MEAD: ADDING A LITTLE HISTORY TO THIS YEAR’S HOLIDAYS

I am fortunate enough to have a husband who supports my blog and all its craziness, and as a result, introduces me to people who are doing really interesting stuff. He’s a recruiter, after all – so networking is just something he does naturally. This time around, he’s introduced me to a couple who live on their own farm and make their own mead. And not just mead, but many varietals along the same lines. They are making things I’ve never even heard of!

With the onslaught of fruit we had on our hands this last fall, my husband took it upon himself to make hard cider. At that point, I had never had a hard cider. I am not a huge drinker and I was having visions of something akin to moonshine. I have made homebrew in the past, but that was ages ago. I only vaguely remembered anything useful. But after months of “brewing” we enjoyed the cider immensely. I guess this is where Tom and Anthony connect – brewing.

In their generosity, Anthony and Fey of Silver Cat Farm provided me (OK, Tom too!) with a half dozen samples of their most recent trials. These were:

  • #11 – Dry Jona Gold Cyser – this was lovely! I liked the apple flavor profile and color. This was the smoothest of the samples. I could see pairing this with figs (fruit), cheese and honey.
  • #12 – Lime Spice – the lime was very prominent in this one. Reminded me of too much lime oil or pith giving it that almost “cleaner” smell and bitter taste. Did have a nice cinnamon follow through though, which was a nice note to end on. My least favorite sample, but Tom’s favorite. We were on opposite ends of the flavor scales on these.
  • #13 – Lime Cordial – this was yummy and smooth. Had a lovely bouquet to it. The lime was not overpowering. This was the one sample that both Tom and I could agree on – a happy medium 🙂
  • #14 – Black Tea Metheglin – this had excellent flavor and aroma. Was smooth to drink and nice bouquet. Very much enjoyed this. Not surprising considering I am a tea addict.
  • #15 – Lime & Raisin – Liked this one best of the lime versions. The lime was prevalent, but the raisin offered a mellow follow through. The bouquet was also nice and not too limey.
  • #17 – Cinnamon Metheglin – cloyingly sweet. Reminded me of an ice wine or super sweet Gewürztraminer. Very strong cinnamon flavor and scent. Thought this would be good to pair with apples or pears and a strong cheese. Tom said “This tastes like Christmas!”

I have included my interview notes here for your edification. Enjoy!

How long have you been making mead?

About five years now, recently. Many years ago I made other fermented things, like ginger beers. So I had familiarity with the processes.

What prompted you to make mead in the first place?

I like cider. I prefer cider to beer, in fact, and it’s hard to get decent stuff in the US. When one does get it, the prices are not good, and the selection is thin. Mead was a natural progression because a cyser (honey enriched cider, or apple melomel) is a quick step from cider.

Really, it was more a question of quality and variety than price. The world of fruit wines and meads is so much larger than the (in my view rather ossified) world of grape wine specifically, and yet people hardly imagine what there is to be found. The surprise on their faces the first time they try what we do is usually only matched by the interest in having more.

Do you make other wines or brews?
Cider, perry, melomels, but I try not to think of them as strict types as opposed to points on a continuum.

What came before the 6 samples you gave me?

A couple of pure ciders, a very nice pear melomel, a dry cinnamon metheglin (Note: see link for melomel under Varieties, and one or two failed batches. One batch of cider turned into excellent cider vinegar. This was my fault – I let the airlock go dry.

What do you have planned in the future?

Anything and everything. I have only two criteria: does it taste good, and does it make the room spin? I would like to get the opportunity to try making a good quincy, but together we seem to have a knack for sack meads.

What is a quincy?

  • Cider is fermented apple juice.
  • Perry is fermented pear juice.
  • Plummy is fermented plum juice.
  • Quincy is fermented quince juice.

Do you make these for yourself only? Do you compete with them, or sell them?

Originally it was for ourselves, but even a modest gallon batch takes a little time to drink. Five gallons suggests getting one’s friends involved, and after a dozen batches, and several successes, it was natural to consider going professional. We did the paperwork (a minor nightmare itself) and we are now fully licensed to manufacture for sale. Our first batches for commerce are already under air lock, and by this time next year should be on the market.

On the other hand, we don’t do competitions. It seems like a distraction, and in a thin field (mead isn’t as popular as beer, for instance) the chance of winning a plastic cup doesn’t seem worth the bother.

So what happens with your commercial batches? Where will they be sold?

We have several venues in mind – area restaurants, farmers’ markets and of course direct sales. We would like to consider specialized win merchants too. Honestly, that’s not all settled yet.

Where do you get your flavoring ideas?

We brainstorm ideas. Fey is a very keen cook, and has a great knack for flavor selections, and I bring my own biases.

Is this a seasonal thing for you, or do you make it year-round?

Inasmuch as we want fresh fruit juice, it is inherently seasonal, but the work is definitely year round. Crushing, pressing, racking, bottling, all these come in their own time and can’t be relegated to a couple of weeks in a corner of the year.

Is the honey produced by you/your farm?

Alas, no. Our small farm wouldn’t produce nearly enough honey for much production, so we turn to the local beekeeping community for our sources. On the other hand we have a few acres planted with apple and pear trees, so we should be able to supply some of our own needs.

Do you have a blog or website for your farm?

Our farm blog: http://silvercatfarm.blogspot.com/ It’s a little introspective but it’s partly for ourselves to keep track.

Thanks again for the samples, and for taking the time to educate me on all of this!

You’re certainly welcome. Those, I fear, were our last amateur batches, so the laws of samples apply from here on out, but I’d be happy to furnish you with review samples as they become available. We just have to play ball with the state.

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These have been a joy to experience and I can’t wait to see what Anthony and Fey produce next year!

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4 thoughts on “MEAD: ADDING A LITTLE HISTORY TO THIS YEAR’S HOLIDAYS

  1. We’re naturally flattered that people find it interesting.

    Mead is often regarded as an old timey sort of drink, and it is. There are good reasons, archaeologically speaking, to believe that it’s the oldest form of deliberately created alcoholic beverage. However, just because it is basic doesn’t mean at all that it is without charm.

    Sack meads offer a different experience from the typical meads one gets in shops these days. Many of them are thin and fermented out dry. This can be pleasant with a carefully chosen, very floral honey but some of them end up with largely bitter overtones once all the sweetness is gone. Sack meads on the other hand keep residual sweetness, depending on the characteristics of the yeast and the initial ratio.

    There are so many things which are possible in this field, we could not possibly exhaust them in our lifetimes, so we hope to have a delicious tour while we can.

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