Discovery was a culmination of a lot of different perspectives...
I was fairly proficient at beer making before a fellow home brewer, Mark Schoppe introduced me to mead. My first reaction was “Wow, this is quite different, and very tasty.” This piqued my interest for sure, and over the course of the next couple of years I increased my knowledge of mead and gained exposure to a variety of styles by judging several home-brew competitions.
The majority of mead in this initial experience was of Still style (uncarbonated), higher alcohol (>13%), and tended to be on the sweet side, somewhat similar to Port wine. I’m a Texas native and I enjoy the fact that the weather is hot for almost 1/2 of the year. However, at the time I didn’t know a huge number of casual Port drinkers, so I didn’t really think much of it as an everyday drink in the hot weather here in Austin.
As I began to get more serious and educated about creating wine and mead, I noticed and appreciated the technique differences between making agricultural wine and beer. I was also surprised that (according to the style guidelines for judging) there wasn’t much thought given to mead with less than 10% ABV. So I started making some lower alcohol batches to find out for myself why it wasn’t a popular craft.
My first few batches didn’t taste or smell like much at all. But my brewing experience had taught me the effects of adding carbonation to an initially flat beer. I decided to try it with the mead and I really like the results. After a few iterations, I felt like I had gotten a highly drinkable mead, but I still wasn’t sure who I was really making it for.
Around the same time, hard apple cider was starting to crop up in a few cutting edge beer bars. (Quick aside, Central Texas isn’t exactly the best climate for growing apples, so we are well behind some of the northern states in our appreciation for apple cider). I decided to position my newly created, super refreshing, low alcohol, gluten-free and carbonated mead as an alternative at the craft beer bars. It was now time to make a move, so I partnered up with Eric and we formed Meridian Hive.
We came up with a plan to start several pilot batches with a goal of finding the right combination of honey varietal and yeast. Additionally, we started experimenting with a few different techniques to reduce the time to make the mead. I’m not sure if I should mention, but not all of the experiments were successful. The biggest challenge was wrangling the yeast. We were prodding them to do their job at the fastest possible pace while trying not to make them angry. Without going into too much technical detail, when yeast get angry, they don’t exactly put out the best flavors for the mead. We eventually came up with a great combination and a workable technique to create a batch in around 20 days.
The final challenges revolved around ramping up from a small pilot to a large-scale production batch, It should be noted that I was personally terrified when we first pumped $5000 worth of honey into a tank for the first time – what could possibly go wrong? We learned a lot along the way, but I’ll save those details for a future post.
I really wanted a name to reflect what I was trying to do…to give the public a chance to love mead. This was a new craft, very approachable and very drinkable. I thought it would be a great way to make your discovery into the world of mead. With solid aromatics, flavor that strongly suggests orange blossom flowers, off dry sweetness and a crisp finish…I hope you love it as much as I do.
Mike Simmons is the head mead maker and face of Meridian Hive. His passion for crafting alcohol spans across mead, beer and wine. He holds a National ranking in the Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP) and has performed judging duties across the US over the last decade. Mike brings an unparalleled blend of technical skills (from his engineering background) and artistic instincts (past life as a musician and designer) to every endeavor he tackles. He'll discuss a breadth of topics at a depth you didn't even know you wanted to hear about... just ask him.