When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, the “trinity” plays a pretty prominent role. As a celebration with deep christian roots, the holy trinity of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit is front and center. In fact, perhaps the most recognizable symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, the three leafed shamrock, is also tied closely to the trinity. According to lore, St. Patrick used the shamrock as a teaching tool to explain the holy trinity and christianity.
Of course here at The Sap House Meadery, we are also interested in the other thing synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day; the consumption of spirits! So when it comes to raising a glass in honor of St. Patrick, what is the holy trinity of alcoholic beverages? That’s easy!
Guinness. Irish Whiskey. Mead (Miodh in Ireland)!
LATE TO THE PARTY
In fact, given that mead, is the oldest of Irish alcohols, we’d logically argue mead should sit at the head of the table for the holiday feast. It is believed mead is the oldest alcohol in the world, about 9,000 years old. So it’s safe to say, that when the Irish held their first Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, sometime around the 9th or 10th century, that mead was well represented at the table.
Now don’t get us wrong. We love a good Guinness, and there’s no debate Ireland produces some of the finest Whiskey in the world.
But here’s the thing…they both were a little late to the party.
It wasn’t until 1759 that the legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery opened its doors in Dublin and poured it’s legendary stout. But what about Whiskey? What about Jameson’s? Again, the earliest record of whiskey production in Ireland was in 1405, or about four or five hundred years after the first feast of St. Patrick.
By the time Whiskey showed up on the scene, Teach-Miodhchuarta (the mead hall) at the ancient royal site on the Hill of Tara had been in existence for at least 600 years. Tara was the seat of The High Kings of Ireland, and an ancient and ceremonial burial site. Ancient texts show pretty detailed drawings of the mead hall nestled in and among this the burial ground.
MI NA MEALA
So not only does the historical timeline support the notion mead is the elder statesman of spirits, but it is clear it holds a revered place in Ireland. Whether it’s ancient history, or the Ireland of today, mead continues to shape Irish Culture. You may have heard that the term honeymoon stems from the tradition of newlyweds, in ancient times, drinking mead for one cycle of the moon because they believed it promoted fertility.
While the honeymoon tradition is reported in a number of cultures from Norse to Greek, it is best documented in the Irish and Celtic traditions. In fact, the Irish word for honey is “Meala”, and The Month of Honey, or “Mi na meala” refers to the month after the wedding when newlyweds celebrated by drinking the mead they were given as wedding gifts.
Even today, in Ireland, and in some weddings in the United States, it is customary to recite the following, centuries old, Irish toast at the wedding:
Friends and relatives, so fond and dear,
’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here.
When many years this day has passed,
fondest memories will always last.
So we drink a cup of Irish mead
and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.
On this special day, our wish to you,
the goodness of the old, the best of the new.
God bless you both who drink this mead,
may it always fill your every need.
So whether it’s death (The Hill of Tara) or marriage (Mi Na Meala) mead holds a sacred place in Ireland. This St. Patrick’s Day, if you are serious about celebrating Irish Culture, make sure our award winning Sap House Mead’s are leading the charge. They shouldn’t be hard to find, as any good Irish pub likely has some on hand.
We checked in with Nora Mulkern of Jackson, N.H.’s famed Shannon Door Pub. For 68 years, the Shannon Door has been a mecca for all things Irish, and mead is no exception.
“While not everyone in NH is familiar with mead, our Irish customers certainly know all about it,” Mulkern said. “As an Irish pub we are fortunate to have world class meads made right here in Mt. Washington Valley”.
So rest assured, with Shamrock’s in the air, we here at The Sap House Meadery will be out and about on March 17th, spreading mirth and merriment. We will be pouring mead, and doing our part to make sure the holy trinity of St. Patrick’s Day drinks, mead, Irish Whiskey and Guinness lands in good hands!
You can find out more about them on their website.
Author: Joe Fernald
Everybody knows Joe! A native son of Jackson. When he's not slinging mead behind the bar or on the road you can find him building his own company, Winnipesauke Whisker Oil. The absolute best beard and skin care around.