According to Norse legend, when warriors arrive at Valhalla, they are rewarded with a stein of mead served by beautiful maidens. But why wait for the afterlife to party like a Viking? At Lancaster’s Meduseld Meadery, you can try a wide selection of unique meads while fine-tuning your axe-throwing skills.
Mead is an ancient honey wine dating back to 7,000 BC. It is believed to be one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world. While it’s true origins are still debated, we know that mead was deeply integrated into the religious and cultural life of the Vikings, who served mead during feasts that marked important life events, harvest celebrations or mid-winter and mid-summer. The consumption of mead was a way to commune with both gods and your fellow man.
According to Viking legend, the origin of mead traces back to a peace treaty between two warring factions of Norse gods: the Aesir of Asgard and the Vanir of Vanaheim. The gods spat into a bowl to seal their treaty and used their mixed saliva to create Kvasir, the wisest of all men, possessing the knowledge and wisdom of both Gods. Kvasir travelled widely, sharing his knowledge, until he was killed by two dwarves. The dwarves drained his blood and mixed it with honey to create the “Mead of Poetry”, believed to contain all of Kvasir’s wisdom. After being taken from the dwarves by the giant Suttung, the Norse God Odin snuck into the giant’s lair, used his shapeshifting abilities to seduce Suttung’s wife, and stole the vaunted elixir. Odin drank the mead, transformed into an eagle, and escaped back to Asgard, spitting out the mead for the great poets of Midgard to consume.
Fast forward to 2017 USA, when entrepreneur Willie Wrede opened Meduseld Meadery in Lancaster, PA, a small town not far from Philadelphia, and began brewing his own mead.
“Meduseld is an old English word meaning Mead Hall,” says Wrede. “The Mead Hall made up the nucleus of a community. It was where people planned battles, had weddings, swore oaths, performed religious rites, or engaged in communal cooking.”
Wrede is particularly fascinated by how mead was used in rituals and hospitality. “You were judged based on how well you took care of your guests. You never knew when Odin might show up in disguise, so you better take care of even the poorest person like they were a king,” he says.
While Meduseld remains the only Mead Hall in the town of Lancaster, there are now about 20 in the state of Pennsylvania and the number is growing.
“It is definitely a trend,” says Wrede, but he is not worried about the competition as he keeps expanding his selection of mead and continues to develop new, unique lines.
Mead is usually around 16-percent alcohol, but Meduseld brews a mead that is more similar to cider strength. The balance of honey determines the sweetness and additives such as hops, malt, fruit, and spices alter the flavor.
“I’ve developed an affinity for the Scandi esthetic,” says Wrede. “It’s clean, modern, and understated – not pretentious. That’s why I’ve designed a whole mead line called SKANDI that is very subtle and tasteful, with a lower alcohol percentage.”
If you can’t make it to Lancaster, Meduseld Meadery sells their meads online with shipping to most US states. Visit meduseldmeadery.com to learn more.
Top photo: Willie Wrede and his wife Julie