While staying in Boulder these last two months, I picked up a Groupon deal to visit the local Redstone Meadery and go home with a bottle of their 2005 Black Raspberry Reserve (as well as sample their full line of 10+ offerings). When sampling this self-proclaimed “nectar of the gods,” I was reminded of a wine tasting I went to in Missoula a couple years ago at the Missoula Winery, hosted by Edible Missoula. There I met Ken Schultz of Victor’s Hidden Legend Winery, an award-winning Montana meadery, and there I deepened my knowledge and appreciation for the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world.

Mead got its start about 1,000 years before those grape-crushers came along. Discovered partly by accident, and with evidence of its existence dating back to 7000 BC, mead is also called “honey wine” and is made by fermenting a solution of honey and water. Its ABV can range between 8% and 18%, and it can be dry, sweet or sparkling, depending on its recipe and the mead-maker’s talents. To produce mead, it takes about 15 pounds of honey and 4+ gallons of water to make about five gallons of finished mead.

Mead has shown its tasty head in countless literary works. You’ll find it in Beowulf and in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. You would have also found it in the hands of King Tut, Eric the Red and Queen Elizabeth the First.

At Hidden Legend Winery, Ken and his crew produce about eight varieties of honey-based meads, ranging from Pure Honey to Huckleberry and Chokecherry. And unlike traditional, grape-based wines, mead will last for much longer after it’s been opened, even months, so you can buy a bottle or two and sip on them for special occasions. In fact, honey is the only food that never spoils, due to its high sugar content. You can store that knowledge away for your next drinking party!

And if you’re in the market for some great honey and want to try your hand at mead, get down to Stevensville in September for the annual Northwest Honey Fest. There you will be able to watch beekeepers in action, sample many fine meads and taste dozens of styles of honeys from all over the Northwest. The event is very family-friendly, so bring the little ones along.
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