Posts Tagged ‘Mead’

First posted July 23, 2010
via Egypt-Wine for the Afterlife

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On this day ten years ago…
via Rosslyn Chapel was haven for bees

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A collection of pottery from the Heuneberg archaeological site.
Victor S Brigola


Analysis of ceramic vessels throws new light on social customs

By Natalie Parletta

Residues from ceramics found at an archaeological site in Germany suggest that Early Celts from all social classes drank generous quantities of Mediterranean wine long before they started importing drinking vessels from the region.

The discovery by a researcher team led by Maxime Rageot, from Germany’s University of Tübingen, challenges notions that wine was always reserved for the elite.

The Heuneberg site, north of the Alps in Baden-Wuerttemberg, has provided significant insights into early urbanisation in central Europe, and a wealth of archaeological evidence points to the importance of intercultural Mediterranean connections in shaping Early Iron Age societies around 500-700 BCE.

Rageot and colleagues set out to explore a new facet of this process by investigating the transformation of consumption practices, particularly drinking. The findings are reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

A rich collection of ceramics and imported Mediterranean goods used for feasting have been found throughout the settlement.

The researchers used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to extract organic residues from 126 local vessels and seven imported Attic ceramics, including goblets, beakers and bowls used for drinking, jugs and bottles for serving beverages, and vessels used for food preparation and storage.

They found evidence of Mediterranean grape wine from short-chain carboxylic compounds, including succinic, fumaric, malic and tartaric acids.

“Tartaric acid is usually considered to be a grape product/wine marker because of its high concentration in grapes in contrast to other fruits available in Europe during the Early Iron Age,” Rageot says.

The other compounds tartaric acid was found with are recognised markers of wine fermentation. There is no evidence of grape seeds or winemaking in central Europe, the authors note, so it must have been imported.

These were discovered before the first clear evidence of Mediterranean feasting vessels being introduced in the final Hallstatt of the Early Iron Age, evidence that trade took place before the ceramic imports.

They also found other evidence of fermentation from plant or bee-products, suggesting the production of local alcoholic beverages including possibly mead.

The residues were notably found in a range of local vessels from different parts of the settlement that reflect different social classes. Markers of dairy and millet were also revealed, suggesting foods such as porridge were consumed from the same vessels.

“These results pose an important challenge to the notion that Early Celtic elites preferred consuming wine as a means of demonstrating their high status,” write the authors.

After the goblets were imported, however, wine appeared to be restricted to those in the elite plateau. Vessels from the lower town contained more food remnants.

This increased specialisation suggests the Celts adopted more Mediterranean-style feasting practices with greater social distinction, which “coincided with a clear change in function and meaning of wine consumption”.

This distinction, the authors note, continued into later Celtic society when the Greek author Poseidonius recounts that elite Celts drank wine while lower classes drank beer.

“These novel commensal practices seem to have served as a means of creating/enforcing their identities and to further establish/secure their position in society,” they write.

The findings provide new insights into Early Celtic consumption practices, and of “their complex transformation over time, which was certainly influenced in part by the dynamics of intercultural encounter with the Mediterranean”.


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Scientists in Sweden are launching their own mead — an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water — based on old recipes they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Together with a brewery, the scientists, who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink: Honey Hunter’s Elixir.

Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.

“Mead is an alcoholic drink made with just honey and water, and it was regarded as the drink of the gods and you could become immortal or sustain a better health if you drank it,” Olofsson said. “It was drunk by the Vikings for example and other cultures such as the Mayas, the Egyptians, and it was a drink that was regarded as a very beneficial drink.”

Honey production is key to the research. In previous research published in 2014, Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez discovered that lactic-acid bacteria found in the honey stomach of bees, mixed with honey itself, could cure chronic wounds in horses that had proved resistant to treatment.

They said their research had proved that these bacteria had the power to collaborate and kill off all the human pathogens they have been tested against, including resistant ones. They are doing so by producing hundreds of antibacterial antibiotic-like substances.

What makes Honey Hunter’s Elixir different from other types of modern mead drinks is that is uses all 13 beneficial honeybee lactic-acid bacteria and the wild yeasts from honey that normally ferment mead spontaneously.

According to the team, commercial honey does not contain these bacteria. Since the honey and water mixture is sterilized before later adding industrial wine yeast, all other life in the honey, including wild yeast, is killed off.

