One of us at Drinking Japan had the pleasure of attending JFEX2022, a food and wine exhibition held at Tokyo Big Sight in June. A wide array of beverages were on display and available for sampling, some of which will be presented here in the coming weeks. This week we will focus on one of the earliest alcoholic beverages, which is now being produced by a company on the Boso Peninsula, Chiba Prefecture.
In this era of fake meat, GMOs, lab-grown fare, and chemical additives, it is reassuring to be presented with a beverage that is all natural, simple, pure, delicious, locally produced, and with an extremely long track record for delivering satisfaction. The beverage is mead, or honey wine. Many of our readers will know the taste of this drink and about its presence in some great works of literature, The Canterbury Tales to name but one. They will also be familiar with claims that it is the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world. It may be, of course, but there is no way to prove such an assertion. As Rod Phillips makes abundantly clear in his Alcohol: A History, assertions regarding alcoholic drinks in the pre-Neolithic era can only be speculative, as remnants of the vessels used to store them, probably wood or leather, have long gone the way of the angels’ share. “These discoveries [found in pottery from the Neolithic period] raise the question of whether evidence of wine and beer dating to pre-Neolithic times…will ever be found, simply because the vessels used to hold the liquids…have totally disintegrated.”
Hachimitsu Koubou (Honey Studio) is located in Kimitsu City. It is an apiary and mead brewery. The company’s concept, as stated in its English-language promotional literature, is to make the “Honey Studio…a place where you can enjoy honey with all of your five senses…,” a kind of total immersion, if you will. Though the buzzing of the bees was not present at Tokyo Big Sight, this writer’s other senses served him well, and the evaluation of Hachimitsu Koubou’s mead, especially the sparkling version, was highly favorable. It has a beautiful clover-honey color, enough CO2 to enliven the palate, a pleasant sweetness, and an ABV of 10%. The still version was very good, as well, but for this writer, the effervescence brought out more of the drink’s appealing attributes; i.e., honey, simplicity in its best sense, and an alcohol content that enriches but does not dominate the beverage.
1Phillips, R. Alcohol: A History (University of North Carolina Press, 2014).