By Jason Stein | June 7, 2016 | 2:51pm
Photo via Schramm’s/Facebook
On Nine Mile Road in the town of Ferndale, Michigan sits what many consider to be today’s mecca for mead. Ken Schramm, who first opened Schramm’s in 2013, is the “compleat” meadmaker to those who have been able to enjoy his craft. Throughout the years, Ken has been able to use his drive for success to craft some of the most delicate and distinct fruited and spiced meads out there.
Since co-founding the Mazer Cup Invitation in 1992, Ken has been at the forefront of the mead industry. Even after all of the success, he’s in no way slowing down. Whether it’s researching new fruits, looking into barrel aging, or increasing production, Ken Schramm is continuously setting the bar higher. I sat down with Ken to discuss how he first got interested in mead, his thoughts on a mead boom, and what’s in store for Schramm’s in 2016.
Paste: How did you first get into making mead? Were there any meaderies or breweries that influenced you when you first started?
Ken Schramm: I got a copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian in a brew kit that my brother Mike gave me for Christmas in 1987. My brother in law, Andy Henry, also got the same gift, and he made a batch of porter that he brought to a trout fishing trip we took the following spring. It was fantastic. I went home from that trip and dove right into the book. There was an appendix in the back that talked about mead like it actually was made by the Gods.
I think I had made two batches of mead, and when I met Bill Pfeiffer, he clued me into how to make them really well. I was hooked. Bill and I joined the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, and before we knew it, we had started the Mazer Cup, and were doing the first “mead matrix” that I had heard of. We made 13 batches [using different yeast strains, different varietal honeys…] We took the whole thing to the 1994 American Homebrewers Conference in Denver and presented the experiment and let everyone taste the meads. It was pretty cool. Byron Burch, Charlie Papazian, and Bill Pfeiffer were pouring our meads. People loved it. That led to articles, and eventually I ended up writing The Compleat Meadmaker.
When I got started, there were meads from Pirtle’s and Bargetto that I could get my hands on. Beyond that, not much was being distributed in Michigan other than Starapolska from Poland. That was a big reason we started the Mazer Cup. We wanted to taste what great mead makers from around the country were doing, and it worked.