Ask the Meadmaker – Viking Days

A very special episode to support the work of Mystic Seaport and their amazing Viking Days Exhibit! In this episode, Ricky the Meadmaker dispels some of the common myths about Vikings and mead!

Further Reading:
Fun Fact: Skulls of Enemies
What’s So Sweet About a Honeymoon? 
Fun Fact: Mead of Poetry
Lady with a Mead Cup 
Mystic Seaport

Video transcript:
So usually I’d be doing this on Father’s Day at beautiful Mystic Seaport but there’s this pandemic going on. So we’re gonna try it by video. 

Welcome to Ask the Meadmaker, where I, Ricky the Meadmaker, answer your questions about mead making mead drinking, mead brewing and any question you’re willing to send to me. This week we’re collaborating with Mystic Seaport in Connecticut for Viking Days, which got canceled and then moved and then moved and then canceled. We’re working on it, folks. 

So we’re going to do only Viking mead questions this week, and we’re going to start off with one of the biggest myths out there. Number one: No, Vikings did not drink their mead out of the skulls of their enemies they drank out of intricately made horns, silver, and in some cases imported wine goblets made of glass. 

While we’re dispelling myths, honeymoon is not related to drinking mead for a month you will go on even fact based websites that claim that it’s some Viking tradition of giving them Mead. We have a link in the doobly doo below dispelling the myth. 

Here’s an interesting one for you. Although mead is extremely popular in Viking legends, the mead of poetry (the ability to recite verse) actually comes from a mead that is stolen by Odin and put in his mouth when he’s a bird and then barfed up into some buckets. But skipping that, mead was so special because honey is almost unavailable in Scandinavia directly. So where the Vikings lived, and especially in Iceland, honeybees don’t flourish or even survive, so they actually had to trade for it. 

Another myth to dispel: No the Vikings did not drink mead every day unless they were inordinately rich because of the thing that I just said about the access to honey. 

Here’s a fun fact about dying as a Viking if you were lucky enough to be selected by the Valkyries and taken to Valhalla: You get to eat pork and drink mead every night because there is a goat there named Heiðrún who gives mead instead of milk. 

Here’s one that we don’t know the answer to: Was their mead sweet? A lot of craft meads like what we brew here at Groennfell Meadery and Havoc Mead are extremely dry. A lot of honey wines, which are also very popular, are usually very sweet. So what were the Vikings drinking? The answer is we don’t know. Conjectures range, but we do know this: If the honey remains in solution, that means those sugars have not been turned into alcohol, and it’s unlikely that the Vikings would have left any potential alcohol behind if they could help it. 

Along those lines, what did Viking mead taste like? We know that they often used spices. Sometimes they mixed it with grain. And other than that, all guesses. 

Our last fun fact is a twofer! So the central place in most Viking-era communities was called the Mead Hall – Meduseld. And this means “the place that has mead” showing how central it was to their community, but what many people don’t know is it was the women in those communities who did almost all the brewing and distribution of that mead. For more on this and other interesting facts will have a link to the book Lady With the Mead Cup below. Fascinating research work. And also of course, a link to the Viking Days website. 

If you have any questions, you can send them to me and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Cheers. 

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