The researchers say the drink contains 100 billion of these 13 different living and collaborating lactic-acid bacteria.

Olofsson said they believed mead could have been the most efficient historical equivalent to today’s antibiotics, and they see Honey Hunter’s Elixir as a possible way of preventing infections.

“Well, we’ve seen in our research that the honey bees actually add great flora of lactic-acid bacteria in honey, so the mead, when produced, is actually fermented by these lactic-acid bacteria together with wild yeasts and the lactic-acid bacteria can really kill off all the dangerous pathogens that are even resistant against antibiotics,” Olofsson said. “So our thinking is that the mead, when you consume the mead, these (antibacterial substances in) lactic-acid bacteria in the drink can actually be transferred to your blood and help you when you are infected with dangerous bacteria or promote health, preventing infections.”

In 2005, Olofsson and Vasquez discovered that many beneficial bacteria reside within honeybees in a structure called honey crop, which is the organ in which honeybees collect nectar for honey production.

As a result, their research has since focused on how this can be applied to functional foods, as alternative medical tools against infections and bee health.

The mead is part of this research, which is summarized on the website.

“We will have volunteers drinking this drink and measure different parameters to see if the compounds the bacteria produce could end up in the blood system and for that to cause a prevention or a cure for infections,” Vasquez said, adding that more research was needed.

“We don’t really know at the moment exactly which kind of infectious disease we could counteract in the future because we need to understand this thoroughly,” she said. “At the moment we know that the bacteria produce very interesting compounds, a lot of different weapons like antibiotics but a lot of them that collaborate and those weapons or the key in use in this viable bacteria in the future.”

If human trials are successful, it could help doctors overturn the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in both First World countries and also in the developing world where fresh honey is more readily accessible than antibiotics.

In recent years antibiotic resistance has become a critical issue for global health, with an ever increasing number of strains of bacteria developing immunity.

Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.


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You can check out my posts about making my own mead by going to archives for 2011, February through August. Thanks

Admit it, you thought the only time mead was consumed nowadays was at Renaissance Fairs or following a rousing day of LARPing – that’s Live Action Role Playing, for those of you not in the know. But, contrary to popular belief, this ancient honey wine is not just for the Dungeons and Dragons set. Made since ancient times from fermented honey and water, mead is a great drink to add to your fall table, especially if you’ll be celebrating Rosh Hashanah this week. Think of mead as the more adult version of apples and honey with the mead being your honey and a delicious slice of sweet apple cake standing in for the traditional apple slice.

We can trace mead’s origins all the way back to 7000 BCE and mainland China, where archeological digs have unearthed ancient pottery with mead residue inside. From there the recipe for mead traveled to Europe and Africa. In both locations historians believe mead caught on in places where the climates and/or soils didn’t support healthy grape production. With no ability to make wine, mead was a great option, since all one needed was access to bees and water.

As society progressed and we developed the ability to trade with locations much further away from us, many forgot about Mmad, losing the need for it with the influx of wine from other regions. But some cultures across the world maintained mead as a staple beverage, including Ethiopia, which continued to perfect the beverage known as Tej — a beverage that is still drunk at Ethiopian tables to this day.

Recently, mead has experienced a resurgence in the U.S., with craft meaderies opening across the country to brew meads of all different styles. While the traditional sweet mead can still be found, craft mead brewers are now making meads that truly push the boundaries of the beverage, from the very dry and bubbly almost sparkling wine style, to the sweet and fruity that is reminiscent of Riesling.

As the industry has expanded, so has experimentation, with many brewers striving to make meads that not only appeal to their tastes, but that of their peers as well. In many instances, this means new styles of the elixir mixed with fresh fruits and berries, or meads that are “hopped” and made in the style of an American IPA. While mead used to also be a beverage that, historically, was simply fermented and then bottled, some brewers have started to age it like wine, letting the mead rest in stainless steel or oak for up to a year before placing it in the bottle. The result of all of this experimentation is a high quality beverage that is definitely like nothing you may have had with that turkey leg ten years ago at the Renaissance Fair.

Just like wine, mead can only be great if the ingredients used to make it are, and for mead that all begins with the flowers. Because the base ingredients of mead are simply water and honey, the flowers the bees visited in the process of creating their sticky sweet syrup are incredibly important. Some people say drinking mead is like drinking the elixir of thousands of flowers at once and each mead can have completely different characteristics depending on the types of flowers visited by the bees.

