It seems that elsewhere in America, mead is about to have its moment.
Take New York, for instance, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in January a farm meadery license, the next step in a progressive list of actions taken by the state government to loosen regulations for craft beverage producers. New York already has robust wine, beer, spirits, and cider industries. Mead is the logical next step, and the license gives makers the ability to offer tastings, sell their product in tasting rooms, and distribute their product, so long as the honey comes from New York.
That means meaderies are beginning to show face, and the honey-based alcoholic beverage popularized at renaissance fairs is finding new fans.
In Texas, mead makers already have some rope, as they’re included in the winery license since more than half of their fermentable sugars come from an agricultural product (honey). So meaderies can distribute in and out of state. They can offer tastings at farmers’ markets.
And yet, it’s hard to find mead in Houston. In fact, there are no devoted meaderies within a 50-mile radius of the city. Craft Beer Cellar downtown carries mead, but on a recent visit the only Texas offerings came from Meridian Hive Meadery in Austin, plus a couple spare bottles of Griffin Meadery Fuego, a jalapeño-tinged mead. Problem is, Griffin closed down in 2017; Bruce Leslie, owner and head brewer at Griffin, intimated in a Facebook comment in 2017 that sales weren’t strong enough to continue operation.
So it’s just Meridian Hive, plus Enchanted Manor Meadery on the grounds of the Texas Renaissance Festival. Ben Smith at Enchanted Mead said in an email that they've "seen a 30-percent year-over-year increase in revenue." Also (somewhat) nearby are Rohan Meadery out in La Grange and Dancing Bee at Walker Honey Farm in Rogers. Nothing close by. So why is it so hard to find mead in the Bayou City?
(Note: There's also Black's Fairy Meadery in West Columbia, which started in October 2017 and offers four flavors: black currant lime, black currant cacao, orange blossom, and lime.)
“A lot of the places where we see there’s a higher demand, you have colder weather,” says Steve Labac, beervangelist and owner of Craft Beer Cellar. “I got a store in Missouri and we sell mead like crazy up there.”
So blame the limited local market on the heat, keeping mead an extremely niche product made by primarily small-batch producers. But while one may think a honey-based beverage doesn't work in summer, not all meads are created equal. They can be dry and refreshing, and more recently, meaderies have started offering a lower-alcohol-by-volume product in cans for the backyard set. Meridian Hive has already caught on to that.
So don't just shun the mead. If you're looking to find out what it's all about, here’s where to get it around here:
Living by the word of Tolkien since 1972, the Hobbit Cafe is a reliable mainstay for mead, as well as outstanding beer from across the world. It currently lists three Enchanted Manor offerings, four Meridian Hive styles, and three styles from Moonlight Meadery in New Hampshire.
The popular beer bar and emporium carries Enchanted Manor, Meridian Hive, and Moonlight to purchase and take home, and it will sometimes feature mead on one of its 32 taps.
Grab an ever-changing selection of Meridian Hive and Moonlight here. Meridian Hive is currently on tap, along with a B. Nektar fusion of mead and cider, heavier on the tart apple taste.
UPDATE: Also, Enchanted Manor Meadery's earl gray mead is available at Cobble & Spoke, which we recently featured in Gastronaut.