Mead. It is the libation of Vikings, the draught of kings, and the refreshment of renaissance festivals. It is the stuff of legends, history, and mythology. But while the fermented honey beverage is indeed a drink nearly as old fermentation itself, it is hardly an obsolete intoxicant. In fact, these two Texas meaderies (out of at least a dozen across the state) are bringing mead back into the mainstream, proving that while the drink may be some nearly 10,000 years old, it is just as deliciously modern now as it was then. Read about Honey Buzz Winery at Creek House Honey Farm, Rohan Meadery at Blissful Folly Farm, and Elgin Meadery in the September/October print issue of Texasliving.
Mead: An Introduction
For those unfamiliar with mead, it starts with honey, of which mead requires a tremendous amount. According to Wendy Rohan, co-owner of Rohan Meadery at Blissful Folly Farm in La Grange, drier meads need two to two and a half pounds of honey per gallon and sweeter meads closer to four to five pounds per gallon. That is a lot of honey.
That honey gets diluted with water, yeast is added, then fermentation and aging begin, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. It can be still or carbonated, have a low ABV or high, and may even contain additional ingredients and flavors like fruit.
Of course, it is the honey that makes mead, mead, and where it comes from determines the final product’s flavor: meads that use mono-floral sources like citrus blossoms offer a more consistent profile while constantly changing wildflower honey brings an ever-evolving flavor to locally-produced meads. But that is part of what makes the beverage so interesting.
“I personally really like that mead has such awesome potential to capture the terroir of a region due to the floral sources that the bees use in the area to produce their honey,” Micah Erwin said, mead maker and owner at Elgin Meadery. So, sip on these for a true taste of Texas.
Meridian Hive Meadery
Perhaps the most well-known and widely distributed Texas mead on the market, Meridian Hive Meadery, makes something a little different: a low-alcohol, carbonated mead that offers higher drinkability and great portability for those long, hot Texas summers. “I liken it to us making the pilsner of the beer world when everyone else is making Imperial Stouts,” Mike Simmons said, director of product development and head mead maker.
As for the honey the meadery uses, at least 60 tons are required a year, and since it is tough to source that quantity locally, the brand branches out to regional suppliers who can offer quality and consistency, including from northern Mexico.
Flavors and varieties available from Meridian Hive Meadery include peach, lemon, and straight-up honey, though blackberry has long been a crowd favorite. For something unique, try the hopped tropical. There are also drier, lower-calorie options dubbed Skinny Bee, including blueberry, cranberry, grapefruit, and acai berry.
Find it: All major retailers around Texas or on their website at https://www.meridianhive.com/finder.
WildFlyer Mead Company
Located on the BeeWeaver Honey Farm, the oldest continuously operating beekeeping and honey farm in Texas, WildFlyer Mead Company offers visitors the opportunity to see the entire lifecycle of the mead they make, from the bee yard to the honey house to the mead facility.
While WildFlyer’s goal is to use honey from right there on the farm for all their mead, they source from local Texas beekeepers and farmers when demand exceeds supply.
WildFlyer Mead’s flagship mead, Imperius, is a traditional mead made with estate honey and is a best seller in the tasting room. “That really speaks to the quality of honey that we produce here. And it’s a testament to the quality of product that we try to make,” co-owner and Mead Maker Jeff Murray said. However, the blueberry mead made with berries sourced from Tyler, Texas, is also a popular choice. For low-alcohol meads, look no further than session meads like the Almost Paradise with lime, orange, and sea salt.
Find it: At the WildFlyer Mead Tasting Room and BeeWeaver retail store, 16481 County Road 319, Navasota, Texas 77868. Also, find it at a few locations in College Station, Brenham, Houston, and the surrounding metro area, or on their website: www.wildflyermead.com.