Sunday, March 13, 2016

WEEK 72--Beyond Imagination--the alternative beauty of MEAD--a chat with JEFF HERBERT

This week--just as the printed newspaper version is selling on the streets today--here's the complete version of the chat with Superstition Meadery owner/magician--Jeff Herbert on MEAD.
#in consideration of public interest--newspaper column version in Mandarin is a compressed version--with emphasis on the basics for easier understanding of what mead is about---here's the full transcript of the chat:-( Jeff's answers in BLUE)
#Most drinkers here are not familiar with Mead( due to lack of supply, lack of knowledge )--whatever impression they have is ---since its made with honey ---it must be sweet, one dimensional. How would you advice new people on what to look out for when drinking your first few mead?

You are correct that if any preconceived notion exists in the mind of a new customer, it is that mead is always sweet. The vast stylistic range of mead has no barriers and ranges from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, and light bodied to the most full flavored, complex and delicious beverage that will ever meet your lips. So, I would encourage new mead drinkers not to judge a category based on a few examples. Imagine if a Budweiser was the only beer someone tried, and assumed all beer was the same. They would be missing out on Belgians, Sours, Russian Imperial Stouts etc., which are really nothing like a watered down corn and rice lager. 
#What would be the key to brewing mead? Is it Most importantly quality of the HONEY? Or is the sum of everything including the other ingredients added in the brewing process?
Making excellent mead can involve many different ingredients and techniques, and I believe that the mead maker is a choreographer of flavors both during the science of fermentation and after, through the art of blending and barrel aging. It would be impossible to make good mead with poor quality ingredients, so we only use the best honey in the world, Arizona honey, and we pair this with the finest ingredients we can source locally and abroad.
One of the differences in how we make mead compared to how beer is brewed, is that we do not heat the must in order to preserve the volatile aromatic compounds and flavors present in the honey. We also manage the fermentation with the goal of achieving a healthy and neutral fermentation so that little to no off flavors are produced, and the characteristics of the raw ingredients will be showcased in the final product.
#General consensus is that mead is comparatively harder to brew than say pale ale / ipa-- Would you tell us in simple language why so? What's the harder part?
Most mead makers use techniques that are closer to wine making than brewing beer. I would say that challenges include constantly maintaining flawless sanitation practices, and achieving a clean and rapid fermentation. If a mead fermentation produces off flavors or fusel alcohols it can take up to a year for those to break down to a level where they are undetectable. Since honey alone does not usually have all of the nutrients required for the type of fermentation mead makers seek to achieve, removing CO2 (degassing), adding O2, and adding nutrients on a specific schedule require experience and attention to detail. 
# Mead is perceived as pricier brew than the pale ales, the ipas, the porter and so on--what would be the reasons causing it to be more expensive ?
A recent study at UC Davis, a leading fermentation science research institution, found that traditional (honey, water and yeast) mead is 300% more expensive than grape wine, and 360% more expensive than quality craft beer to produce. And this is before any other expensive fruit juices or special ingredients are added. Honey is very expensive, and when you source the best juices and real Tahitian vanilla beans as we do at Superstition, production costs are very high.
#密酒价格比CRAFT BEER高蛮多的,为什么那么贵?
答“美国一家权威发酵研究中心最近报告显示,传统蜜酒(只用蜂蜜,水和酵母酿造)的酿造成本是葡萄酒的3倍,高质素CRAFT BEER3.6倍,如果再加上各类高质水果或大溪地香荚兰豆这样的贵价原材料,成本之高,可想而知”
 #There are different types of mead --- is there such a thing as tier-tasting of different variants say from lighter to heavier mead.   Or no such thing--any mead is good for a start for people who are very new to mead?
Just as wine can vary from a buttery Chardonnay to a late harvest Zinfandel, from a dry Champagne to a Tawny Port, mead is diverse. In our tasting room at Superstition we offer a flight, usually 12 mead, and this is the most popular product we sell. We encourage people to drink mead however they want, as exploring a new category of beverage is something that should be fun, and on your own terms. However, we do pour our flight beginning with lighter bodied meads and gradually reaching the rich dessert mead.
 # What would be the mead variants that you would recommend for first time drinkers?
The great thing about most mead is that to a new customer you don’t have to pretend to like it. It is not an acquired taste, it is delicious. I think that if just one mead was presented to a new mead drinker, I would start with a semi-sweet melomel, or fruit mead. This would provide a balance between dry and sweet, and provide a point of reference with the fruit flavor. But really, a flight of different mead is the way to go.
# In South East Asia or whole of ASIA for that matter—there’s virtually NO mead available until quite recently---how’s the scenario in the states? Is mead a more widely accepted craft variants or there’s still much work to do to let more people understand/embrace mead?
In the US most people have no idea what mead is. If someone paid attention in English literature they may have encountered mead in classic texts, or even in movies and popular television shows, or perhaps they tried mead once at a renaissance fair, but really mead is an emerging category. Most people who are familiar with mead are homebrewers or are involved with the craft beer community. I am a Board member of the American Mead Makers Association, and part of our mission is to raise awareness of mead in America, and beyond. Mead is the smallest but fastest growing sector of the US alcohol industry, and while mead commands a very small market share compared to beer, wine, spirits and cider, I forecast that in 5 years most craft beer bars will have at least one rotating tap handle of mead, and in 10 years all adults in the US will at least have heard of mead. 
# Is Mead closer to beer or wine?
That really depends on the style. Take Braggot for example, it is a beer where 20% or more of the fermentable sugars derive from honey. We have made collaborations with several breweries where we made a Braggot, and this is as much a style of beer as it is a style of mead. Another popular style of mead is carbonated session mead. We have made an 8.5% carbonated grapefruit mead that was dry hopped, and was very similar to a citrus IPA. But, when you consider a dry raspberry mead, well that is certainly much closer to a wine. And when you are enjoying a sweet fruit mead, that is much closer to a Port than a beer. So to answer the question, mead can be very close to both wine and beer, or something totally different

