Mile High Mead

After all the beer I was ready to drink something sweet.  I found this something sweet at Redstone Meadery in Boulder.  Redstone produces mead, or honey wine.

Though today you won’t often find it at bars or on restaurant menus, mead has a long and illustrious past.  The name conjures up images of knights noisily clinking mugs at a celebration or vikings guzzling it on the open sea.  But mead is much older than that — archaeological evidence for mead production dates back to 7000 BC.

Often referred to as the ‘nectar of the gods,’ mead was enjoyed by people in Europe, Asia and Africa.  References to mead appear in folklore, mythology and literature.

With such a noble past, how can you not want to try mead?

Don’t let a dislike of sweet wine turn you off.  Mead comes in a variety of flavors and styles so you’re bound to find one that suits your taste.

Traditional mead is made with honey, water and yeast.  From these basic ingredients, mead can be sweet or dry, still or sparkling, flavored with fruits, herbs and spices, and even aged to give it a port-like quality.

Redstone Meadery makes more than 10 hand-crafted meads, available to try for free in their tasting room.  Much of the taste comes from the different honeys used in each recipe, which is mainly sourced from the Boulder area.  The mead spends about 5 to 6 months in stainless steel tanks, then another 5 to 6 months in the bottle (though some meads are aged longer).  All of Redstone’s meads are gluten free and have no sulfites added.

I started my tasting with Redstone’s Nectar.  These are sparkling meads that are medium in sweetness with 8% alcohol.  The Nectar is made with 5 parts clover honey and 1 part wildflower honey, with real fruit added after fermentation.

I tasted the Sunshine Nectar first ($14 for a 750 ml bottle).  It was light and refreshing, with a crisp and tart flavor from the addition of apricots.  Next I enjoyed the Boysenberry Nectar ($14), which had a nice fruit flavor and was pleasantly dry.  My favorite was the Nectar of the Hops ($16), a dry hopped version of the Nectar.  With floral aromas and flavors plus a hint of bitterness to cut the sweetness, it was fresh and delicious.

From the Nectar I moved on to the Mountain Honey Wine.  All are 12% in alcohol and are made with different honeys.  I started with the Traditional Mountain Honey Wine ($21).  Made with orange blossom and wildflower honey, it was medium in sweetness with notes of citrus and orange.  I also enjoyed the Pinot Noir Pyment Mountain Honey Wine ($21), made with desert blossom and black button sage honey.  Dry and full-bodied, this mead had a hint of smokiness from French and American oak cubes.  My favorite was the Juniper Berry Mountain Honey Wine ($21), also made with orange blossom and desert blossom honey.  Medium-dry with a hint of sweetness at the beginning, the mead had great spicy and woody flavors.

I couldn’t resist purchasing a taste of the Redstone Reserve.  These meads are made once a year and aged before bottling.  Unlike the pale colored Nectar and Honey Wines, the Reserves are dark copper to brown in color, with a sweet and syrupy taste.  They make a great after dinner drink or can be served with dessert.

When I visited the meadery they were offering tastes of two Reserves.  I started with the 2003 Boysenberry Reserve ($50 for a 500 ml bottle), which was released in August 2006 and was made from three different honeys.  It was smooth, fruity and well-balanced, with a refined sweet honey taste.  My favorite of the two was the 2004 Cyser Reserve ($55).  Released in December 2007, this was made with a trio of honeys and fresh apple cider from western Colorado.  The apples and honey made a delicious combination.  It was a warm and sweet mix that brought back memories of apple picking in upstate New York when I was younger.  It was a great end to my first real exploration of mead.

As I learned at Redstone Meadery, mead is surprisingly versatile.  It can pair with a variety of foods, from sushi to spicy dishes, to pasta and roasted meats.

You also don’t have to enjoy mead on its own.  Try using it in cocktails.  Redstone Meadery has a list of mead-based cocktails, from the simple Meadmosa (sparkling mead and orange juice), to the not-so-traditional Ophelia (mead, muddled orange, Tuaca and Jack Daniels).  Or you can use it in cooking, to flavor a sauce or vinaigrette.

Redstone Meadery offers free tours and tastings at their tasting room in Boulder.  They can ship mead to most states, including Florida.  For more information visit redstonemeadery.com.

Up next: The tasting tour of Boulder takes me to a Colorado winery

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