It’s always refreshing to try something new—especially when that something is a new type of alcohol.
In a town saturated with craft beers and breweries, it was with great pleasure that we raised a glass of mead last Thursday while attending a tasting at Nectar of the Gods Meadery, Bend’s newest small-batch brewer.
Don’t misunderstand—we love beer as much as the next Bendite, but sometimes we’re just not in the mood for another IPA. Wesley Ladd, owner of the Horned Hand, and Ian Greene, a brewer at Boneyard Beer, admitted to feeling similarly, despite their deep love of beer.
The two friends recently paired up to get Nectar of the Gods off the ground and, as of Oct. 1, they are now co-owners of Bend’s only mead operation, which, for now, is operating from within The Horned Hand.
“You look at how many breweries there are in Bend, but we don’t have anyone doing the mead thing,” said Greene, who graduated from the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh, Scotland with a Bachelor of Science in brewing and distilling. While there, he developed a taste for the popular drink.
“It’s really big up there and I really liked it,” said Greene. After experimenting with some test batches, Greene said he was sold on his brand of mead.
For the uninitiated, here’s a little history and lore swirling around the ancient beverage. Mead, a fermented beverage made from honey and water, has been around since at least 7,000 B.C. and was enjoyed by a number of ancient civilizations. Because making mead, in its most basic form, is a relatively simple process; evidence of its presence is far reaching.
Mead has a long history in Central Europe, Russia, China, North, East and South Africa, and, perhaps most famously in Scandinavia, where it was said to be a favorite drink of the Norse gods. The marauding Vikings who worshiped those gods also imbibed the sweet honey beverage and drank it both before, during and after battle. Shit, even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins was a fan of mead.
Mead’s basic ingredients, however, don’t mean that it’s not a complex beverage.
“There’s such a variety of meads,” Greene said. “Every honey is going to add different flavors to the mead. And there’s all different ranges of meads,” Greene added.
The veteran brewer rattled off a laundry list of different types of mead, including two varietals that are currently on tap at the Horned Hand—melomel and cyser.
A melomel is any mead made from honey and fruit and the Hand was pouring two on Thursday night—an apricot mead and a black cherry/raspberry combo. Both were delicious, not overly sweet and moderately effervescent.
The apricot was more the color of cider and lower in alcohol, but still came in at 9 percent a.b.v. The berry mead was a purple-red color (duh!), had more fizz and more alcohol—around 13 percent. Some of our merry group preferred the cyser, which was a blend of honey and fermented apples, and, not surprisingly, tasted much like a bubbly cider.
A mellow buzz comes easy when mead is this tasty and boozy. Greene and Ladd are sourcing their 100-percent organic honey from various Oregon beekeepers and using regional fruits to maintain a high-quality product.
Expect to pay between $6-7 for a generous pour. And, (good news!) mead won’t leave you ridiculously full and bloated (like beer) nor will it make you mega-hungover (like champagne). If you want your mead to go, Ladd and Greene hope that by mid-November they’ll have 750-milliliter bottles for sale both at The Horned Hand and select bottle shops in Bend.
Greene and Ladd both plan on producing meads that are more dry rather than syrupy sweet, though Greene did say they would experiment with a wide variety of meads. Greene, who will continue to brew for Boneyard, said he’s currently working on a wine barrel-aged mead.
“There’s just so many things you can do,” gushed Greene. “I want to do the craziest things anyone has ever done with mead before.”
Something new to geek-out on! This is good news for connoisseurs of fine drink.
Photo taken by Ian Greene and Wesley Ladd.
Nectar of the Gods Meadery
507 NW Colorado Ave. (inside The Horned Hand)
4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday-Saturday