Although our mead making is somewhat proprietary, we can share a bit of inside info on our methods. First, we start with 100% pure, natural orange blossom honey. We use orange blossom honey for several very good reasons.
First, orange blossom honey makes consistently great mead! The original founder of the Meadery tried all sorts of honey and quickly decided that orange blossom honey is the only way to go. It’s been the standard for us since 1995. The alternatives either have off characters, too strong of a flavor or they’re too variable from year to year. Orange blossom honey makes a very aromatic, mild flavored mead, year after year. It tastes very nice on its own, but also carries other flavors beautifully. You might say it shares the spotlight well. For example, our Strawberry Honey Wine has a very prominent strawberry character. If the flavor of the honey wine portion was too strong, it would overpower the subtle strawberry flavors.
Another reason we use this specialty honey is there’s usually plenty of it. Since oranges don’t grow in Colorado, we source our honey from either California or Florida where the orange groves thrive. So unless we have a bad orange year on both coasts, we shouldn’t have any trouble keeping our honey wines in stock.
Let’s talk about fermenting honey. Fermentation is converting sugar to alcohol using yeast. Fermenting grapes and many other fruits is fairly straightforward. Fermenting honey, on the other hand can be a bit more challenging. First, we have to dilute the honey. