Vikings weren’t only known for their fierce skills in battle, but they were also known for drinking heavily. And their favourite beverage is one that you probably don’t commonly see in modern liquor stores - mead.
The Norse believed that drinking mead was more than just for pleasure and entertainment, it was also the drink of the gods. Hence, they drank mead for essential celebrations, formalising treaties, and even religious gatherings.
For brewers and Viking fans, you might be wondering how to recreate this ancient booze. We got you!
In this article, we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide to making mead.
Step 1: Gather The Ingredients
The first step to making mead is to gather all the ingredients. The good thing is all the ingredients for making the drink of the gods are readily available in grocery stores. If you’re lucky, you may even find some of the ingredients in your backyard.
The ingredients are:
- Wild honey
- Yeast (naturally occurring or commercial)
- Flavouring agents (herbs and spices)
Step 2: Add The Herbs & Spices To Boiling Water
Boil a gallon of water and add your herbs and spices. According to some sources, the original herb used by the Norse was meadowsweet. Its Norse translation, Mjødurt, referred to mead herb.
However, mead makers have experimented with different flavouring herbs and spices including Dandelion, Lavender, wild thyme, rosemary, strawberry leaves, wild sage and even all kinds of tea.
With regards to the proportions, use enough to give the mead flavour but not too much to prevent them from being overpowering. A handful of the herbs and about two teaspoons of spices should be a good starting point.
Step 3: Dissolve the Honey
Then, dissolve the honey in the mixture of flavouring agents and warm water. The honey-to-water ratio will play a huge part in the strength and sweetness of the mead.
A ratio of 1 lb of honey for every gallon of water produces a light-tasting mead. On the other hand, a ratio of 5 lb of honey for every gallon of water produces a sweet, wine-like taste.
If you want to test the taste first, we recommend you mix 3 lbs of honey in a gallon of water and work your way up or down from there.
Step 4: Let the Fermentation Begin
The Viking era didn't have any commercial yeast so they rely on wild yeast to do the fermentation. Wild yeast is naturally occurring and is present in the air.
Hence, we will catch wild yeast by leaving the mixture open outdoors for a day. Just make sure to cover it with a mosquito net to prevent insects from contaminating it.
After that, transfer the mixture into an airtight container and let it sit for 5-6 days. Stir once a day to prevent mould from forming.
Step 5: Complete the Fermentation
After 5-6 days, transfer the liquid mixture into your carboy or demijohns. These are just fancy words for a large bottle that can be sealed with a bung.
At this point, you no longer need to include the herbs in the mixture.
Cover your carboy with an airlock for 5 to 6 weeks until the fermentation is complete.
Step 6: Enjoy
After 5-6 weeks, the wait is finally over. You can choose to bottle your mead or drink it straight away. We recommend drinking it from a horn just like a true Viking!
A word of caution though, never bottle your mead before the fermentation is complete. You’ll usually know the fermentation is complete when the airlock stops bubbling.
But to make sure, you can check the specific gravity once after the fermentation and again after two days. If the reading is the same, then you can be sure the fermentation is complete.
There are plenty of ways to make a Viking mead but the process is usually quite similar. Experiment with different methods, herbs and spices and see which one fits your taste the best.