They may knock back a fair amount of it in Westeros, but mead has a modern side, too
By: William Bostwick
Oct. 3, 2014 4:26 p.m. ET
The Wall Street Journal
MEAD TENDS TO conjure images of Renaissance Faires and “Game of Thrones.” Yet the warehouse headquarters of San Francisco Mead Company, in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, are markedly modern. Clutching scientific sampling vials, owners Oron and Sarah Benary move among the 300-gallon plastic tanks where honey and water are fermenting with yeast. Their flagship California Gold, a still, dry mead, is sharp and bright—a far cry from the cloying sweetness many people expect from this drink.
Mead can be sparkling or flat, sweet or dry, flavored with fruits and herbs, strong as Port or refreshing as pilsner. But at its core, it’s about the honey. San Francisco Mead Company gets theirs, redolent of sage and pine, from the Mendocino forest. Other mead makers seek out dark, tobacco-like New Zealand leatherwood or light, sweet Tupelo honey. Some of the oddest honeys make the best meads. Gordon Hull of Heidrun Meadery in Marin County, Calif., says carrot-blossom honey can taste downright rancid: “Frankly, I don’t know how the bees can tolerate it.” And yet the sparkling mead he makes with it is gloriously smooth, spiced and earthy.
The phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder has made honey more precious than ever. Commercial beekeepers in the U.S. are losing about a third of their hives every year. It’s hardly surprising, then, that some mead makers approach their craft with a reverence normally reserved for wine. Others see creative opportunity in mead’s relative obscurity: Those unfamiliar with the drink are hardly likely to be scandalized by the liberties they take. South Africa’s Makana Meadery makes a beguiling birds-eye chili mead, and the Mead Kitchen, a little upstart in Berkeley, is dry-hopping their mead like beer. Heidrun uses Champagne bottles; Boulder, Colo.’s Redstone Meadery packages some of their offerings in humble cans.
Full Story: Meads of the Moment