Because mead is usually at least a little sweet, it’s a great accompaniment for spicier foods, which is probably why it’s been a constant on the Ethiopian table for all this time. It also pairs wonderfully with stews, hard sharp cheese and of course desserts.

So add mead to your table, and say cheers to a sweet new year — you won’t be disappointed.

Header image via Boykov / Shutterstock.com


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Copies of the Golden Horns of Gallehus 5th century BC: Two horns made of sheet gold, discovered in Gallehus, north of Møgeltønder in Southern Jutland, Denmark. Image: Vladimir Tkalčić (Flickr, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Topic: Nordic drinking history

A new book describes the fascinating history of drinking horns and their importance within Scandinavian culture where their roots stretch back into at least the Iron Age as several graves have been found to contain examples from this period.

A long history

During Classical Antiquity, it was the Thracians and Scythians who were known for their custom of drinking from actual horns but in Bronze Age Mycenaean Greece, although they had retained their shape the materials used were clay or metal. Their spread across Central Europe and into Scandanavia by the 5th century BC can be traced by their fittings found in various graves.

The Gallehus horns, discovered north of Møgeltønder in Southern Jutland, Denmark, were created from sheet gold. Designed to look like auroch horns, they were found in 1639 and in 1734 respectively at locations only 20 metres apart and date to the early 5th century BC. Sadly the originals were stolen and melted down in 1802.

Some drinking horns were even imported into Scandinavia from the Roman Empire and made from fragile glass. However, it is in the Viking Age that the drinking horn fills the sagas and mythology and are found throughout their world. Fortunately, decorative metal terminals and mounts recovered archaeologically show that the drinking horn was much more widespread than the small number of preserved horns would otherwise indicate.

Viking Age

Horn fragments of Viking Age drinking vessels are rarely preserved, but the ones that are show both cattle and goat favoured. However, the majority were from domestic cattle and held around half a litre.

Significantly larger auroch horn examples (as the size of the fittings attest), found at sites such as the Sutton Hoo burial would have been the exception.

Banned by the church

Suddenly in the 1100s the use of drinking horns stopped in Scandinavia, apparently banned by the church which saw them as symbolic of the older pagan culture. A hundred years later though the the practice resumed, and most of the medieval drinking horns come from 1300-1400 ‘s with many masterpieces decorated with gilt, silver and bronze.

Mythical and supernatural

A few of the horns in the Danish collection are up to 87 cm long and come from aurochs, which became extinct in the 1600s. During the Middle Ages it was believed that many of the horns were griffin claws, a mythical creature with a head and body of an eagle and the hindquarters of a lion.

Often the drinking horn is imbued with a supernatural aura and appears in dramatic tales and stories such as fairy women trying to entice men to drink deadly poison.

Three Kings

Unusually, the ‘Three Kings’ have a special connection to drinking horn cultural history, and many of them bear inscriptions of their names; Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Their special holy day is celebrated on the 6th January, when tradition says that they found the baby Jesus after following the star. One of their gifts is often regarded in Scandinavian countries to have been a drinking horn.

The new book is by Vivian Etting, a historian and curator at the National Museum who specializes in 1300s and 1400′s Nordic history and has written several books and numerous articles including in-depth studies regarding the medieval castles of Denmark.

Source: National Museum of Denmark

Original article:
past horizons
Jan3, 2014

For more information go to drinking culture

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Topic: Ancient brews
REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE—Residues of pottery sherds from ancient Scandinavian settlements dating as far back as 1200 B.C. are the inspiration for Delaware-based brewey Dogfish Head’s latest ancient ale, Kvasir. Patrick McGovern, a bioarchaeolgist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and frequent collaborator with Dogfish Head on these brews calls the drink a Nordic grog. The recipe for Kvasir, which is available in limited quantities now, involves yarrow, lingonberries, cranberries, bog myrtle, and birch syrup. Prior to Kvasir, Dogfish Head brewed Midas Touch, influenced by residues taken from 2,700-year-old pottery found in Turkey, and Chateau Jiahu, an ale that traces its history back to Neolithic China,

Original article:

Full article published in The Atlantic follows:

The Archaeology of Beer
Dogfish Head’s ancient, hybrid brews embody a past before ale and wine became separate categories.
The Archaeology of Beer

Dr. Pat McGovern, a biomolecular archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in Philadelphia, is standing before some large and inscrutable scientific equipment on the museum’s fifth floor as he explains his process to me. “We always start with infrared spectrometry,” he says. “That gives us an idea of what organic materials are preserved.” From there, it’s on to tandem liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion cyclotron resonance, and solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

The end result? A beer recipe.

