Recipe: How To Make Your Own Medieval Mead

Image - glass of mead 600x390

Raise your horns, goblets and mazers to this week’s recipe… Mead!

This golden nectar has a wonderful sweet, smooth taste and an usually high percentage that can induce merriness pretty quickly. Made by fermenting honey with water, each brewer adds their own unique blend of herbs, spices and grains, which means mead can have as many variations as beer.

But where did mead come from? Is it really just a tasty medieval tipple, or do its origins go back even further? To find out, I stumbled off on a journey that took me from ancient China to modern-day Manchester. Let’s go!

Mead in mythology

The earliest evidence for the production of mead goes all the way back to 7,000 BC China, where archaeologists found traces of a fermented honey, rice and fruit beverage through the chemical analysis of pottery. Mead also appears as an immortality-bestowing alcohol in the Rigveda (1,700 BC- 1,100 BC), a collection of Sanskrit hymns, where it is referred to as Amrita (without death).

The ancient Greeks also called it ‘ambrosia’ which meant immortal, and believed it to be the drink of the gods. The Romans also believed mead had powerful properties of preservation, calling it ‘nectar’, which is derived from the Greek for ‘overcoming death. The Norse are famed mead drinkers and have a rich mythology built up around it. Odin is said to have accidentally bestowed mead upon mortals after he stole three draughts of the Mead of Poetry from the giant Suttingr.

The association of mead with poetry continued with skalds (poets) who believed they did their best work whilst under the influence…! I know a few archaeologists who might agree…

If life gives you honey….

Mead was a popular drink in medieval England. They had bees in abundance due to the huge amount of wax required for candles, and so plentiful honey. Many different varieties of mead were made and some were thought to have medicinal properties, like being able to cure melancholy and hypochondria.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and in the 16th century the introduction of sugar from the West Indies started the gradual decline of mead production, and now it’s a drink you rarely see outside Christmas markets and specialty stores.

The good news however, is that seems to be changing. I spoke to Aaron Darke, owner and Mead Master (now that’s a job title I’d like to have!) at Zymurgorium about mead and its current rise in popularity.

Why did you decide to open up your own meadery?

I first started brewing alcohol whilst doing my Zoology degree. I wanted a hobby that used science. The first drink I brewed was gorse flower dry mead that finished with a beautiful coconut/vanilla scent/taste and I was hooked.

Eventually I decided I preferred brewing to my course, but my Celtic/Nordic heritage and love of ancient history probably also had something to do with it!

What is the demand for mead like?

Surprisingly, it’s on the rise. In the USA, 250 meaderies have open in the past 3 years a 2500% growth in sales in that same period – probably one of the largest manufacturing increases I’ve ever seen! I think there have been a number of factors for this; firstly, peoples tastes have changed and they are looking for something new and tasty rather than wasting money on just a quick drink, secondly, it features heavily in series like Game of Thrones and Vikings.

What tips do you have for those who want to make their own?

The most important thing is the yeast. There are so many yeast varieties out there, but most have a metabolism that is too strong and will breakdown most of the molecules we are looking for in mead, so you really need to make sure you get the right type.

You can start with honey from the local supermarket, as it will be pasteurised. Honey is low in nutrients, especially filtered honey so you’ll need to add nutrients. A classic combination is orange peel and raisins.

How To Make your own Mead

One of the wonderful things about mead is that there are no shortages of recipes online that range from long term investments to simple, quick meads that can be made in less than a month. I chose this recipe for its fruity taste and simplicity to concoct!

You don’t need any specialist equipment, and the ingredients can be found in any supermarket. After 3 weeks, you’ll have 2 litres of delicious mead to quaff with your friends and family!

Equipment: an empty 4-pint milk bottle, a balloon

Ingredients: 2 x 340g bottle/jars of clear honey, half an orange, 12-15 washed raisins, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice), warm water, dried active yeast (the author used Young’s all-purpose dried active yeast for wine and beer-making)

1)     Make sure everything is clean, as any dirt or contaminants will spoil the mead

2)     Pour two pints of warm water into the fermentation chamber (milk bottle), and add the honey. Put the lid on and give it a good shake to dissolve the honey.

