The original mead yeast became beer

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Jan 3, 2016
Reaction score
Good afeternoon, my name is Tailor, I am a German Brazilian mead maker since 2011. I've been doing some research on mead and I'd like to share some of the data I have.
The formation of the word "yeast" Is curious and is even older than the discovery of yeasts as microorganisms. "Yeast" comes from the Middle English "Yeest" which in turn comes from the old English / Saxon "Gist" so far no novelty just the evolution of the pronunciation of the word . But from the Saxon back we have the real meaning. "Gist, ġist and gyst" which is also found in some German dialects until today comes from the proto-Germanic "jestuz" and "gaistaz" both words originating from Proto-Indo-European "ǵʰisd" "Agitation, fury, and also the origin of the words geist, gest, geeste and keist in German for "ghost, spirit, haunting" etc. The word ghost in English also comes from that root. In Old Norse we have "gerð, gær, jöstur and jǫstr words for" action, work "As well as another root that leads to gʰerdʰ- "belt, circle, and also ghost." I believe it is a reference to krausen in fermentation, so the ancient people believed that fermentation was really something supernatural, to say then that yeast is the soul The mead, beer, wine is not wrong in any way.
But if the yeasts were not known how they ended up fermenting the drinks of these people? As we did not know these beings obviously could not be purposely added to the wort as we do today. The answer to this is yes and no.
Although not known, yeasts played a key role in human society and even in nature. Today we can find commercially a wide range of yeasts for the most diverse purposes, but what matters to us is the alcoholic fermentation. The ability of yeast to turn sugars into alcohol. But before that, where did these yeasts come from?
Mead is a remarkably old drink, even before beer and wine exist, it is likely that mead was even produced by nature by the fact that it is easy to obtain.
To make mead basically it is only necessary to add water in an amount that is tolerable for the yeasts to work, which is not much, honey containing an amount of water in its composition exceeding 21% is already a conducive media to the beginning of fermentative activity. Bees over millions of years have developed the ability to "dry" the water used in the process of melting pollen and nectar as well as other secretions, harvested from plants so that it does not ferment and destroy the food reserve of the hive.
The massive composition of honey allied to a low moisture content and an acidic pH makes it an inappropriate media for the development of microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and others. It's not an exterminator I'd say it's more like a selector. The osmotic pressure ends up destroying the cell walls of most of the microorganisms that are contained in it leaving only some very extreme life forms and these in turn fall into numbness waiting for a better opportunity to develop.
There is the key point of the mead.
Mead is the ancestor of all fermented alcoholic beverages!
I knew a while ago of the existence of a lineage of yeasts that had come from the Viking era, the Kveik. Kveik is the traditional yeast used by rural brewers in Norway, it passed from generation to generation among those farmers through logs and wooden spoons called Kveikstokker (literally sticks of Kveik) that stirred the fermenting vats with these rods and ended Transferring the microorganisms among them yeasts from one barrel to another and part of these microorganisms was impregnated in the wood of these logs and at last some ended up adapting and prospering evolving to pure strains of yeasts. Looking like this seems somewhat averse to the design of the mead, the only connection was the fact that they came from Scandinavia. I turned my eyes to the composition of these beers and found the answer.
The mead was originally prepared only with honey and water, no other ingredients (not even the yeasts since they were not even known about them). But honey was something rare and of gigantic value in a primitive society, being by its energetic value or extremely pleasant taste the honey was considered something divine. Worthy of kings and in many folklores considered the drink of the gods.
The word "hidromel"( mead in Portuguese)comes from the Greek ὕδωρmel (húdormel, literally water + honey), but another interpretation can be taken that comes from the same source as the other Indo-European linguistic branches * médʰu "sweet drink".
It seems that we are completely off the subject of yeast, but this information is intrinsically related.
Over time in an attempt to preserve some honey, or to render a little more mead, it began to add more water to the must, however this directly affected the taste of it, a soft and sweet drink gradually became Dry and harsh it is clear that it loses a good part of its bacteriostatic characteristics since the yeasts have a limit of alcoholic tolerance, that is, from a certain point the alcohol from the fermentation becomes harmful exterminating these yeasts, the osmotic pressure Of the must along with the increase in pH facilitated the proliferation of harmful bacteria. The mead became something that intoxicated people.
