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Saxon & Viking Brewing -Reply
Greetings unto the patrons of Cheapside from Terafan!
>>> What do we know of mead and beer that early? Are there any
authorities on that subject? Do any of our brewers know anything on
the types of meads and beers known in the 9th-10th century that they
can share with me?
Without drowning you in information or spending hours typing, I'll
try to be fairly brief and specific. I wil bring documentation and stuff to
Coronation and we can get together there.
Ales and meads were well known in the 9th-10th centuries. Both
Beowulf and the Heimskringla, the Norse Kings Saga, are filled with
multiple references to ale AND mead. Ale being made with malted grain
and mead from honey.
While I will have to DIG to find specific recipes for mead from that
period, it is certain that they made "TRUE" mead, meaning honey, water,
and yeast. I would conjecture that any documentable spices in common
use in their kitchens may very well have found their way into a batch or
two of mead.
Ales bring a different set of problems, because hops had not yet
come into use. Ales were made from malted barley (and some wheat)
along with a specially-formulated "gruit" which was a mixture of certain
herbs designed to impart particular flavors and offset the sweetness of
the malt. Every monastery and brewhouse had their own special closely
guarded recipe for gruit.
I know that Mistress Keilyn (and Mistress Agnese) had a recipe
for an ale using bog-myrtle (ground ivy) that is quite good and will
probably be as close as you will get to an ale recipe before hops were
For the meads, most (but not all) were drunk when still young,and
therefore were fairly sweet. This may be to your benefit, as you can
brew a mead that is only one or two weeks old at event time, most
people will enjoy it because it is mostly honey flavored, and you won't
have people becoming totally snockered. (I had to put a guard on a keg
of mead at one Feast of Herne because children were coming up and
wanting HUGE mugs full of the stuff. Not a problem I wanted!)
When it comes to practicalities, mead may be the cheapest way
to go. I don't know how much you want to brew, but you can make 5
gallons of good ale for approximately $15-20 or so, and you can make 5
gallons of light mead for $10-12. I wouldn't advise paying more than
$1.00 per pound of honey, and I can get if for you for about $0.80 per
Again, once I am in Caer Mear (the first week of April) and have
access to all my stuff, we can go into nauseating detail....