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  • Writer's pictureErica

A drink worthy of a King

Updated: May 11, 2023

Since time immemorial, humans have loved honey for its many different uses, the oldest reference to beekeeping that we have found comes from a relief in Egypt dated 2400 BC. Beekeeping came to Sweden with the first monks of the Cistercian Order who founded, among other things, Alvastra monastery in 1143. The church had a great interest in beekeeping, both for the properties of the precious honey but mainly for the sake of the beeswax, as this was used to create light before the wax that we uses today became popular. Before beekeeping spread to the Nordics, our ancestors had to search the forest for wild honey, and for them honey was as precious as gold and worth killing for.

It is with this historical prelude in mind that we can more fully understand the place mead once held in our society and in our culture, a precious luxury that only the successful could often indulge in and others only dreamed of.

There is one important detail when drinking mead that is good to know. When you taste a mead, you do NOT do as with wine, i.e. smell first and then taste, with mead you do the opposite, taste first and then smell. A small detail that is very important to get as much as possible out of the experience, as the taste and smell of the mead are incredibly different from each other. This means that the taste experience changes with the aroma, and not always in a pleasant way as the fermented honey easily takes over. This is especially important with the dry meads, as many of the more complex flavors can otherwise easily disappear in the tasting process.

At first impression of Jarls Brew, it gives me a feeling of immediately beeing greeted by a sweetness, with small undertones of elderflower, the taste then moves towards a faint shade of lilac. This despite the fact that it is not seasoned with either elderberry or lilac, but it shows more how the honey can give the appearance of other flavors. When I first inhale the scent of the mead, there is a slight bitter undertone, like meadow clover and oregano, so light that I almost didn't notice it. When the mead then dances around my tastebuds, there is a parade of subtle flavors that quickly change each other, such as raspberry, linden, birch sap, and a hint of almond in the undertone, but this experience is personal and one of the things that fascinates me about the magic of mead is that everyone feels different. This phenomenon has given rise to many happy and intense dissections in Mead Geek circles.

I'm not going to hide the fact that I think this mead is fantastic and that it has an almost infinite depth which, as I said, leads to several different discoveries depending on the situation and the person. Jarls Brew has both freshness and bitterness, but most of all, it has a penetrating sweetness and goes well with a cheese tray, as an exclusive dessert mead, and why not with a juicy almond cake or a tasty pecan pie?

Jarls Brew, like so many other meads, brings to my mind a quote from "Grímnismál", the song about Grimner from "The Poetic Edda" by Snorri Sturlasson:

Heidrun is the name of the goat which stands in the hall and gnaws on the branches of Lærad; a vessel shall she fill with clear mead, that drink shall never abate.
Heiðrún heitir geit, er stendr höllu á ok bítr af Læraðs limum; skapker fylla hon skal ins skíra mjaðar; kná-at sú veig vanask.

We have known for a long time that mead was considered the drink of the gods, but this poem gives more weight to both the history and mythology surrounding mead, and that mead was seen as the most praised of all drinks. So what distinguishes the Nordic mead varieties? The oldest recipes we have left in the Nordics prescribe a mixture of one part honey to five parts water (so precious and rare was honey), extra flavor and sweetness often comes from fruit and berry juice (e.g. lingonberry, billberry, blackcurrant, etc.). Jarls Brew is brewed with the image of magnificent halls and legendary riches in mind, and is thus a more exclusive mead made from half honey and half water, the honey comes primarily from raspberry flowers, white clover and linden flowers. The result is a sweeter, fuller and more flavorful drink, a drink worthy of a rich and powerful Earl.

Jarls Brew is one of three meads created by Grimfrost, which among other things sells historically inspired accessories from the Viking Age. In 2017, Jarls Brew took home gold in the category "traditional sweet mead" and "imported mead" during the Mazer Cup, which is the world's largest mead competition! These are of course my own observations and I both encourage and welcome you to explore, and to make your own discoveries.

I leave you with this song about the Earl's favor and greatest creation...

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