But once again the human mind found a way, in the attempt to give the pleasant taste to that substance the man looked at the bees. It may seem strange, but it was the bees who taught the man to make the beer (as we know it today). In an attempt to "make honey" ( a taste similar of honey) the man observed that the bees collected the pollen, nectar and other secretions of some specific plants. Among them Achillea milefolium, Myrica gale, Fillipendula ulmaria, Tillia cordata, Humulus Lupulus and sugary secretions of trees. All leaves, flowers and herbs used to temper beer in the Middle Ages (Gruit) and Humulus lupulus until today loved by the brewers as the hops, this nevertheless only had its world consecration after the "Reinheitsgebot" law of the German purity of 1516 that defined that beer had to be composed only of water, malt and hops as a measure of protection to the Consumer avoiding intoxications.
These plants besides others ended up being highlighted by the fact that they contain characteristics that inhibit the development of Gram-positive bacteria responsible for several problems in the drinks until today. In addition to having added fruit and malt to flavor in some cases. In the end everything that could be added to compensate for the lack of honey was put to ferment. It then emerges the term "Alu" intoxicating drink in the Proto-Germanic, but also meaning "fermented". This second meaning is attested in the terms øl, ól, òl, öl and ǫl in the Nordic languages for fermented. In Norwegian Maltøl (beer) is literally fermented malt.
In Gotland, Sweden, is still produced a drink in the same way as it was in the Nordic iron age “gotlandsdricka” literally "Gotland drink" using rudimentary techniques of malt fermentation and in the end honey is used to sweeten. Far away in Lithuania another drink called Keptinis Alus is produced where the malt is milled with hot water turning a ball resembling a loaf and is roasted. After being roasted this "bread" is ground and mixed in a large cask of wood with water and linden flowers in addition to hops. The alcohol content of this beverage is somewhat low at around 2.6-5.5% because of the dextrins that are formed during the baking process, so when available honey is used to attenuate. The two drinks, besides being more than a millennium old, are made very similar if we look at the tools and the barrels themselves where they are prepared. The barrel is usually contains a hole in the bottom that is capped with a piece of wood and a bed of branches of juniper or straw is placed in the bottom of that barrel to function as a false bottom exactly like in beers these days. Several of these barrels have already been found throughout Scandinavia and Germany, suggesting that it was a common technique at that time.
In Keptinis Alus, honey serves as an attenuator while the sweet malt is slightly fermentable, and in Gotland the malt is used as an attenuator even by the starch conversion of malt technique was "domesticated" and honey used to flavor.
Gradually the mead began to turn into beer. Yes now you will probably be questioning about the Egyptian and Sumerian beers. Earlier I said that the bees had taught the man to produce the beer as we know it today and in fact that is it. The beer brewed in ancient Egypt and the Middle East was in fact a fermented malt, but not beer. It was something more like a "malt wine" where the grains were ground and placed to ferment along with date palm fruits. The beer as we met came from Europe.
Once again it seems that we are diverting the subject, but we are not. Where I want to go is the basis of this theory. And that is a strong argument to support this theory of the origin of beer in the mead. The Kveik.
I speaked with the researcher who in fact opened up to the world the existence of Kveik, the traditional Norwegian yeast. Mr. Lars Marius Garshol, is my proud to say that I have your autographed book. Mr. Lars explains in his book the origin of Kveik.
The Norwegian rural beers carried in their composition in addition to malt and water ... honey. And this honey contained the yeasts in dormancy which when diluted in the must ended up fermenting and producing the beer. The wort was stirred with a stick, the stick was impregnated with the yeasts that were transferred to the other tanks and was selecting.
Gradually the honey was being removed from the beers along with the fruits and only the malt, the water, the herbs, the bed of juniper branches and the Kveik remained. This is also attested in several texts of the Edda a collection of ancient writings and the greatest source of studies of the Nordic culture. Which I used as a reference to produce a very specific mead, but I will not dwell on it at this time.
I acquired this yeast called Kveik to produce mead after I came to this conclusion, because my project aims to rebuild the mead described in the ancient texts. I must say that there were a few thousand of brazilian reals in this yeast. But this was the price I paid not for yeast, but for the knowledge I got.
