Illinois’s only true meadery is riding the current wave of interest in the fermented honey beverage
Posted By Julia Thiel
The Chicago Reader
The first time Greg Fischer made mead it was 1975, and he was 15 years old. “It was not very good,” he says of the alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with yeast. “It tasted like rocket fuel. I said, ‘I’m not going to try that again.'” He’d been making wine since he was 12, learning the craft from his grandfather. “I made everything from dandelion wine to sassafras and wintergreen,” he says. “I was intrigued by the fermentation process.” He was more interested in making wine than drinking it, though—until he turned 15. “I was like, oh, I got alcohol here! I started getting a lot more friends.”
Fischer also learned beekeeping in his teens, while working in his uncle’s 300-acre apple orchard in the Hudson Valley. He liked it so much that he decided to make it his profession, studying soil science in college and working for beekeepers all over the country during the summers. After college, though, he was drawn back to wine. He worked at Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World wine school in the World Trade Center, then got a marketing job with Seagram’s that brought him to Chicago.
In 1990, 15 years after he’d sworn off mead making forever, Fischer tried it again. He also began working on a plan for Bev Art, the wine-making and brewing supply store he’d open in Beverly in 1995. He continued to experiment with making mead there, and so did his customers. “We made all kinds of stuff, and customers made all kinds of stuff,” he says. “They’d bring it in, ‘Here’s our peppermint-chocolate cookie mead.’ And sometimes it would be like, ‘This is so good.’ And sometimes . . . it wasn’t.”
Mead was popular in ancient Greece but has fallen out of favor over the last few millennia. In 2001, when Fischer got his license for Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery (located in the Bev Art space), it was the first meadery in Illinois and the first winery in Chicago. In fact, it’s still the only meadery in the state, though there are a few wineries that make one or two meads. Wild Blossom, by contrast, makes two dozen, along with several wines.
Full Story: Illinois’s only true meadery is riding the current wave of interest in the fermented honey beverage
Meadery Profile: Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery