In which Ricky the Meadmaker gives five answers to one question: "What made you decide to go pro as a Meadmaker?"
People often ask us what the best thing about brewing with honey is. Depending on the mood of the staff, the answers vary.
Ricky loves that honey dissolves fully in water, so he doesn’t have to climb into the mash-tun to shovel out grain like he would at a brewery.
Kelly jokes that she actually hates honey because it’s sweet, but that mead is awesome because it’s the best part of honey without all the damned sugar.
Erik from Havoc really likes that working with honey can provide him a way to support pollinator health and food security in a mutually lucrative and beneficial way.
The one thing that they all agree on is that the greatest challenge of honey is also what makes it the most fun: Honey changes every year.
Since we use a cold-processed honey at Groennfell Meadery, we don’t have a big commercial plant stripping all of the pollen, particulates, and varietal character out of our honey. That means that late springs, early falls, rough winters, rainy summers, changes in flora, new queens, climate change, and a million other factors play into the final taste profile of the honey we use.
One of our tricks for smoothing out the changes in characteristics from harvest to harvest is that we always use honey from multiple seasons in each batch. For example, Chaos Cyser uses about 1800 pounds of honey, so we try to use two drums from a fall harvest and one from the spring.
As we mentioned, however, there are a lot of factors that go into what gives a honey its special charm. The newest batch of Valkyrie’s Choice is a great example of that. Take a look:
Crazy, right? Same yeast, same temperatures, same apiary, same process. The only thing that changed was switching from two drums of fall 2013 plus one drum of spring 2014 to one drum of spring 2014 and two from fall 2014.
The flavor profile is pretty similar, but with a slightly richer honey note on the start of the palate. The biggest changes are visual: The new batch is a little cloudy and distinctly more straw yellow than gold.
This batch will be on tap at the meadery in the next few weeks and shipping out to stores as Farrell finishes selling the last batch.
Keep an eye out and be excited, meadiacs: Valkyrie’s Choice continues to impress.
Some people in the mead making community have a verb issue.
Do you brew mead? Make mead? Ferment mead? Bring together the requisite components so that mead is the ultimate product?
We would disrecommend this final option except for technical papers which are running a bit short, but all of the others are valid.
Just kidding, that’s not the way the internet works. It turns out that a fair amount of digital ink has been spilt over using the term “brewing” to refer to the production of mead. The claim is simple: “only beer is brewed; everything else is fermented.”
It constantly shocks us that some people have an internet connection that allows them to post things to the internet but does not allow them to receive information from this wonderful resource of all things fractious. Everyone who argues this is a dundering chuckle-head.
See what we did there? That’s usually how these discussions go. We know that there’s no such things as a one way internet connection. We feel strongly that if people would first type into Google what instead ends up being typed frantically into a forum, the world would be a calmer place.
Moralizing done; now onward to linguistics.
First of all, most dictionaries list “Brew” and “Ferment” as synonyms, so that’s a good sign that the dichotomy is at least somewhat spurious in common usage. Strictly speaking, ferment means the conversion of sugars to alcohol by yeast, mold, or bacteria. By extension, any product placed in the fermentation vessel at the time of active fermentation can be said to be “fermented with…” or “fermented on…” This is where we find our first important nuance.
A mead “fermented with cinnamon” is a product which has been produced by combining honey, water, cinnamon and yeast, while a mead “brewed with cinnamon” may be a mead that has been packaged with a stick of cinnamon in each bottle. Subtle, but important.
For those who argue that the only thing brewed is beer because of Google’s helpful definition, “make (beer) by soaking, boiling, and fermentation,” they have missed the fact that “beer” is included as “(beer).” In other dictionaries one finds, “(beer, ale, etc.)” in place of just “(beer)” and "to concoct, mix, or cook a beverage or food..." Plus, y'know, coffee and tea.
Another reason to accept “brew” as a term for making mead is more aesthetic: It helps to avoid repetition. In blog posts, books, and web fora, it gets tiresome to read the same word over and over. This is why English in particular and languages in general have such a plurality of terminology for identical or nearly identical objects and practices.
Why we choose to brew
At Groennfell Meadery we have four very important pragmatic reasons for using the word brew beyond the technical importance listed above:
History and Etymology
Historically, we find the term being used regularly. In one of the earliest popular sources for mead recipes, The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, the author doesn’t hesitate to use the term “brew” in mead and metheglin recipes, “Then take two Gallons of English-honey, and dissolve it in this hot Liquor [spiced water], and brew it well together…”
For the final nail in this coffin, let’s turn to the etymology. That “bhr-” at the beginning gives one a sense that we’re coming from Proto-German or Old English with deep roots in PIE, and you’re not mistaken! From its earliest sense, our word “brew” has meant to boil, bubble, foam, or ferment. The first known usage, in fact, leads to the sense of “to make a drink by boiling.” And before you argue that you don’t boil your mead, A: Almost all historical recipes called for boiling, and B: Read This.
So there you go! Though we very well know that nothing is ever “settled” on the internet, we hope that this helps!
 Well, most of us do. Ricky writes out all of his Facebook posts and mails them to Mark Zuckerberg with the memorandum “please kindly post at your earliest convenience.”
 Digby, Kenelm. The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened. The Project Gutenberg EBook. EBook #16441. page 64
 Some argue that the frothing is a reference to the fermentation rather than the boiling, but etymological speculation is a dark road through a dangerous forest.
In which Ricky the Meadmaker interviews Kelly the Boss about recipe design, brewing, being a woman in the craft beverage world, what it's like to work with Ricky the Meadmaker, and more!
Update: Please see our current hours here!
So, the other day we had the following conversation at the Meadery:
Erik: Hey guys, I've been thinking about our open hours. I just realized that many more people are drinking mead from 5:00 - 7:00 in the evening than before noon.
Ricky: I don't know that that's true.
Kelly: That is definitely true.
Ricky: Huh, you'd think I'd know that.
Erik: Ricky, literally every one of your friends is a lumberjack, 1920s newspaper man, and/or inner-city Roman Catholic sexton, I don't know how you know anything about the real world.
And it turns out Erik was right. So, with that data in hand, here are our new hours, starting May 28th:
Please see our current hours here!
Come join us in our outdoor seating area on a warm summer's evening; who knows what you might learn?
This upcoming Thursday, May 14th, from 5:00-7:00, we want to invite all of you to a celebration in honor of our beloved totem and mascot Jax, for he will soon be taken from us to sit in the halls of his ancestors.
Jax has been a part of Groennfell Meadery from the day we opened our doors and has been a guest at almost every event since. He is not only important to the staff, but also, as we know, to many of our patrons; so it only seems right that we host a big party for him and have all of you there.
Please come to say your good-byes, have a pint in his honor, and feed Jax treats until he yarfs.
We know that it would mean the world to Matt and to us. And Jax, as usual, will have no idea what’s going on and will just be happy when you drop some popcorn.
We are sad to report that early this morning Jax was carried off to Valkennel to dine upon ribs and rotisserie chicken with his ancestors. Jax’s human, Matt, and the staff of Groennfell Meadery will still be holding a party in his honor this Thursday.
As it says in Grettir's Saga “Be not a braggart for if any work done be praise-worthy, others will sing your praises for you.” Jax never boasted of what a good dog he was, so let us now gather and praise our friend.
Groennfell Meadery is Vermont’s premier craft meadery. Inspired by Old Norse legends, brewed with extraordinary ingredients, Groennfell’s meads are unlike anything you’ve had before. Crisp, clean, and astoundingly drinkable, the only way to explain any one of Groennfell’s meads is to try one yourself.