Did Vikings Drink in Mead Halls?

Did Beowulf rip off Grendel’s arm? (That’s a resounding yes for any non-Beowulf’ers.) There’s no doubt that Vikings once drank in grand mead halls. History tells us that these libation palaces might’ve also been called feasting halls, or Viking party playhouses. Don’t fact check us on the latter.

So why exactly are vikings associated with mead halls? Was there such a thing as a Viking mead hall? And while we’re at it, why is mead so delicious?

We have answers. Admittedly, some might be subjective and pair best with a glass of mead.

Vikings and Mead

Viking accessories: horn, feather, and pouch of circular tree bits with symbols on them.

Image: Carla Santiago / Unsplash

We who hail at Batch Mead love the recent zeitgeist hoopla over mead. But it’s not like the nectar of the gods is a new kid on the block — it’s been around forever. Like, forever ever. In fact, mead is the oldest alcoholic beverage out there. Step aside, beer. Get outta here, wine.

From a purely old-as-dirt perspective, it makes sense that our ax-wielding, horns-a-wearing friends drank mead in between rowing heavy boats, wrestling bears, and preparing for the “long winter.” (Arrr, these long winters…they chill your bones, they do!)

Yes, we went full pirate. Not sure why. Drink your mead.

We’ve explored the connection between Vikings and mead before. Turns out the Vikings were pretty knowledgeable about beekeeping practices. They extracted pure honey from hives and used it to make high-quality mead; however, in an effort to not be wasteful, they’d also crush and soak the honeycombs in water.

See: Double the mead.

If you were a Viking elite, you probably got to drink the good stuff. Lower down on the social totem pole and you’d find yourself sipping the crushed honeycomb mead. Honestly, it probably still tasted delightful.

A Viking Mead Hall?

Reconstructed Viking longhouse in Denmark. Wooden foundation with roof. 28.5 meters long.

A reconstructed Viking hall in Denmark. Image: Malene Thyssen

Here’s the truth — Viking mead halls existed in the sense that there were mead halls populated by Vikings who drank mead. Simple as that.

Early mead halls trace back to between the 5th century and Early Middle Ages (hence their habitual connection to Vikings). Our friends at Wikipedia list a few non-drinking related purposes for mead halls:

  • Housing a lord and their retainers (le sigh…)
  • A social gathering spot that granted lords the ability to watch over the endeavors of their subjects (weird…)
  • Serving as the great hall of a king (seen in literally every medieval times-y show ever…)

A team of archeologists unearthed the foundation of an ancient Viking mead hall in southern Sweden in 2014. It was the size of a modern football field! That would’ve fit a LOT of Vikings. Perhaps too many Vikings.

Anyhow, literature has bestowed upon us plenty of mead hall examples. There’s the mead hall from Beowulf, of course, as well a thousand and one locations from Game of Thrones. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings also has a mead hall — Meduseld, the Golden Hall of Rohan.

In addition to being ginormous, a Viking mead hall would’ve been made from wood. Fireplaces were common, especially in harsh weather conditions.

Who enjoyed the sanctity of a mead hall remains up in the air. There’s a good chance political and class systems dictated those deemed worthy enough to partake in mead hall activities. Gross, but true.

Today’s Mead Hall

Cut out the political elitism that came with ancient mead halls, and what do you have? A place for gathering and socializing. Is that not what our pubs, taverns, bars, and lounges are for today?

Speaking of socializing – have you tried Batch Mead? If you’re a Temecula, CA local (or just visiting), stop on by for your very own taste of glory.

Bottle of Batchmead's Pineapple Dream mead with tasting notes.

Batch Mead is a husband-wife duo using fresh and local ingredients to concoct a variety of tantalizing mead options. And if you’re not local, that’s okay. We ship! Chances are the Vikings didn’t drink Pineapple Dream Mead, but you can.

Oh, and to answer the last question — why is mead so delicious?

Because it just is. Drink up.