Friday, November 8, 2013

Mead 101 and the Dancing Bee Winery

Mead:  more than just what you drink at the Renaissance Festival!

You’ve probably heard of mead (honey wine) before, or maybe tried it at the Ren Fest, but did you know there are different kinds?  I didn’t until I visited the Walker Honey Farm and Dancing Bee Winery, roughly 80 miles north-east of Austin.  The honey farm produces the honey, and Dancing Bee produces a selection of meads and wines.  (It is officially called a “meadery,” and if you say this word out loud everyone will think you’re saying “meatery” and imagine a butcher shop.)

Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage, dating to around 7000 BC, made with honey, water, and yeast.  In the same way that the type of grape impacts the flavor of wine, the variety of honey impacts the flavor of mead.  Bees produce different flavors of honey based on the types of flowers where they gather pollen.  So mead made from clover honey will taste different from wildflower honey, or buckwheat honey, etc.  If you’ve tried mead before, you probably remember it being very sweet.  Just like wine, mead can range from sweet to dry, though it is usually at least a little sweet. 

If the honey is fermented along with any other fruits, herbs, or spices, it becomes a different type of mead.
Here’s a summary of the types:

I made some tasting notes on the meads we sampled at Dancing Bee.  We didn’t taste any wines, other than the one mixed with mead.  We were totally mead-focused!

I took home a bottle of the Texas Two Step and The Beerded One.  Both were completely unlike anything I had ever tasted – in a good way!  Spec’s carries a few of the Dancing Bee meads, which range from $14 to $18 dollars.  If you’re hosting (or attending) a holiday party in the next few months, mead is a festive thing to serve.  It’s something a little out of the ordinary, and it will satisfy the sweet wine drinkers.  Better yet, pour the bottle of mead into a sauce pan on the stove, throw in a package of mulling spices, and let it warm for a while.  It will taste delicious, and your house will smell like Christmas.

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