Mark Capichana is a passionate connoisseur and scholar of fermented beverages. In the following article, Mark Capichana explores the origins, evolution, and cultural significance of these popular fermented libations – mead, beer, and wine – that hold a special place in our collective history.
For centuries, humans have indulged in the art of fermentation, creating delicious beverages that satisfy both the palate and the spirit.
From the ancient rituals of mead-making to the intricate brewing processes of beer and the delicate craftsmanship behind winemaking, their rich flavors and traditions have shaped the world of fermented beverages.
All three drinks have origins dating back thousands of years, providing evidence of ancient civilizations. They were also revered as significant aspects of religion and culture, with many gods and goddesses being linked with them. Over time, some drinks have waned in popularity, but others have reinvented themselves for a modern market and society.
Below, the secrets and stories behind the art of brewing and winemaking, showcasing the flavors, traditions, and cultural impact that have made beer, wine, and mead beloved companions of humanity throughout the ages. So, grab a seat, pour a glass, and let Mark Capichana’s enthusiasm guide you through the intriguing world of fermented beverages.
Mark Capichana of Hazlet explains that mead is an alcoholic drink created by fermenting a mix of water, honey, and yeast. This results in a sweet, golden elixir that transcends centuries.
While we do not know exactly when the first batch of mead was made, it is undisputably the oldest fermented drink in the world. Multiple countries and cultures have their own versions of the drink, with the earliest known example coming from China in 6500 BCE when archaeologists discovered vessels with traces of mead inside.
• The Religious Connection
Mark Capichana of Hazlet explains that mead was also popular in ancient Greece and Rome, where it was known as “ambrosia” and was considered the drink of the gods.
In Nordic cultures, mead was believed to have magical and medicinal properties. In fact, they believed that a mythological goat named Heidrun, nibbled from the tree of life, transforming her milk into mead. As a result, a never-ending flow of mead streams from her udders for the einherjar, or warriors who died in battle, descended to Valhalla – the magnificent hall of the god Odin.
During the Middle Ages, mead became popular in Europe, particularly in England and Scandinavia. It was often brewed at home and was an important part of many celebrations and festivals. Often, the making of mead was performed by the woman of the house, with some widows even making a living from brewing mead and ales.
Mark Capichana of Hazlet says that towards the latter stages of the 17th century, mead had all but died in popularity, replaced by the consumption of beer and wine. However, it is making a modern comeback thanks to the emergence of specialty craft breweries and beekeepers that have taken up the practice.
Beer is produced by fermenting various grains, such as barley or wheat. On occasion, flavorings and other ingredients may be added, such as hops, or malt to alter the color and flavor of the beverage.
Although it is believed the early origins of beer coincide with the cultivation and domestication of grain, the first documented example of beer comes from Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilization in 4000 BCE, where a tablet was discovered, depicting people drinking the beverage, explains Mark Capichana of Hazlet.
Beer has been associated with the gods in many religions and cultures, with the Sumerians associating it with the goddess of brewing, Ninkasi. The Babylonians also saw it as a way to show their wealth as beer was considered to be a divine drink.
However, the ancient civilization that revered and loved beer the most was the Egyptians. They had their own goddess exclusively devoted to the drink, Tenenit, and they began to perfect various recipes for beer, including the most popular, heqet, flavored with honey, reports Mark Capichana of Hazlet.
• Consumption Through the Ages
Beer has had enduring popularity throughout history, with many cultures having their own version of the drink. Oftentimes, the consumption of beer was important, as it provided a safer alternative to drinking water, which could often be contaminated and lead to disease.
Mark Capichana indicates that one of the most prominent countries associated with the drinking of beer is Germany, and it remains popular throughout Europe to this day. Oktoberfest, a festival devoted to making merry and drinking beer still remains one of the features many associate with the German culture.
• Modern-Day Beer
Beer has remained a mainstay in many homes, bars, and countries around the world, with many major brands holding international appeal. One of the most recent developments when it comes to the production of beer is the rise in craft and microbreweries, which aim to create smaller batches of specialty beer and ales.
Mark Capichana of Hazlet explains that fermented grapes are the primary ingredient used to make wine, although other fruits have been used throughout history and in different cultures. The use of different types of grapes and strains of yeast plays a significant role in determining the characteristics and style of the resulting wine.
Wine production started in Western Asia and is estimated to have first taken place between 4000-6000 BCE. Although we do not know what culture or civilization first began the fermentation of wine, archaeologists have found evidence of a winery in Armenia and signs of grape production in Georgia and Turkey.
The development of wine was mainly spearheaded by the Mediterranean nations, in particular Greece and Rome. They started to diversify grape varieties used in the wine-making process, with many other countries later following suit.
The Romans and Greeks also had a god of wine, Bacchus and Dionysus, respectively. The Romans were also responsible for the belief that wine was a more sophisticated drink, choosing it as their beverage of choice rather than the beer drunk by the so-called ‘barbarians’ in the rest of Europe.
• Modern Wine Production
Today, vineyards and wineries can be found across the globe, offering many grape varieties and blends, with the top wine-making regions being France, Italy, the USA, and Spain producing over half of the world’s wine alone.