Starting with a few porous clay shards or tiny bits of resin-like residue from a bronze cup, McGovern is able to determine what some ancient Norseman or Etruscan or Shang dynast was drinking as he kicked back thousands of years ago. From a cardboard box, McGovern pulls out several plastic bags containing ancient pottery shards from China. It was from these that he identified the world’s oldest known fermented beverage, dating to about 7000 B.C.—a few centuries after humans began transitioning from hunter-gatherers to farmers. From another box, he pulls out shards and residues collected from four Scandinavian settlements, dating to between 1200 B.C. and 200 A.D. All of them contained traces of an essentially identical beverage, suggesting a drink—McGovern dubbed it “Nordic grog”—that was popular across Scandinavia for more than a millennium.

Details will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Danish Journal of Archaeology. But if your curiosity is more immediate and tends toward the gustatory, head to a nearby wine-and-beer store and request a bottle of the most recent Ancient Ale from Dogfish Head. The Delaware-based brewery launched its Ancient Ale Series in 1997, and in 1999 collaborated with McGovern to make Midas Touch, a brew that was inspired by the residue found on pottery fragments in a 2,700-year-old tomb in Turkey. Dogfish Head has since re-created six other defunct potables with McGovern, based on archeological finds in China, Honduras, Peru, Egypt, Italy, and now Scandinavia. Its re-creation of Nordic grog, Kvasir, is named after a mythical Norse hero who was born out of saliva and later killed by dwarfs. Dogfish Head made about 2,300 cases, available this winter in 27 states.

Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales may vary in geography and taste, but they all have one thing in common: “Invariably, every one of these ancient beverages that we’ve brought back to life had at least two sources of sugar,” says the company’s founder and president, Sam Calagione, “be they honey or grapes or fruits or grains.”

One might wonder why early societies would use such a mash-up of flavors. But the more vexing question is: Why did they stop? Why did complex, deeply layered beverages get siloed into restrictive categories—mead from honey, wine from grapes, beer from grain—which then became increasingly homogenized over time? How did we get from Nordic grog to Bud Light?

Calagione heaps some of the blame on restrictions imposed by Bavarian rulers in 1516, which would later become known as the beer-purity law. “They mandated that beer could only be made with water, barley, and hops,” he says. “Humans had been brewing these exotic hybrid beers for 10,000 years, yet now roughly 99 percent of the beer commercially made around the world references a 500-year-old tradition. It’s a war the Germans have pretty much won.”

For his part, Penn’s McGovern sees a natural progression toward specialization, as beer makers started producing on a larger scale. “They get a successful product using a limited range of ingredients that people like and understand,” he says, “and then they flood the market with it.”

Kvasir is not what anyone would consider a streamlined product. It’s a hybrid of beer, fruit wine, and mead, flavored with (among other ingredients) yarrow, lingonberries, cranberries, bog myrtle, and birch syrup. “The ingredient I’m most excited about is the lingonberries,” Calagione says. I had thought Kvasir would have a boggy, primeval flavor, but instead it tasted quite modern: bright and tart, with an extremely dry finish.

Calagione won’t discuss Dogfish Head’s next Ancient Ale, other than to say, “It won’t even be defined as a beer. It’s even more experimental.”

But it’s safe to say it will be old. Very, very old.

By Wayne Curtis

Photo by Mike Basher

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Topic: One lovely blog award

I received a surprise yesterday, I was nominated for an award so todays post will be a departure from my usual theme.

I want to thank aquacompass7 at http://aquacompass7.wordpress.com for the nomination!

The rules below were copied from aquacompass7’s blog. I hope I measure up.


The rules for One Lovely Blog Award are:

1    Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post

2    Nominate 15 bloggers you admire

3     Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.

