Lancashire Mead - the drink made by a Bolton pagan

Gordon Baron of The Lancashire Mead Company

Gordon Baron of The Lancashire Mead Company - Credit: Archant

A druid from Bolton is providing the solution for drinkers who feel the need for mead, as Paul Mackenzie reports

When a teenage Roundhead’s mum handed him a glass of mead at a party in Bolton, she can’t have realised the impact it would have. Gordon Baron had attended the fancy dress do as a Cromwellian soldier and thirty years on he is making hundreds of litres of traditionally produced mead every month.

The 48-year-old gave up his job as a lorry driver last Easter to concentrate on his new business and although production only began in earnest late last year, Gordon’s mead is already stocked in pubs in Bolton and Chorley.

Before he launched the Lancashire Mead Company Gordon, who became a druid a decade ago, had already developed a loyal fanbase among Pagans in the region for whom mead is an important part of rituals and ceremonies.

‘People at the ceremonies liked my mead and wanted to buy it from me,’ he said. ‘I got a really good following from the Pagan community and they all liked the fact that it was made in the traditional way. It reached the stage where that many people wanted to buy it I realised I was going to have to do it properly and make a business of it.

‘Many of the meads that are available are made with white wine and that can’t be a true mead. Mine is just pure honey, water and yeast with a hint of fruit flavour in the background.

‘At the time I started the business I was working 70 hours a week driving lorries and was away four or five nights a week but I couldn’t carry on like that and make a go of the business so I handed in my notice a year ago.’

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Since then Gordon, who has three children and one grandchild, has begun production at a unit in Horwich where he currently makes 280 bottles a fortnight and he is already considering doubling his output to meet demand.

Each batch of Gordon’s mead is different as the honeys he uses vary throughout the seasons but the alcohol content is consistently higher than other meads on the market at between 17 and 19 per cent ABV.

‘It is strong and warming,’ Gordon said. ‘The earliest records of a fermented honey drink date back around 9000 years and the mead I make is ideal for drinking out in the open around the camp fire, it’s full of the warmth of the honey and the warmth of the alcohol.’

Gordon became involved in druidry in 2004 after a chance meeting in a Bolton pub. ‘I was a member of the Church of England but I had a moment of revelation when I was kneeling at the altar and realised it wasn’t for me,’ he said. ‘I walked out of church when I was 13 and I went through a period of spiritual emptiness.

‘I was interested in the occult but I couldn’t find anything that fitted what I was. Then one day in 2004 I was in the Alma Inn – which now stocks my mead – when I felt someone walk in. I turned and saw the man, who was wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt and was covered in tattoos, and although I didn’t know him and wouldn’t normally have thought we had much in common, I felt an immediate connection.’

Gordon is now is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids which this year marks its 50th anniversary, and although much of is mead is drunk by druids (and they’ll be getting through plenty of it at a gathering in North Yorkshire next month) there is a lot of interest from outside the Pagan community too.

He has no plans to export but there have enquiries from America, South Africa and Australia and he has considered trying to get it on shop shelves. It should also be available to buy online soon.

Mead and you

Tradition has it that mead should be drunk by a newly married couple for a month and their wedding. This is said to be where the word ‘honeymoon’ comes from, honey from the mead and moon from the period between full moons.

Gordon provides bottles to Pagan wedding ceremonies, called ‘handfastings’, and can supply personalised bottles. Mead is also supposed to have aphrodisiac qualities but Gordon says he can not verify those claims.