by the shore he had them;
And there on the giddy brink –
“I will give you life, ye vermin,
For the secret of the drink.”

There stood the son and father
And they looked high and low;
The heather was red around them,
The sea rumbled below.
And up and spoke the father,
Shrill was his voice to hear:
“I have a word in private,
A word for the royal ear.

“Life is dear to the aged,
And honour a little thing;
I would gladly sell the secret,”
Quoth the Pict to the King.
His voice was small as a sparrow’s,
And shrill and wonderful clear:
“I would gladly sell my secret,
Only my son I fear.

“For life is a little matter,
And death is nought to the young;
And I dare not sell my honour
Under the eye of my son.
Take HIM, O king, and bind him,
And cast him far in the deep;
And it’s I will tell the secret
That I have sworn to keep.”

They took the son and bound him,
Neck and heels in a thong,
And a lad took him and swung him,
And flung him far and strong,
And the sea swallowed his body,
Like that of a child of ten; –
And there on the cliff stood the father,
Last of the dwarfish men.

“True was the word I told you:
Only my son I feared;
For I doubt the sapling courage
That goes without the beard.
But now in vain is the torture,
Fire shall never avail:
Here dies in my bosom
The secret of Heather Ale.”

 

One thought on “Mead

  1. Pingback: WELCOME | Stanford Harvest

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