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Why create mead?

May 20, 2011

The question is a simple one; three words long and equipped with only a question mark. However there is a simpler question residing inside of it that is important to answer first.

Why create?

This question is interesting and the answer will vary due to your experiences and desires. For me it all boils down to communism. Well, not communism, but Karl Marx. Karl Marx is known for his grandiose ideas of social/governmental change and making all sorts of declarations about how people are and should be. Ultimately time has shown many of his ideas to be considered questionable, even dubious. However he had more general points too – and some of those may have merit. One in particular was that he felt that the key to happiness was to create. Being a cog in a machine can be fulfilling; but Marx believed that the most fulfillment came from making something yourself. By merely being a cog the accomplishment is not your own, and in many cases the accomplishments are invisible or intangible. A company doing well is great for the employees; they retain their jobs. But a craftsman who creates a fine product gets the joy of seeing the creation from start to finish.

As I said, many of Marx’s ideas have not fared well through the test of time, but this one has promise. I felt as though he was on to something, and as such I sought out something to create. Truly – I came across this philosophical goal and then decided to build off of it. Prior to this I really didn’t know what was coming next. Maybe I’d be a lawyer, perhaps a professor, I’ve even given serious thought to being a Scuba instructor. But now I wanted to create. The first place I looked is black smithing. Not an easy field to get into I determined; and in this day and age not really a promising career. Then while on a vacation I had the opportunity to tour a rum distillery. From the start I was hooked; staring up at the massive stainless steel fermenting tanks, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. As the tour progressed I became even more certain, a well made pot still is as beautiful as an exotic car, with a beautiful gold-hued copper sheen, graceful curves, and creating from sugar-water something exciting.

Although the prohibition may have ended nearly 8 decades ago its effects linger today. Home distilling is still illegal. It’s not a “Oh, you can do this for your own consumption and its ok”, its just plain illegal. Now that doesn’t stop people from making moonshine; moonshining is an ancient practice that dates back at least 700 years. However I’m not at the point in my life where I can commit myself to the shady side of life; and particularly since I want to do this forever I decided to start within legal limits. So – distilling alcohol is illegal, but fermenting sugars into alcohol is not illegal. It’s a funny sort of line, but governments draw funny sorts of lines all the time. I decided I would brew. Initially I thought I’d brew beer, but after my first batch (which is notable for being explosively carbonated) I grew disenchanted with beer. Although there are fewer breweries today than in 1918 (due to Prohibition) the number of microbreweries has skyrocketed in the past decade. Beers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors and really it would be difficult for me to make something that was truly unique. Did I have to make something unique? Of course not, but its nice to do so.

Mead, a beverage that predates agriculture. A drink that the Sumerians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Norse, Danes, Anglo-Saxons, Indians, Russians, Ethiopians and an entire host of other countries have all enjoyed for centuries. Unique. It’s a fascinating dichotomy that mead is so ancient and yet is nearly entirely unknown in the US. But more so than being unique, mead is versatile. Mead is like beer in that it can taste radically different depending on preparation. So I had a unique product I could create that allowed me to follow whims.

Had I ever tried mead beforehand? Not even a sip. Did I know if I would like it? Not at all – although it should be said that in a pinch I’ve had to make do with Bacardi 151 on ice… and enjoyed it. I figured worst case scenario I’d just spike the mead with something strong and the taste wouldn’t be the first thing on my mind. But then it was good. Sure – the taste isn’t for everyone, but I found myself truly reveling in it. One day I hope to do this for a living; but until then its nice to know I can make myself an delightful drink from scratch.

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