How To Brew Mead EXACTLY Like the Vikings
If you’re into homebrewing, you may have heard of mead or even tried making it at home. However, if you want to enjoy one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world in its original form, you should try brewing it exactly like the Vikings.
To brew mead like the Vikings, you only need to mix water and honey, but you can add berries or herbs to add flavor and help the fermentation. Pour the mixture into a container, stir occasionally and wait at least a month before you try it. Ferment it further for higher alcohol content.
Stick around if you want to know more! I will show you every step of the process in detail and answer some questions that may arise along the way.
Viking Mead Recipe
Even though it’s centuries old, mead is still a popular drink, especially for home brewers, who find it easier to make than beer or wine, not to mention delicious. It’s a sweet and fruity alternative to more bitter and sharp alcoholic drinks.
If you want to learn about making wine at home, watch my video:
Nowadays, home brewers include all sorts of fruit and aromatics from all over the world to spice up their mead.
However, if you want to enjoy mead in its pure and original form, you should try the old Viking recipe.
- ¾ gal (3.40 L) Water. Ideally, you should use spring water. Otherwise, you can use purified water or simply boil tap water. The reason why you can’t just use tap water is that the chlorine and chemicals in it may kill the bacteria needed for fermentation.
- 1 quart Honey. The honey should be unpasteurized, typically found at local farmer’s markets. Store-bought honey will work too, but it won’t have the same flavor because of the additives and artificial flavorings.
- 1 packet of Lalvin D-47 wine yeast.
- 1 oz of (28.34 g) wildflower petals (dandelions, violets, etc.)
- 10-12 raisins.
- Prepare your tools and equipment. A fermenter bucket or container, a cheesecloth, a rubber band or string, and a stirring spoon.
- Wash and sanitize the fermenting vessel and other equipment.
- Mix the water with honey. You can do this process right in the fermenting vessel, but you can also do it in a stockpot over low heat to help the honey dissolve faster.
- Add the optional flavorings. The simplest form of mead is just water and honey, but you may add some fruit, herbs, and spices for a more refined flavor.
- Add the yeast. A 100% original Viking recipe doesn’t include packaged yeast; back then, the fermentation came from the bacteria in the air, the raw honey, or the fruit. You may skip this step, but you may not get the desired results.
- Stir the mix with the stirring spoon. After stirring, put the cheesecloth on the fermenter, and secure it with the string or rubber band. Repeat this process 3-4 times a day for the first three days until you see the mixture frothing.
- Taste the mead. After a month or so, the mead will clarify, and you can drink it just like the Vikings did. However, it may be too sweet and not alcoholic enough for modern tastes.
- Rack the mead into another container. For a second fermentation, rack the mead into a carboy and seal it.
- Allow the mixture to ferment for 3-4 months. You can rack the mead again into new vessels every 3 months until you get the taste and level of alcohol you desire, which is typically after a year or so.
- Bottle the mead. After making sure the mead is ready to bottle, pour it into glass bottles using a corker or a capper.
There are so many herbs, spices, fruit, and flowers you can use to give your mead a particular flavor and aroma. Are all of them traditional Viking additions? Not necessarily, but they may make your mead delicious and more suitable for modern tastes.
Here are some additional ingredients you can use that have been used by Vikings as well:
- Hibiscus Flowers
- Hawthorn berries
- Rose hips
- Rowan berries
- Red currant
- Tree bark (oak, cherry, chestnut, etc.)
Understandably, you can’t use all of the above ingredients at once; choose the ones you think will fit your drink most and add them right after adding the yeast (or mixing the water and honey if you’re not using yeast).
How Old Is the Recipe for Mead?
There’s no way of knowing when exactly mead was invented as a drink, but the earliest recipe dates back to the 1500s.
The original recipe, as stated above, only includes water, honey, and natural yeast.
There are mentions of fermented honey long before 1500, which could indicate a much earlier origin of mead.
The earliest mention of fermented honey is in 4000 years old documents in India, which could make mead possibly the oldest alcoholic drink ever.
However, different regions in Scandinavia have added different fruit and herbs. Vikings have also included ingredients they found in other areas in their travels, but the basic recipe has stayed the same for centuries.
How Did Vikings Get Their Ingredients for Mead?
When you make mead at home, you get your ingredients at the supermarket, specialty stores, or farmer’s markets. Vikings didn’t have any of these, so how did they get their ingredients?
Vikings were pretty good beekeepers, so they had access to raw honey most of the time. They would put honeycombs in cloth bags and hang them to allow the honey to seep out. They even crushed the drained honeycombs to get the most out of their flavor.
The water, naturally, came from the many springs that Vikings used. Vikings didn’t have access to the yeast or starters the way we do now, but they used fruit or tree bark as a source of bacteria that could help fermentation.
Additional ingredients, like fruit, flowers, and herbs, were gathered in forests and meadows.
Mead is an underrated drink, not only because of its unique flavor but also because it’s so easy to make. All you need is honey, water, and some kind of starter to help the fermentation process. You can add fruit, spices, and herbs for a more complex flavor.
In order to make your mead taste exactly like the Vikings’, make sure to use raw honey and natural yeast. Additionally, only allow a month or so of fermentation. However, if you want a more layered taste and a higher alcohol percentage, let the drink ferment for up to a year.