Arizona’s preeminent mead maker is suddenly feeling bubbly.
To know mead is to love mead. But therein lies the rub for Superstition Meadery owner Jeff Herbert and other producers of the venerable honey beverage: How do you get the masses to try it in the first place? Knowing that many consumers – especially young consumers – are unlikely to drink anything they can’t pull from an ice chest and guzzle at a pool party, Herbert shrewdly conceived a line of bubbly session meads as a gateway mead of sorts for the White Claw crowd. “These are definitely made for warm weather and should be served chilled,” he says of the canned beverages, which join his cast-of-hundreds line of bottled heavy meads. He walks us through his process.
1 Creating a carbonated, low-ABV mead isn’t just a matter of adding water and CO2 to existing meads – doing so would “skimp on flavor,” Herbert says. Thus, he tweaks his brewing process to leave more “residual sweetness” as yeast converts wildflower honey into alcohol.
2 Herbert adds other natural flavors to arrive at his 12 session styles. For Dune Bloom, he adds prickly pear juice to get that “beautiful desert terroir.” For Electric Sunrise, he ferments the honey with Sangiovese wine grapes to create a “pyment,” or grape-honey hybrid. And so on.
3 Finally, he dilutes the mead to reach his target 6-7 percent ABV and adds carbonation, for a crisp, naturally sweetened antidote to the summer inferno. “The bubbles balance out [the honey and fruit] so nicely,” he says.
4 Other selections include mimosa- and Bellini-inspired sparking meads, and a soon-to-be-released mead-jito (read: mead mojito). Available online and at Herber’s brick-and-mortar Valley outpost, Superstition Downtown.
Beer of the Month
Wanderlust Brewing Co. 928 Local
Farmhouse Ale/8 Percent ABV/23 IBU
The Belgian farmhouse ale – so named because it was invented and consumed on medieval farms as a healthier alternative to listeria-tainted well water – is the most transportive of all beer styles. Blowing off the lacy foam and gulping down the aromatic brew, you can almost picture yourself as a perspiration-soaked Belgian serf, gratefully slaking your thirst after a day of threshing rye or castrating sheep or whatever they do on Belgian farms. Made with Arizona honey and wild yeast – also Arizonan, one would imagine – this golden, smoothly drinkable pleaser from Flagstaff’s Wanderlust Brewing Co. checks all the boxes, with the faintly peppery, floral nose you want from the style, along with 8 percent ABV pop. Now back to the sheep, knave! Available at Arcadia Premium and other fine beer stores. wanderlustbrewing.com