Ancient Drink Re-emerges– Mead Makes a Comeback

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Before there were grapes to crush or barley to malt, there was honey. Honey may be fermented just as grape sugars or barley to produce an alcoholic drink known as mead or honeywine. One husband and wife team is doing just that in central Texas.

“We use lot of honey,” says John Rohan, who runs Rohan Meadery with his wife Wendy. By a lot, John means several hundred pounds per batch. “It is absolutely the single most important ingredient in making mead. If you have excellent honey, you’ll have excellent mead.” John and Wendy feel fortunate to live in a state with great sources of all natural honey. “We are really lucky”, Wendy states, “to have beekeepers in this state that truly care about the health of the bees and the quality of the honey they produce.” The Rohan’s major honey suppliers are Kenny and Wendy Reed of Reed Family honey located in Montgomery.

Mead has a rich and exciting history, but fell into obscurity as honey prices rose and grape cultivation took off throughout Europe. If fact, many historians believe mead may have been mankind’s first alcoholic beverage. Traces of mead have been found in Chinese pottery shards dating from around 7000 BC. Nearly every early civilization had a mead style that was specific to that culture and region.  The Czech word for mead is medovina, and the Czech Republic along with Poland, and to a smaller extent, England are some of the European countries where mead has held on for centuries. Now it appears that the old beverage is making its debut in the States.

According to Vick Rowe, owner of the mead centered website GotMead.com, in the past decade, the number of "meaderies" in the United States has tripled to around 150. Rohan Meadery, which obtained their license in 2009, is currently the only meadery in Texas, but others are soon to follow, including Texas Mead Works in Seguin, that plans to begin operations this year.

“We definitely were influenced by the upsurge in craft brewing in the last decade,” says John, a software architect by trade, who started out home brewing beer in his spare time. “We wanted to do something hands-on, to produce something rare, but with amazing quality.” “I love the creative aspect of it,” Wendy adds. “Every year the honey is just a little bit different, and that makes each batch a unique product.”

The Rohans, who obtained their license in 2009, continue to expand their mead offerings. “Currently we have traditional mead, which is made with pure Texas wildflower honey, yeast, time and love,” states Wendy. “It really showcases the honey. We also have raspberry and apple, which have been popular this winter. We have a pomegranate and a pear in the works for spring.” Though most of the honeywines available currently are semi-sweet wines, mead can be made as dry or as sweet as grape wines. 

The Rohans also want to give back to the industry. “We are growing all of our fruit organically out here,” states Wendy. “It’s better for the bees and other beneficial insects…and of course, better for us too.” The Rohans also support the Texas Beekeepers Association and bee research with their ‘Save the bees, drink mead’ campaign. Proceeds from t-shirt sales go to bee research activities at Texas A & M University. Rohan Meadery is located in between Round Top and La Grange on FM 2981. Their tasting room, ’The Hive’, is open on the weekends, with hours expanding during the summer. For more information visit their website: www.RohanMeadery.com

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