Meeting took place on Tuesday 12th March, 2016.
“The gods gave us alcohol so we can cope with our mortality”- Danceswithweasels on talking about Gilgamesh in his search for immortality.
We’d been trying for years to get Danceswithweasels to do a talk for the GOTC and she’s managed to get out of it so far, that is, until we pinned her down during the January AGM and got her to talk about the cultural significance of beer…. It was her idea, we just wanted to hear it.
Mixing her talk with storytelling, it made for an interesting session. Where we learned that yeast (important for the fermentation process) wasn’t just treated as an ingredient, but as a creature in its own right. Almost like a pet if you will.
The talk began with humankind and bees, because of honey being a natural source of sugar- the food of yeast. Danceswithweasels went on to explain that mead was originally made with heather honey, which often came with a ‘fog’ that had psychotropic side effects. No wonder the Scandinavians wrote about the ‘Mead of Inspiration’!
Also, Heather mead often came as thick and gelatinous and choc filled with protein, so much so that the Germanic people had a saying that a mead drinker could become just as strong as a meat eater….. That kicks Guinness’ arse right away!
The yeast was treated with respect and it was a custom of the Norse to give a portion of yeast on a stick to a newlywed couple so that each house hold could craft their own ales. In fact, German law today still prohibits the transference of yeast out of the country as they take their yeast brewing very seriously…… That never stopped a certain Mr. Carlsburg from smuggling some out mind you.
Danceswithweasels gave us the stories of how Odin stole the Mead of Inspiration, and by doing so accidentally gave it to Humankind. There was also the Finnish poem saga of the quest for certain ingredients to be be given to the ‘virgin with the dainty hands’. This took some doing as it was a very long poem that often repeated itself with mnemonic devices; think of it as the Beowulf of the brewing instruction world and all the main characters were women and woodland creatures!
It appears that cultures the world over have discovered how to make alcohol in it’s myriad of forms, some including saliva to help the fermentation process. And in almost every culture the making of the alcohol, in all its aspects, was seen as a reverential act.
And yes….. There were samples! Which Mr and Mrs Chutney enjoyed for allowing us to use their home for the meeting. I might have enjoyed one, or two…. Alright more than several!