Beowulf Attacks the Dragon

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The date is September 20, 2000. Jonnie Walker, Heineken, Budweiser, Becks, White Horse, Smirnoff, and Absolut. These are all popular names of companies that produce beers and hard liquors. But how many of these companies can proudly state that they produce the alcohol that preceeded all other alcohols; mead? Mead, although not commonly distributed in modern times, was the alcoholic beverage of choice during the late, middle ages. As alcohol was the center of the social norm in Northern England, it was common that this cheap beverage be distributed generously through the various mead halls and "pubs." Mead (also called melomel and metheglin) is fairly simple to manufacture. It is made of fermented honey and water, with an occasional touch of fruit and spices. Different types can be produced by varying the amount of honey and water and controlling the point at which fermentation is stopped. Textures range from very light and dry, to heavy-bodied and sweet. If left to ferment in a bottle, mead takes a form similar to that of a sparkling wine. The Guild of Free Brewers was the largest brewing guild in London at the time. They not only controlled the manufacture of the product, they also controlled the distribution and the laws governing the amount to be dispensed at one time (very similar to Microsoft). Toward the late 16th century, mead was replaced by various beers and ales that were considerably cheaper to make. Mead was no longer the beverage of choice by high-ranking official and lords, but the common drink of the lower class. It was still, however, often used for its medicinal values under prescription. Today, one can buy mead, usually made in Ireland, at specialty stores around the country.

-Nicholas Mavromoustakos