I had prepared the mead according to my previous research and used the Kveik and the result was the worst possible. From the research that I had done the mead in question had a high density and this caused a shock in the yeasts besides having a low alcohol tolerance around 8.8%. I thought "They drank juice then" was something obsessively sweet, with little alcohol and just the aroma of raw honey. Nothing like the mead that I had already done and had even won a prize in my country. What could be wrong?
The problem was simple but it took me a few nights of sleep, the yeast in question had settled down. During the last millennium it mutated so that it was necessary only to ferment malt in beers with an alcoholic content never greater than 9,5% abv.
So I decided to do a little experiment, cultivate my own Kveik. Dilute honey in water in an amount that is not toxic to yeasts I packaged it into a fermentation chamber. As the Brazilian honey does not have in its composition those plants used for its bacteriostatic characteristics, I added them in the must as is done with the beer.
In the nine flasks the fermentation started between 3 and 42 days after the preparation of the must. Lastly I had actually obtained a mass of healthy yeasts with a higher tolerance to osmotic pressure, pH and alcohol content.
In order to recreate the mead recipe described in the Edda I took a look at the vegetation of the countries concerned and asked for samples of honey from all of them. Now again with the data, I looked for the honey that most resembled those, and added the herbs in the must to compensate for their lack in the composition of Brazilian honey.
In addition, I cultivated the yeast present in the honey samples. Now I was able to get closer to the true taste of that mead. But the question where I want to get is not this.
I want to propose something, just as we have yeast for wine, beer and so on. I propose the cultivation of specific yeasts for mead from the honey of each mead maker. I see many similarities between strains grown from honey, such as alcohol content, for example, since all the bees' work served to make this first selection. Each mead maker can have their own yeast strain which makes each mead even more private than buying bulk-sold yeasts. So besides having the particularities like the terroir of honey, the recipe and the process, we will still have the question of the characteristics that can only be transmitted by the yeasts of each producer. Many of you may have real treasures present in the honey that you use to make mead, but prefer to use a commercial strain sold on a large scale. The work is arduous and tiring, but reminiscent of an excerpt from the poem Grímnismál:
"... Eins drykkjar þú skalt aldrigi betri gjöld geta"
"... There is no greater reward for you than this drink."
I hope that my data can be openly debated and that this helps to improve our purpose.
Thanks for your time and sorry for some English spelling errors.
Thank you for this input. The history of mead is something that is very interesting to me, and I have often wondered what the mead of our ancestors would have actually tasted like, since I think we all know it would be nothing like we have become accustomed to today.
I thank you for your comments, briefly I will be posting the information about the exact processes I have used, please do not stop trying too.
I made a short video illustrating the simplest way posível such yeast cultivation can be done at home.
The subtitles are in south brazilian portuguese because it was made for the Brazilian mead group but I believe that by the images can be easily understood.
Last edited by a moderator:
I sent the sample to a laboratory in the capital of my state, and soon I will have the genetic sequencing of all the beings that were grown.
Ladies and gentlemen,I got the results of the genetic sequencing of the "mud" I got through that process that I videotaped a while back. The result confirms my thesis on the origin of modern beer and further reinforces the question of "mead yeast". Three single individuals were found I will give a brief description of them.
Zygosaccharomyces rouxii: It has a high tolerance to osmotic pressure, even being a problem in the food industry such as jellies and sweet jams. It is the main responsible for the production of the aromatic compounds and "caramel" flavor in the soy sauce, also being part of the process of production of sake. The habitat of Zygosaccharomyces is still not fully understood being found mainly in environments of high concentrations of sugar as well as fruits and flowers. It is known to be interconnected with Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Candida bombi: It is mainly related to individuals of the Apidae family (bees, mammoth wasps etc.)
Sacharomyces cerevisiae and our beloved "traditional" yeast.
The three individuals belong to the same realm: Fungi
The three individuals belong to the same phylum: Ascomycota
The three individuals belong to the same class: Saccharomycetes
The three individuals belong to the same order: Saccharomycetales
The three individuals belong to the same family: Saccharomycetaceae
Each individual belongs to a specific gender:
Saccharomyces, Starmerella and Zygosaccharomyces.


Latest posts