# To the geeks community—berry white day has become something of a struggle/scramble—tell us something---from what triggers a thought of holding berry white day to perhaps some stories be it front of behind the scene…?
Super fans and beer geeks make the craft beverage world a much better place. I am a BJCP beer judge, and just took the BJCP mead judge exam. I have been visiting breweries for 20 years, and never get tired of trying new flavors. So I am guilty of being a craft geek for sure. When a craft beverage producer makes something so special that it becomes what everyone knows about them, it needs to be celebrated. That is why we hosted the first annual Berry White Day in 2015. The day was well planned, and even with the 2 hour wait to get in, things went smoothly. Everyone had a great time as they were able to sample 18 different meads on the menu that day, enjoyed 3 musical acts and were able to tour the meadery with the people who make Superstition’s awesome mead and cider. Behind the scenes there were so many issues to address, and extensive work from our fantastic staff brought the crowds, the media, and we pulled off an intimate release event that will be repeated later this year.
#Asia is kinda far from the states---would we in ASIA ever see maybe a small allocation of the white series at all?
This year we have produced 3 times the amount of each mead in the White Series. That means we have 3 New American Oak Barrels of each. I predict that we will be able to ship a few cases of each mead in the series to ASIA later this year. 
 #Any other words that you would like to add on—messages to new drinkers in ASIA…. 
My undergraduate degree from Arizona State University was in Anthropology, with a Certificate in Southeast Asian Studies, and I studied Thai. My wife Jennifer and I love Asia, and can’t wait to bring our family there as soon as possible. We really look forward to sharing more of our products with craft beverage fans in Asia. So keep searching out new flavors, and we will keep growing our business so that we can send more excellent mead and cider across the Pacific!
#对亚洲CRAFT BEER爱好者的话?
后记:东南亚以致整个亚洲,基本没CRAFT 级别蜜酒供应,最早在东南亚出现的蜜酒是大约两年前曼谷“米吧”引进的很小量丹麦品牌蜜酒,到今年初,曼谷和新加坡才出现了两个美国品牌的不同风味蜜酒。吉隆坡来说,今年内有希望看到很少量瓶子选择供应。

Here is some back story on us:
Superstition Meadery was started by Jeff and Jen Herbert in Prescott, Arizona in 2012 with the mission to reintroduce the world’s oldest fermented beverage to mankind. Everything we do is in support of this mission from crafting meads at the frontier of quality and innovation, to collaborating with meaderies, breweries and wineries in the US and in Europe. We honor the ancient drinking and spiritual traditions of our ancestors with references to history, religion and mythology in our product names, and even our logo is rooted in mead myth and culture. Our Minoan bull is inspired by a sculpture from ancient Crete where it was filled with mead and poured on a temple alter as a libation to the gods. While the history of mead is unique, modern mead making is very different than it once was, and we elevate tradition with technique. 

NOTE:-there's hardly any craft level MEAD available in South East Asia or even whole of ASIA currently--for now the best bet would be Mikkeller Bangkok--and to a certain degree in Singapore--as for KL--there is NONE at the moment but hopefully supply would come in later part of this year--as a whole -let's hope there shall be more variants of mead available from now on...

1 comment:

  1. I recently purchased world's best quality hand made barrel at very cheap rates from

    Whether you are aging whiskey, wine, or enhancing the flavor profile of your beverage of choice, these barrels are ideal for micro breweries and home-distillers.