CATCH THE BUZZ: Classy Mead Making Class

Brewers and winemakers alike know that the buzz in the world of alcoholic beverages this year and for the foreseeable future is all about mead. Four of the leading mead makers in the United States, along with faculty and staff from the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis are coordinating the course, “Introduction to Mead Making,” to be held November 14–15, 2014 at the Robert Mondavi Institute, UC Davis. The event is hosted by the institute’s Honey and Pollination Center.
Mead, a fermented blend of pure honey and water is the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. Fruits and spices are often added, producing a dry, semi-sweet, sweet, or even sparkling mead. This golden libation of the Norse gods, a staple throughout the Middle Ages, is experiencing a rapid renaissance. Chris Webber, president of the American Mead Makers Association, has over 250 meaderies on the membership list, but there are many more, not including beekeepers and hobbyists who dabble in the art of mead making.

Mead makers developing the course include Ken Schramm, author of “The Compleat Meadmaker” and winner of this year’s Governor’s Award from the American Homebrewers Association; Mike Faul, proprietor of Rabbit’s Foot Meadery in Sunnyvale, Calif.; Michael Fairbrother, owner of Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, N.H.; and Petar Bakulic, consultant and president of Mazer Cup International, a yearly mead competition based in Boulder, Colo.

UC Davis winemaker Chik Brenneman will produce two batches of mead prior to the course — they will be sampled, analyzed, tasted and discussed during two of the sessions. Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will lead a honey tasting using the recently released Honey Flavor and Aroma Wheel, which was created by the center.

The course will cover the basics of mead and all of its variants including braggot, a beer made with mead, and melomel, a mead made with fruit. Attendees will learn about the history of the beverage, dating back almost 10,000 years, discuss simple recipes, and taste some of the best meads presently available.

“Our first short course in February was a great success,” said Harris. “We learned a huge amount about what mead makers need and want to know. This introductory course is based on evaluation feedback from the last course.

Attendees will have the ear of some of the country’s most outstanding mead makers. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers and a lot of networking opportunities. Add the expertise of the internationally acclaimed Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, and you couldn’t ask for more.

Ray Daniels, creator of the Cicerone Certification Program (a sommelier-styled program for evaluating and serving beer) said, “Wow, I wish there had been a course like this when I was learning about mead. An all-star line-up of instructors is sure to engage and enlighten!”

The cost for the conference is $450 before September 15, 2014, and $525 thereafter. The program includes classes, tours and most meals. To enroll, visit the Honey and Pollination Center’s website http://honey.ucdavis.edu/mead. For more information, contact Amina Harris at aharris@ucdavis.edu.