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Mead leaves the 'Dark Ages'; Rediscovering nectar of the gods.

Byline: Lisa Rathke

GROTON, Vt. -- Once called the nectar of the gods, the oldest fermented beverage is seeing a renaissance.

Beekeepers and vintners are rediscovering mead, an alcoholic drink made of fermented honey and water.

These days, fruits, spices and even carbonation are being added for distinct flavors that aren't a far cry from the beverage favored by the Vikings and ancient Greeks and during the Middle Ages.

''People have been drinking fermented beverages for a couple thousand years, so it's just an extension of that,'' said Mark Simakaski, who with his wife made his first batch while in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and launched a meadery called Artesano in Vermont in 2008.

Mead making has doubled in the last five years, said Chris Webber, president of the American Mead Makers Association, which estimates there are 200 to 250 mead makers in the U.S.

Some of the new mead makers are beekeepers looking to find other ways to sell their honey. Others are former craft beer brewers.

David Myers, owner of Redstone Meadery in Boulder, Colo., attributes the growth in mead to more demand for craft beverages and locally made foods -- from small-batch craft beers to ciders and artisanal wines.

''I think there's a movement in the American drinking culture for smaller craft artisanal mentality,'' said Myers, whose business -- one of the larger mead producers in the country -- is approaching $1 million in sales.

Redstone Meadery, which includes traditional meads and carbonated nectars, is now sold in 32 states.

In the back of a renovated old general store in Groton, Simakaski and his wife, Nichole Wolfgang, ferment honey and water in 250-gallon tanks.

They may add fruit or spices or both, and then age it for at least a year. The latest offerings include a bourbon barrel aged, a blueberry and a chili cinnamon.

''The mead's amazing because it's not super sweet and being made of honey I would have thought it would be really sweet,'' said Stephanie Parent, 40, of Lyndonville, Vt., who stopped in with a friend for a tasting and music.

Simakaski and Wolfgang used their own honey the first year, but now buy from two Vermont beekeepers.

''This year, I'll ferment about 4 tons of honey, so it's a lot ,'' he said.

Historically, the choice of mead as a beverage went by the wayside as grapes and grains became cheaper to produce. But now it's back, out of the Dark Ages.

''Good enough for Zeus, good enough for you'' is one of the taglines at Redstone Meadery.
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Title Annotation:Business
Author:Rathke, Lisa
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1VT
Date:Sep 3, 2013
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