4      Put the logo of the award on you blog site.

5     Share 7 things about yourself.

Seven things about myself:

1. I run two web sites and two blogs

2.I am proud to be retired and a computer geek

3. I love to travel by car, it reminds me of when I was young

4 I  make hand crafted Mead and sourdough bread using Giza sourdough

5 I’ve been drinking coffee for over 50 years

6 I have a passion for history

7. My favorite author is Robert Heinlein

Nominated blogs I like:

1. http://overthehedgeblog.wordpress.com/















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It almost escaped my notice ( which is what happens,I suppose when you get busy), but as of September 1,2011, I have been doing this blog on Ancient Foods for TWO years! Hard to believe- and I’ve only just gotten started.Thanks to all of those who read my posts on a regular basis, and thanks to those of you who have only just discovered me. Maybe one day I’ll get fresh pressed-who knows? Watch out for my new blog ( still in the works), which will feature my own recipes, as well as reporting on wineries,wine tastings and more around my home In the Pacific Northwest!
My new blog title is Northwest Culinary Adventures. I will let you know as soon as it is up.


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Topic: King Arthur’s Table
I just had to put in this post. I love England and the Arthur stories ( we know these are based in fact ). Nothing on food-but who’s to say the knights did not raise a glass here ( of wine, mead or ale)?

Archaeologists searching for King Arthur’s round table have found a “circular feature” beneath the historic King’s Knot in Stirling.

The King’s Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years.
Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older.
Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.
Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets.
Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.
Historian John Harrison, chair of the SLHS, who initiated the project, said: “Archaeologists using remote-sensing geophysics, have located remains of a circular ditch and other earth works beneath the King’s Knot.
“The finds show that the present mound was created on an older site and throws new light on a tradition that King Arthur’s Round Table was located in this vicinity.”
Stories have been told about the curious geometrical mound for hundreds of years — including that it was the Round Table where King Arthur gathered his knights.
Around 1375 the Scots poet John Barbour said that “the round table” was south of Stirling Castle, and in 1478 William of Worcester told how “King Arthur kept the Round Table at Stirling Castle”.
Sir David Lindsay, the 16th century Scottish writer, added to the legend in 1529 when he said that Stirling Castle was home of the “Chapell-royall, park, and Tabyll Round”.
It has also been suggested the site is partly Iron Age or medieval, or was used as a Roman fort.
Extensive work on the royal gardens was carried out in the early 17th century for Charles I, when the mound is thought to have taken its current form.
The first known record of the site being called the King’s Knot is from 1767, by which time it was being leased for pasture.
Locals refer to the grassy earthworks as the “cup and saucer”, but aerial photographs taken in 1980 showed three concentric ditches beneath and around the King’s Knot mound, suggesting an earthwork monument had preceded it.
The new survey — funded by Historic Scotland and Stirling City Heritage Trust — used the latest scientific techniques to showing lost structures and features up to a metre below the ground.
It also revealed a series of ditches south of the main mound, as well as remains of buildings, and more recent structures, including modern drains which appear at the northern end of the gardens.
Mr Harrison, who has studied the King’s Knot for 20 years, said: “It is a mystery which the documents cannot solve, but geophysics has given us new insights.
“Of course, we cannot say that King Arthur was there, but the feature which surrounds the core of the Knot could explain the stories and beliefs that people held.”
Archaeologist Stephen Digney, who coordinated the project, said: “The area around Stirling Castle holds some of the finest medieval landscapes in Europe.
“This investigation is an exciting first step in a serious effort to explore, explain and interpret them. The results so far suggest that Scotland’s monarchs integrated an ancient feature into their garden, something we know happened in other countries too.
“We are looking forward to the next stage in September when we hope to refine some of the details.”
Dr. Kirsty Owen, Cultural Heritage Adviser at Historic Scotland, added: “The project has the potential to add to our knowledge of the landscape context of the medieval and early modern occupation of Stirling Castle.
“The ditches identified may intriguingly be part of historically documented earlier garden features, or if prehistoric in origin could add to our scant knowledge of prehistoric activity at Stirling Castle.
“We look forward to seeing the results of the next phase of investigations.”Futher work including a ground-penetrating radar survey, is now planned to take place next month to find out more.
A small display of the interim results can be seen close to the site at the Smith Museum.

Original article:
The telegraph
August 26,2011
New app will not let me link, but if you copy this URL you can go to the original article! Then again it would seem puting the http in creats a link anyway.



The King’s Knot in the grounds of Stirling Castle Photo: ALAMY

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