Pre-dating agriculture and the written word: Mead has various orgin stories
Supposedly, a long time ago, a thirsty group of people stumbled upon the contents of a beehive that had been left open to the rain. They quenched their thirst with this honey water that, with the help of some wild yeast, had fermented. Eager to once again enjoy what they deemed, "the nectar of the gods," mankind's quest began to duplicate and perfect the process. Fermentation was not really understood however until the 1800's. This unpredictable (or "magical") fermentation process led to a long legacy of mead being linked with mystical and religious qualities.
Throughout European cultures, honeybees were considered to be messengers of the gods. With this belief, and the euphoric effects of alcohol, it is no wonder mead was considered the drink of the gods, and; therefore, believed to have sacred and magical properties. It has been long suspected that the Greek priestess' of Delphi drank mead made from honey with nectar from slightly toxic plants to induce their prophetic states, and visions of the future. For the rest of the common folk, mead was believed to prolong life, vitality and health.
Mead's "magical" health properties made it an ideal wedding present to wish a couple a happy, long and fertile marriage. (It also didn't hurt to have a reputation as an aphrodisiac)Across Europe, newlyweds were presented with a month's, or moon's, worth of mead that they were expected to drink every night for the first month of their marriage. From this tradition, what we now know as "the honeymoon" was born.
Being more inexpensive and easier to mass produce, wine grew quickly in fertile southern regions; thus, causing mead production in this region to dwindle. Mead was still produced in the south on a much smaller scale during this time, for use in sacred & religious ceremonies.
In the north, mead remained the drink of choice as vine plants did not fair well in the colder climates. (ex: Norse/Celtic societies) This bias towards mead remained (and still remains to some degree) until trade routes became more economically viable than on site production of mead. As such, non-agricultural societies - such as the Vikings - placed great value on mead. Mead was a drink for the masses in these cultures, from their feasting halls that were also know as "mead halls" to their mythology with divine maidens awaiting warriors in Valhalla (the afterlife) with a draught of mead. Mead was a part of everyday life for the Vikings.
As mankind perfected the process of fermentation they discovered with agriculture there were much easier ways to make sweeteners and alcoholic beverages; therefore, beekeeping and mead production, slowly began to dwindle. Thanks to the church's need for beeswax candles - mead did not completely disappear. As beekeeping lost it's popularity, and mead became more rare, catholic monks continued to run apiaries in their monasteries to produce beeswax candles. They had no need for the honey - as sugar had replaced honey as an inexpensive sweetener; therefore, to harvest the wax comb they would simply rinse the hive out with water. When they were done harvesting the wax, they were left with a honey water mixture. Not to be wasteful, the monks created their own mead, a beverage that, at this point in time, had become a rare commodity. As such, mead became an expensive beverage, that still held its "mystical" reputation and was sought out by nobles & royalty.
Today, mead is still a rare commodity - being produced on a much smaller scale than it's younger grandchildren beer & wine. The mead that is produced today varies greatly producer to producer with various flavors and alcohol content. Some mead is made with hops - making it closer to a beer. Others, are made with fermented fruit - so it is closer to a "honey wine." Still others can be fermented to almost a hard liquor level of alcohol. Click here to see more on different types of mead
Dawg Gone Bees mead is what is known as a "Show Mead," meaning it is made with honey, water & yeast (no spices or fruits) - a recipe that is the closest to the original discovered in that tree stump thousands of years ago.
With today's growing awareness of how fragile the environment is, mead made from local honey is the perfect beverage for those looking to support sustainable agriculture/farming. Compared to a modern vineyard, apiaries do not rely on gas guzzling tractors, fertilizers, and mechanized irrigation systems. These technologies not only tend to harm the environment, but also replace hands on labor; which leads to less "in the field" jobs. Instead, apiaries require hands on manipulation of hives - work that cannot be done by machines. Large scale commercial beekeeping requires lots of labor, which means more jobs. Producing mead from locally sourced honey is a more sustainable process, both environmentally and economically.