One of man’s oldest libations has come to Flagstaff. Drinking Horn Meadery has been selling mead, honey wine, to the public for the last eight months -- and it’s a hit.
Evan Anderson and his wife, Kelly Czarnecki, said since the couple started selling mead the stuff has been flying off the shelves. Even Guy Fieri stopped by on his “Guy’s Family Road Trip” show this summer to sample the goods.
Mead is made from fermented honey and is probably mankind’s oldest libation, Anderson said. All it takes is a little bit of water and a little bit of yeast to get into a bee hive, let it sit and you have mead.
It’s an incredibly simple process that can produce some complex results, he said. Drinking, of course, doesn’t let its mead ferment in a tree trunk. The meadery orders honey from a local aviary, Mountain Top Honey Co., adds water and yeast and then lets the mix ferment in a stainless steel temperature-controlled tank for three weeks. After that the mixture is decanted into and aged for another two and a half weeks before being filtered three times and then bottled.
“We try to keep it as simple as possible,” Anderson said.
It typically takes about three-quarters of a pound of honey to make one liter of mead, he said. It takes about two million trips to a flower for bees to create one pound of honey. Drinking Horn is currently going through about 800 pounds of honey a month. Anderson likes to add seasonal fruit to the mix such as strawberry, black cherry, pineapple or pomegranate.
Most people think of mead as an incredibly sweet drink, and it can be, Anderson said. But it can also be dry and beer-like. Drinking Horn tries to make a variety of flavors and sweetness to appeal to any drinker, he said.
“We’ve got sweetness on both ends of the spectrum,” he said.
The company’s traditional mead leans to the dry side and almost tastes like a beer. The mead with pineapple is much sweeter, almost like a dessert wine. The company’s ‘Merica, which includes hibiscus flower and blueberry, has a floral taste that isn’t too sweet.
Anderson and Czarnecki actually started the company about two years ago after some friends at Dark Sky Brewing Co. suggested they make mead for their wedding. Anderson’s family kept bees when he was a kid, Czarnecki said. He got away from the business after getting his college degree and becoming a fish biologist. The couple thought mead would be a perfect addition to their wedding.
Anderson started experimenting in their home kitchen and ended up making around 30 gallons of mead for their wedding. When they ran out of mead at their wedding reception before they ran out of food or any other drinks, the couple thought they might be on to something. They were also looking for something that would bring Anderson closer to home. As a fish biologist, he was spending many weeks working and living on rivers in the West, which meant a lot of time away from home.
Anderson started doing more research on mead and brewing mead and eventually started Drinking Horn. The name comes from the typical image of a Viking drinking mead from an animal horn -- although just about every culture has used animal horns for drinking vessels, he said.
It took two long years to get the meadery up and running because of state and federal liquor laws and licensing requirements. There are also regulations that have to be met if a meadery, winery or brewery decides to ship out of state, which Drinking Horn does.
The company’s meads are available by the bottle at the Whole Foods Markets in Flagstaff and Sedona, Majestic Marketplace, McGaugh's and at their tap room on North Grant Street. It’s available by the glass at Double Tree by Hilton, Majestic Marketplace, Nomad’s Global Lounge, The State Bar, Trail Crest Brewing Co., Vino Di Sedona, Vino Loco, Switchback Bar at Whole Foods in Flagstaff and at Drinking Horn’s tap room. You can also order a bottle online.