What was once old is new again with mead. The world’s oldest alcoholic beverage is becoming the newest star on the craft beverage scene. Mazer, the correct term for a mead-maker, Martin Henderson is making lovely, delicate meads utilizing local honey, fruit and spices from the Okanagan Valley at Honeymoon Meadery in Vernon, British Columbia. Henderson worked as general manager for Planet Bee Honey Farm beginning in 2010 and when the company decided to open a meadery and began trial batches in 2011, Martin was their man. “I had never previously done any brewing or mead-making or winemaking so it was a completely new skill to me,” he says.
Mead is a wine-like beverage made exclusively with honey, water and yeast, in which the alcohol content can vary between 7 to 20 percent. In addition to traditional meads, Honeymoon Meadery also produces metheglins (mead with the addition of spices), melomels (mead produced from fruit and honey) and cysers, mead produced from apples and honey.
1) Mead is the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage and is undergoing a renaissance. Do you think there is a “Game of Thrones” effect to its surge in popularity?
Yes, we definitely believe the increasing popularity of mead has a lot to do with shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Vikings.” I think the craft beverage scene which is exploding all over the world, also helps in the success of mead. People are looking for a beverage with a story, [that] is crafted locally, perhaps using ancient or historic techniques. People want that beverage they can serve to guests or friends and impress them with the stories that go along with it and how it came to be.
2) As a mazer, do you have any interaction with the bees? How do you source the best honey for your mead?
Aside from working on an active honey farm, I am not a beekeeper, so I don’t have direct contact with the inner workings of the beehives — I save that for our full time beekeepers. As part of our land-based winery license we are required to use BC-sourced honey in all of our meads. This means we can use our local Okanagan Gold honey is many of our meads, which is sourced locally from our very own beehives. Our customers really appreciate the fact that we are using our own local honey in our mead.
3) What are your pipe-dreams for mead? Any special brews you’d like to make?
One of the meads we are currently testing is a braggot, or beer-style mead made with hops. We are always fielding questions from customers asking for this style of mead and we are in the process of testing several different types of hops and honey combinations to try and create IPA-style mead in the coming months.
4) What is your favorite way to enjoy a glass of mead? Any recommended pairings?
My favorite way to enjoy a glass of mead is with good company — your spouse, friends or family. My favorite pairing is with a glass of Oak & Honey Rapture next to a fire in the winter after a long day spent outside skiing. Nothing warms you up like a nice glass of mead.