Last Call! Ale & Mead Tasting at the 54th International Medieval Congress

Sponsored by the Medieval Brewers Guild and AVISTA: The Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art; hosted by the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.

All good things come to an end! At the final tasting at the Medieval Congress, soon-to-be-retired coordinator Stephen Law bid adieu and farewell to the brewers and tasters after organizing, and brewing, for 13 tastings over the past 20-odd years.


Organizer Stephen Law addressing the crowd of eager tasters.

In the words of Stephen Law:

“A variety of medieval-style meads and ales are presented today, including the return of some novel brewing experiments that we have done in the past. The term ‘metheglin’ is used to designate meads that have been flavored with herbs or spices; we have several on the tables today. Traditional meads are the purest form of meads, with nothing used to modify the flavor of the natural honey itself. Pyment is a blend of mead and wine; both a white and a red are again offered this year. Melomels have always been popular (especially here at Kalamazoo); our fruity blends are delightfully refreshing. ‘Sack’ – in current terminology – means strong or very strong mead. Be careful with the sacks, as they sneak up on you. Particularly welcome is a ‘washed comb mead’ made in the traditional manner that bypasses all filtration whatsoever.

Some of the ales in this year’s tasting are ‘vintage ales.’ Notably, the Once-Brewed and the Twice-Brewed ales, have returned for the ‘last call’ (they were made with the hypothetical Saxon method of brewing a super-strong ales). The three unique ‘Hildegard Ales’ were made for this year’s academic presentation (session 101) on Gruit Ales vs Hopped Ales; they are a derivative of her information in the Physica. We also have several experimental ales with mixtures of gruits.

Wacht heil! Drinc heil!


Patiently waiting for the clock to strike 5PM!

While Stephen Law provided the bulk of the beverages, several other brewers contributed as well, including husband and wife team Benjamin and Mary Sullivan (session 101 – Microbial Susceptibility of Hopped and non-Hopped Ales) and I (also in session 101 – Medieval Gruit Ales Revisited).


Mary Sullivan ready to share samples of the fruits of her brewing experiments.

About a dozen members of the Medieval Brewers Guild helped behind the tables, keeping all the pitchers filled, ready for pouring. The Medieval Institute provided the servers, who poured and thus took full legal responsibility. Between all of us, we still had trouble keeping up for a bit! We had an estimated 500 people partake in sampling our medieval offerings.


Medieval Style Ales (a short run-down):

Hildegard’s Mirtelbaum Ale (barley ale with organic myrtle leaves and berries); Hildegard’s Costmary and Fennel Ale (barley ale with costmary & fennel); Hildegard’s Aesh and Oat Ale (60% oats and 40% barley with EU ash tree leaves); Low Country Gruit Ale (oat/wheat/barley ale with bog myrtle, laurel berries, laserwort seeds and resin); Vintage Once-Brewed Saxon (single infusion mash, 11% ABV); Vintage Twice-Brewed Saxon (sparged with wort, 15% ABV); Viking Farmhouse Ale (barley, with yarrow, birch leaves, bilberry & angelica); Dry-hopped Wheat Wine (min. 50% malted wheat, dry hopped for 2 years, 14% ABV) Wormwood and Orange Peel Strong Ale (barley, wormwood, orange blossom sack, and curacao peel – not for pregnant women); Spiced Welsh Braggot (a blend of mead and ale, with galangal, ginger, cloves, pepper and cinnamon, 11% ABV); Hopped vs non-Hopped Experiment (a split batch barley & rye ale; one batch Northern Brewer Hops, other batch bog myrtle, mugwort, elder flower, juniper berries and licorice root).


The stash of mead, ready to be poured.

Meads and Cider:

Traditional Wildflower Sack Mead (24 lbs of honey, 15% ABV); Honey Comb Mead (honey straight from comb, including wax, propolus, pollen and all!); Rose Hips and Heather Metheglyn (24 lbs of honey, 15% ABV); Raspberry Melomel (13% ABV); Mixed Berry Melomel (organic raspberries, blackberries and blueberries; 13% ABV); White Pyment (wildflower sack mead blended 50/50 with Pinot Grigio); Red Pyment (wildflower sack mead blended 50/50 with Merlot); Lime and Ginger Mead (24 lbs of honey, 15% ABV); Hopped Metheglin Sack Mead (hops were used for both ales and meads in the late middle ages, 15% ABV); Spiced Sack Metheglin (Curacao orange peel, ginger); Strong Cyser (50/50 blend of mead and organic apple cider, 12% ABV); Cider / Perry Blend (heritage apple cier 2016, blended with pear concentrate, ca. 6.8% ABV).


Many happy conference attendees, trying one, or two, or several!


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