The riveting, cruel, imaginary, yet so real world of the Game of Thrones will enthrall us once again, and for the last time on screen, in this final season. And once again, food will be laid on wooden, hard hewn or gilded tables for quick meals and unhurried feasts at roadside inns or castles, from Castle Black to Winterfell to the Red Keep, and in the far-away lands across the Narrow Sea.
When thinking of GOT, maybe food is not what comes to your mind, but it comes to mine. As do drinks. Especially today.
In the GOT world, wine is the drink of the wealthy and the South. Sweet, fruity, summerwine, they call the best version of it. Mead seems to be of the North. There, unlike under the sweet abandon of wine, it allows both small folk and lords to honour the ‘winter is coming’ motto of warning and incessant vigilance.
In the world we live in, mead is one of the oldest fermented beverages. Distinct from the one from my ancestral land, where it is made by adding honey to brandy (a spirit distilled from wine), in my current neck of woods, mead is fermented from honey, with addition of water, fruit, spices, grain or hops, into a carbonated drink. It can also be found as a still honey wine, and in either case comes in a full range of sweetness, dry to sweet.
Have you ever tried mead? I hadn’t. To get a sense of the spectrum of tastes that two of the incarnations bring, one closer to beer, another closer to wine, I decided to try one of each.
Trafalgar Mead Braggot comes from Trafalgar Ales and Meads in Oakville, Ontario. Braggot is a kind of mead, I found out, of Welsh origin, that used to be brewed with honey and hops or honey and malt, with or without hops added. This one blends malt-forward ale with a traditional mead. It is a deep golden yellow colour, carbonation crowning it with a white head that dissipates quickly. Subtle yet mesmerizing floral aromas of lilac and violets, honey and lemon come back on the palette, and lead to a medium long lemony finish. The 8.5% alcohol is nicely balanced with the well-judged sweetness and layered flavours. It is a refreshing drink that would pair well with food, but alas was tasted on its own.
Moniack Mead hails from Lyme Bay Winery in the UK, where it is fermented, blended, and aged. It is a rich honey-brown colour still wine. After the first pungent whiff dissipates, it gives intense aromas combining, what I would discern, orange pekoe tea, orange blossom, green walnut and chamomile. Tastes are still complex though more subtle with a pronounced candied orange peel that nicely lingers on the finish. Although its sugar content likens it to icewine, it is not cloying, and with 14.6% alcohol it is well balanced (with what I would surmise would be some ample and welcome acidity). Its sugar levels made me chill it, which may be contrary to the makers’ suggestions, but worked well as an aperitif. It paired beautifully with the silkiness of a spicy 4-peppercorn glazed pork and chicken liver pate, the heat of chorizo, and the seed-based spices of landjäger sausage. The way it nicely handled the spicy heat, I could see it also pairing well with hot Thai dishes.