My laptop doesn’t recognize the word “meadery.”
Neither does my friend, Donna, who with her partner, Scott, are hosting us for a few days in Prescott, Arizona.
As we sit on barstools in the darkened Superstition Meadery, on the lower level of a renovated historic building on Prescott’s downtown square, Donna confesses. She thought we were talking about a “meatery” — you know, “a place where they sell big slabs of meat.”
For the uninformed — and apparently there are plenty of us though the number is dwindling — mead is steadily growing in popularity.
“It’s the oldest of all alcoholic beverages,” explains Superstition’s general manager Kim Powers as she sets before us sweet samples in tiny brandy snifters.
“Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from honey, water and yeast, but there are several traditional and modern styles of mead. They range from melomels, made with honey and fruit, and metheglins made with honey, herbs and spices, to pyments, made with honey and wine grapes.”
Specialty style meads are made with honey and whatever the mead maker throws in. And according to a 2017 survey by the mead industry, carbonated or sparking versions of meads are quickly growing in popularity.
Other statistics from this survey:
• A new meadery opens every three days in the United States; every seven days worldwide.
• About two-thirds of meaderies in this country have been opened five years or less.
• The best-selling style is melomels, followed closely by traditional (made of only honey fermented with water).
• About one in four meaderies also produces cider.
• Four out of five meaderies source their honey locally. (Superstition uses only Arizona honey.)
We think about all this as Michelle Eck, on the job for just four days, slides mead menus in front of us. They present a dizzying choice of flavors or “styles.”
“We have made over 200 different meads over the years,” Powers explains, “and we usually have about 45 to 50 different varieties available at the tasting room today.”
Among current choices are the cleverly-named Snow Melt, a Chardonnay pyment (made with grapes and wildflower honey) aged in virgin American oak; Tahitian Honeymoon, a semi-sweet mead aged on Tahitian vanilla beans on new American oak; Juicius Caesar, grapefruit zest with Amarillo and Cascade hops; and Rule 42 (google it), fresh-pressed organic Arizona apples with blackberry.
There is even Marshmallow Peanut Butter Jelly Crime, made with — yes — peanuts, blueberries and organic marshmallow. No way am I going to pass on that one; it is sweet but the peanuts and marshmallow are subtle.
At the end of the day, my favorites are Date Night, made with Medjool dates, and Hera’s Orchard, named after the mythical orchard of “golden apples” which are believed to have been apricots. This mead is a blend of apricots and peaches.
For those whose palates tend toward the not-so-sweet, Powers suggests a traditional mead, such as Lagrimas de Oro, made with water, mesquite honey and yeast, then aged in a bourbon barrel.
“It is drier with an oaky, bourbon finish,” she explains.
Powers’ favorite is Marion, “which I’ve loved since the very beginning. This is a raspberry, blueberry and blackberry melomel that is bright and juicy. The tartness of the berries blends with the sweetness of the honey perfectly, making this a mead that you want to keep drinking.”
Alcohol content in meads are generally 11% to 15.5%.
Superstition Meadery also serves several Arizona wines (yes, there is such a thing) and hard ciders.
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E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.