Leffe beer at a cafe next to the Bourse in Brussels.

Mead Background

Thanks be to Odin, it's Freya's Day!

Long ago, a people known as the Varangians lived around the Baltic Sea. Some of them moved south-east into today's Ukraine, and others moved west into Scandinavia. By about 800-1000 AD the two groups had become known as the Rus and the Vikings. They developed a class of fermented beverages generally known as mead. It was also discovered by the ancient Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Indians, and probably anyone else whose stored honey went bad in a good way. Notice that many Slavic languages use a word similar to mead to refer to honey.

Language Spelled Pronounced
East Slavic Russian мёд myod
Ukrainian мед myed
West Slavic Czech med med
Polish miód myod
South Slavic Bulgarian мед myed
Croat med med
Macedonian мед med
Serbian мед med

This reminds me of when I worked in a hospital in Sankt-Peterburg. In the summer you would see the locals walking around in the evenings drinking from two-liter bottles of мёд. Well, sometimes staggering more than walking.

In the outer districts of Sankt-Peterburg, in the "sleeping regions" of large concrete apartment blocks, myod dealers operate out of kiosks along the broad streets in the summer. Sankt-Peterburg is about 60° north latitude and so it doesn't get fully dark at night during the summer.

Two bottles of home-brewed mead.

Two bottles of home-brewed mead.

The local approach is: Hey, it's the "White Nights", let's stay up and get even more drunk!

Also see Michael Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead", a great book. I read it and really liked it, but I couldn't figure out how much of it I was really supposed to believe. What about all those detailed footnotes referencing obscure documents in the Leningrad (at the time, earlier and later Sankt-Peterburg) and Baghdad archives? And what about that Ibn Fadlan guy? I wrote a letter to the publisher, and they forwarded it to the author, eventually resulting in a personal letter from Crichton.

He explained that he had written it in 1976 almost on a bet with a friend over Crichton's claim that Beowulf could be made into a popular story. Ibn Fadlan existed, and his journey north to the land of the Rus' as described in the first few chapters really happened as described in the book. I agree with Crichton, but I think that the movie Alien made a better argument, popularity-wise, in 1979.

Specific types and sub-types of mead-like drinks include:

Now you're probably ready to see how to brew your own mead.