Mead is an alcoholic drink made when fermented honey is mixed with water. Various spices are often added to mead to give it taste. The Old English word is me(o)du, which is derived from the Indo-European word meaning "honey, sweet drink" (Encarta).
Beer is a drink brewed from malt. Beer is typically bitter tasting. It is brewed by fermenting malt with sugar and yeast and flavoring it with hops (Encarta). In Old English the term is "beor." This word is derived from the Latin word "biber," which means "drink" (Encarta).
Mead might be the oldest recorded fermented beverage (www.gotmead.com). Mead is mentioned in many writings, and can be found in many cultures throughout history. The Celts, Scandinavians, Vikings, and even the Aztecs drank mead. Mead was central to Anglo-Saxon life. Warriors would gather in mead-halls to receive gifts from their lords, drink, socialize, and be entertained. Drunken warriors would often make boasts that they may not have been able to fulfill. Mead was very popular until sugar was developed in the 18th century (www.gotmead.com). Sugar replaced honey because it was less expensive.
Beer is thought to have been first made by the Sumerians. It was a fermented drink that by chance was produced (www.alabev.com/history.htm). However, beer was not as widely consumed as mead. Mead was the drink of choice until the 18th century. Beer was originally "cloudy and unfiltered" (www.alabev.com/history.htm). It was extremely bitter which is most likely why it was not favored until the development of sugar.
Mead-halls can be found in many literary works, including "The Wanderer" and Beowulf. The mead-hall is the center of Anglo-Saxon life. An excellent example of what
takes place in the mead-halls is presented in Beowulf after Beowulf goes to Heorot and tells Hrothgar of his plans to defeat Grendel:
Then was a bench cleared in the beer-hall for the men of the Geats all together. Then the stout-hearted ones went to sit down, proud in their might. A thane did his work who bore in his hands an embellished ale-cup, poured the bright drink. At times a scop sang, clear-voiced in Heorot (Beowulf, 11).The mead-hall is also shown in The Thirteenth Warrior. The Rus are shown feasting in Rothgar's mead-hall after they arrive, and near the end of the movie Antonio Banderas and his female friend are shown drinking a cup of mead. Mead is a very big part of Anglo-Saxon life, and in "Dream of the Rood," heaven is thought of as a place where there will be much feasting and drinking of mead. This shows how central mead and mead-halls were in Anglo-Saxon culture.
There are many commercial beer companies. Here are a few illustrations of available beers (www.alabev.com):