They say everything old becomes new again. I mostly associate mead with medieval times -- large halls full of burly men hoisting flagons of the stuff as they gnaw on haunches of meat and throw the bones over their shoulders -- but artisanal honey wine is making a comeback in the U.S. (of course). An S.F.-based company has just launched a local mead, made with honey from the Mendocino forest. The San Francisco Mead Company is run by husband-and-wife team Sarah Jones and Oron Benary, who have been making mead in Columbus, Ohio for the past few years and have expanded to the Bay Area.
I'd had mead once before, on a cold, windswept island in the North Sea at Lindisfarne Abbey, one of the more famous meaderies in the world. That was fortified with grapes and much sweeter than the version from San Francisco Mead Company, which is surprisingly dry, with a hint of caramel, vanilla, oak from aging barrels, and a deep woodsy taste from the Mendocino honey. All in all, it's a beverage you'd actually want to drink with dinner (Jones recommends pairing with spicy food) or order in a bar in lieu of a dry white wine or cider.
See also: French Bees Are Producing Blue Honey
Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages on earth, dating back to Biblical times -- it predates agriculture, which means it came before cultivated grain (beer) and grapes (wine). At its simplest, the beverage is made with honey, water, and yeast, and then aged (these bottles were aged more than a year), but Jones and Benary are planning batches that will include hops, cider, aging in bourbon barrels, and other fun additions.
Right now the pair is working on developing distribution channels for the bottles, but in a few weeks it should be available at places like Rainbow Market and Whole Foods. In the meantime, you can try it at an open house on Saturday, July 27 from 5-9 p.m., at Sutton Cellars in the Dogpatch (601 22nd Street), the current base of operations as they develop their own spot. RSVPs are mandatory; visit sfmead.com or call 819-4947.
Now will someone please open a Beowulf-style mead hall in San Francisco?