3)     Cut the half orange into small segments, and add them to the fermentation chamber. Then add a small pinch of cinnamon, a small pinch of nutmeg and a small pinch of allspice.

4)     Wash the raisins, and then add them to the mix.

5)     Add more warm water to the fermentation chamber, until it’s about 3.5 pints full. Then add the dried active yeast.

6)     Replace the cap, and thoroughly shake the bottle to aerate the mix.

7)     Prick 3 holes in the top of the balloon. Uncap the bottle, and then stretch the neck of the balloon over the mouth. This acts as an airlock to let CO2 out.

8)     Set the bottle in a warm place and within an hour you should see the balloon inflate and foam developing on the top of the mix.

9)     Store in a warm, dark place and leave it to ferment. If the balloon begins to perish, replace it.

10)  Over time the mead will become clearer, and after 3 weeks you can siphon off a dark, golden, clear mead to enjoy immediately, or store it in a demijohn to further mature!

H/T to AmazingMead for the recipe!

Love archaeology?

DigVentures was born from a mission: to connect people who love archaeology with opportunities to DO archaeology. Together, we're making groundbreaking new discoveries that everyone can be part of, and creating archaeology content that we can all share, learn from and enjoy. Wherever you live and whatever your background, you can be part of it too.

Become a Subscriber

Written by Jamie Skuse

Jamie is a recent(ish) archaeology graduate from the University of Manchester. He loves playing with new gadgets (old and new) and one day wants to have his own archaeo-drone and be known as the flying archaeologist. Twitter: @supertrowel

Read more from Jamie Skuse +

Comments (12)

  1. Fariz Reza says:

    thx for the simplest recipe. i found it very useful than the other site
    but can I have a Video on how to make it step by step (:

  2. Jamie says:

    Hi Fariz,

    Thanks for your comment! The next time I make the mead, I’ll record a guide for you. I hope you like it!


    1. Jason says:

      I assume you never did make that mead or just not the guide… 😉

  3. Carla says:

    Can regular dried active yeast, such as used for making bread, be used in this recipe?

  4. Phil Wilkinson says:

    How much yeast to use?

  5. Carla says:

    Can you please help me? I made this a week ago, but the balloon has barely inflated. The orange pieces and raisins are floating on the top. It seems like it needs more yeast, although I used the 1/2 tsp. a recommended. Do you think I should add more yeast, or just let it sit? Somehow, it just doesn’t look right. Thanks so much!

    1. Peter says:

      Yo, normal yeast will work but generally yields lower quality mead since brewing yeast has the ability to survive longer in alcohol. I got some brewing yeast for about 5 pounds / 100 grams. The suggested amount is 25grams/hl or about 2.5 grams on a liter of wine, mead is similar. Don’t worry if you put more, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  6. Jo-Anne says:

    Should the fermentation vessel be glass or plastic?

  7. Donnamarie says:

    thank you for this very uncomplicated recipe. Think this is an activity for this weekend

  8. Phil says:


    I have just put the brew into a demijohn after 3 weeks in a bottle. Do I put a cap on it or another balloon, or just leave it uncovered?

    Also, it’s a bit cloudy, any tips?

  9. Phil says:


    After you’ve put into a demijohn, do you cover it or leave the top open?

  10. manuka honey says:

    In early times, beekeepers kept and raised their bees in hollowed-out logs and clay pots.
    Their style and taste is one thing a lot of people now associate with birthdays,
    from most cultures, ages and religions. Today,
    I am going to introduce 2 coffee recipes that blended with honey butter and hope
    each of the coffee lover will like these recipes.

Show More

Leave a comment

All fields are required but your email address will not be published.

We will only use the information you submit here to support the moderation and publishing of your comments. You can learn more about what data we collect and how it is handled in our Privacy Policy.

Sign up for the DigVentures Newsletter

Get archaeology news, events, and digs you can join - straight to your inbox

Easy opt-out at any time - Privacy Policy

Archaeology / In Your Hands
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • CIfA

See all the archaeology digs, talks, festivals and other events coming up at DigVentures

Learn more about digging up the past and have fun while you're doing it!

We're connecting people who love archaeology, with opportunities to do archaeology.

Archaeology experiences and other perfect presents for people who love the past.