Historical Mead Styles

Hello, its been a while. Travel and other factors have conspired to provide me an extremely busy life outside of historical drinks.

To make up for it, I wanted to provide an illustration from the presentation I am preparing for the American Homebrewers Association’s annual Homebrew Con at the end of June, where I am very pleased to be presenting “Mead AD 70-1750: Inspirations and Lessons from 2400 Recipes – Ingredients, Methods, and Styles”. I hope to connect with people as interested as I am in the historical underpinnings of mead making and also to communicate to more modernly focused brewers how they can take lessons from the ingredients and methods of historical mead making to inspire and enhance their efforts.

The talk will, necessarily, be an overview only, skimming over many topics which beg for much more in-depth consideration. But I know of no other collection of historical recipes that comes close to the catalog I maintain, and I think that even this high-level overview will contain significant information that has never been publicly presented.

The graph here is one of the stars of my presentation. It breaks my historical period of interest into 4 pieces: pre-1600, 1600-1669, Digby, and 1670-1750. I then track the percent of all cataloged recipes during each period which exhibit certain style characteristics.


Of course, context is everything (in keeping with my mantra of the interconnectivity of all things). Each line presents multiple intersecting factors, and in turn provokes questions about the whys and wherefores.

For example, despite the presence of citrus in cuisine, there are no cataloged recipes containing citrus prior to 1600. Then it explodes into mead making over the next 100 years. Similarly, did plain mead actually become less prevalent over time, or was it simply not worth writing down a recipe for the plain version?

But rather than blather on, I’d prefer to ask – What do you see in this chart? What questions pop up seeing the trends?

If you are planning on being at Homebrew Con I hope you come to hear me talk, and if not, watch this space as the topics in my presentation are sure to come up again and again as time goes on.

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