A couple of months ago, my good friend Dakine Beckman invited us to a mead tasting. I have had mead before, and have always liked it… But an entire tasting dedicated to the stuff? It was on a Saturday afternoon at his place, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Needless to say I was impressed with nearly every bottle that he opened. Then he popped a bottle of Berry White. My. Life. Changed! Hands down the best mead I have ever had and ever will have. It was a sweet delicious mess in my mouth. UNREAL how good that stuff is. I was so impressed, I wanted to take a trip to the meadery to meet the maker. On the weekend we decided to go, they were actually tapping a keg of Berry White at Granite Mountain Brewing. I was so impressed with the experience, I reached out to Jeff and requested an interview. While at the meadery we sat, we talked… We drank mead. This is his story. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Jeff Herbert.
What exactly is mead?
Mead is a fermented solution of honey and water. It is the world’s oldest fermented beverage; the original aphrodisiac and a canvas for uncompromising liquid art.
Where did the name come from?
I lived near the Superstition Mountains, but the name comes from a combination of my interest in history, religion and mythology. That, and the amazing relationship that mead itself has with so many superstitions from around the world.
How many different meads do you currently make?
We currently produce 16 different meads.
Where do you get your honey?
We only use honey from Arizona and we favor Crockett’s Honey in Tempe.
What is your favorite mead on the menu?
Whichever one I am drinking. But it really depends on your mood, what you may be eating and the time of day. Lately I have been drinking my sparkling Marion Mead quite a bit.
Have you ever made a mistake while brewing? Wait… Is it called brewing?
Brewing implies using heat and we only warm up the water enough to dissolve the honey when necessary, so we call it mead making, just like wine makers engage in wine making. Yes, I have made lots of mistakes, but you adapt and get back on track.
Tell me more about Berry White.
We were inspired by a chocolate mead that won the Dessert Mead Gold last year at The Mazer Cup International. We started with a traditional mead, added vanilla beans, and then raspberries and a secret white chocolate ingredient to create an amazing sweet and flavorful beverage that would hold its own against any after dinner liqueur or intense port.
Wine pairs well with food. Beer pairs well with food. Does mead pair well with food?
My friend Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor is currently writing the book on mead and food pairing. She owns Kookoolan World Meadery in Oregon. The answer is, absolutely.
When I am in the liquor store, where will I find the mead on the shelf?
Just ask, but it really depends. Total Wine & More and BevMo! seem to have it in hard to find areas and some smaller shops may highlight it more depending on the marketing work of the local meadery and how sales are going.
I went to a mead tasting with my good friend Dakine Beckman last week. How do you know Dakine?
Dak contacted me on Facebook and I invited him up to see our work in progress, and drink some mead.
How long have you been producing mead?
Pro since 2012, but at home from 2007 or so.
When you aren’t drinking mead, what do you prefer?
I like Belgian quads, beers from Dogfish Head, New Belgium, Stone, and great wines.
What is The Mazer Cup International?
It is the world’s largest commercial mead competition and unofficial annual gathering of international mead makers.
Who designs all your labels?
Nice! Where do you come up with recipes?
Pure imagination with a dash of trial and error.
Can you mix cocktails with mead?
Only the best. We make apple-meadtinis, mead mosas and lots of crazy combos. It really is going to be big in mixology in the coming years.
You guys have a webcam online. Tell me more about that.
It is a view from the awning on our building, facing the Prescott Courthouse Square.
Craft beer has exploded over the last few years. Is there a scene around mead, or does it go hand in hand with craft beer?
The mead scene is way smaller than craft beer or wine or distilled spirits, but mead sales are up 130% from 2012 to 2013 as published by the American Mead Makers Association. The mead business is just catching the beginning of a tidal wave. We will do our part to create the mead scene in AZ!
Where can I buy a bottle of your mead?
Check out our website for our accounts, but we are in 13 great places from Flagstaff to Tucson, and soon to be in Whole Foods Market.
What does a typical bottle of mead cost and how do you decide what to charge?
Meads range from around 15 bucks to 100 bucks for high end limited release stuff. I would say the average is around 25 bucks for a 750ml bottle. It is important for consumers to know that according to the Robert Mondavi Institute at UC Davis, mead costs 300% more than the average wine and 360% more than the average craft beer to produce. We only use great AZ honey and the most expensive special ingredients from around the world. We decided before we began that our goal is to make the best mead in the world, using a combination of the best local and international ingredients. Based on market research, comparative alcohol industry margins, and our collective costs per product we price our mead and hard cider accordingly. Our retail price points range from 28 bucks to 48 bucks with most being at 30 bucks.
What’s next for Superstition Meadery?
Opening our new facility in Prescott.
In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
Thanks for visiting us on Mead Night at Granite Mountain Brewing, and for spreading the word about mead.