There has been a good bit of hoopla recently about a new wonder drink called Elixir. The long and the short of it is that it’s a mead made through a (controlled) wild fermentation which has demonstrated extraordinary antibiotic properties.
Elixir is being hailed by the denizens of the internet as a drink to cure all ills, prevent disease, and save the world. But is it true?
First, let’s see what the researchers have to say in their own words:
Living antibiotics is a natural innovation developed by Swedish researchers Alejandra Vásquez and Tobias Olofsson. Ten years ago they discovered the world´s largest concentration of collaborating beneficial lactic acid bacteria in honeybees. Further research showed that these bacteria work as living factories of antibiotics, producing not just one weapon as conventional antibiotics but hundreds of different weapons in order to fight infections. Living antibiotics revolutionize the concept of antibiotics; from the static compound, which generates resistance; to the active, which generates protection.
So, first we have bit of clarification from all of the articles and videos, the mead itself is not the wonder drug, but rather the wound treatment potential of the honey. The mead is being used to fund and promote the idea (as well as to generate some Reuters worthy content).
Next, the researchers are raising money on Indiegogo, which is not how scientific projects are usually funded. That said, the world is rapidly changing and we think crowd funding science may be the next big thing. Although it removes some accountability, it can also combat certain forms of “science for hire.” Our opinion is that good science should be judged on the quality of the research and not its funding.
Speaking of the research, let’s look into that. Is there really solid, peer-reviewed evidence to support the bold claims that the lactic acid in honey is much, much better than antibiotics? Yes, it appears.
Like good scientists (who want to sell a product), the researchers have conveniently compiled all of their research into one place. You should check it out! Many of the articles are even Open Access, which is pretty rare.
So, dear Meadiacs, here’s what we’ve got:
Go read the science and decide for yourself!
In which Ricky the Meadmaker answers questions about contract brewing, making mead with forest honey, whether or not someone should go pro without having won any awards, what kind of yeast is used for Mannaz Mead, and more!
Are the Finnish people all witches?
You’re probably thinking, “Obviously! All of our Danish and Swedish friends tell us that the Finnish people are all witches, and the Scandinavians are universally an honest and trustworthy people.”
For proof, of course, you could point to Simo Häyhä, an apparently invincible member of the Finnish armed forces who was not only the most successful sniper of any war (basically entirely in the darkness of the Finnish winter), and was then BLOWN UP and was fine.
Then there’s the fact their language is widely considered to be unlearnable. [Citation Needed]
Or what about the fact that Finnish hotels don’t always have locks on the doors? No need! They’re protected by witchcraft.
And yet, some of you may be unconvinced. Therefore, we submit to you one final piece of evidence: Sima.
The Finnish people can decide on Wednesday (their word probably being “peruspalveluliikelaitoskuntayhtymä” or something like that) that they’d like to have mead for dinner on Saturday (they probably don’t even have a word for Saturday since they can make the week have as many or as few days as they like). So, they make a batch of Sima, and damned if three days later they don’t have mead for their friends.
Yes. Three. Flippin’. Days.
The recipe is simple:
1 kilo of honey
10 liters of water
A hefty handful of raisins
Lemon juice or slices
Quick acting yeast
Put it in a crock, and when the raisins rise to the top, drink it.
There you have it. Three days for a batch of mead. Incontrovertible evidence that the Finnish people are witches.
Oh, also, they are almost all super nice, conscientious, and compassionate.
Please don’t put a spell on us.
There are a lot of reasonable complaints about filtered honey:
"Oh, it doesn't have as much flavor."
"It's easy to hide the origin of filtered honey."
"I'm one of the weirdos who thinks that eating things that are 'natural' gives me some sort of bragging rights, but no one else cares or knows why, so I prefer raw honey."
This could explain why so many commercial meads mention their "raw" or "cold processed" honey right on their packaging, website, every conversation you have with them, etc. Maybe, we're all just trying to convince you that our mead is mystically better because we were personal friends with each and every bee who made our honey.
The truth is, as usual, much more interesting. The reason we use barely processed honey is that the residual pollen is extremely important for a happy, healthy mead fermentation. We were going to write up a summary of the current research and data, but then we found out that someone has already done it really, really well.
So, we present to you, the excellent work of the Academic Wino:
Enhancing the Sweet Nectar: The Effect of Pollen Addition on Fermentation and Sensory Characteristics of Mead
Oh, and weird thing we just learned, the Academic Wino is a St. Michael's grad! If she had graduated just a little later, maybe she'd be writing a mead blog...
In which Ricky the Meadmaker answers questions about pollen as a mead ingredient, how ripe fruit should be when it's added to mead, what to do about a stuck fermentation, and how long he was a homebrewer before he went pro.
What is the most expensive part of a carbonated mead?
Here’s a hint: It’s not the bottle, the label, the case, the shipping, or the mead.
In most cases, it’s the bubbles. And it ain’t ’cuz CO2 is expensive neither (it’s free in many cases). Nope, it’s a weird Federal law that’s almost 120 years old.
With a small winery tax credit (good for the first 100,000 gallons of mead), we pay $0.17/gallon, or about 1.6¢ per bottle in excise tax. If the wine is legally sparkling (more on that in a minute), our cost is $3.40/gallon or 34¢ per bottle. (TTB Info Here.)
That means the same mead with bubbles costs the meadery over 20 times more in taxes. To put it another way: That’s more than the 4-Pack, bottle, label, and cap combined.
Let's reiterate: 20 TIMES more just because it has bubbles. That's an order of magnitude, then doubled!
So, how on earth do we sell our product at such a reasonable price with this onerous tax burden for the tiny bubbles?
The answer is easy: put in just the right amount of bubbles.
You see, within the same regulation that mandates this stupendous tax burden, there is also this lovely definition:
Sparkling wine or champagne: An effervescent wine containing more than 0.392 gram of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters of wine resulting solely from the secondary fermentation of the wine within a closed container. (TTB Regulations Here Check out §24.10.)
What does this mean for the layperson? Basically, as long as the carbonation isn’t too high, they don’t consider it carbonated. Furthermore, if the carbonation doesn’t come from yeast, they don’t consider it sparkling. (Incidentally, it also can't say "carbonated" or "sparkling" on the label.)
The problem is that a lot of professionals don’t even know this little codicil and are paying through the nose for no good reason and chances are good that their meads aren’t above the legal limit. How do we know? That carbonation level is actually standard for several styles of beer and is substantially higher than naturally occurring pettilance.
Furthermore, there is substantial confusion about exactly who has to pay the tax and under what conditions. (For example, what if the mead goes into the keg below the threshold, but the bar serving it pushes it above?)
Having meaderies paying this "bubble tax" unnecessarily is hurting the entire mead market, not to mention consumers who are essentially forking over cash for a misreading of a law. It also sets a bad precedent.
If you’re a consumer and you suspect you’re paying too much, reach out to your meadmaker about this issue; it will help everyone in the long run.
If you’re a meadery who’s been having trouble with the carbonation tax, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to help everyone make the best, most profitable mead they possibly can!
Groennfell Meadery is Vermont’s premier craft meadery. Inspired by Old Norse legends, brewed with extraordinary ingredients, Groennfell’s meads are unlike anything you’ve had before. Crisp, clean, and astoundingly drinkable, the only way to explain any one of Groennfell’s meads is to try one yourself.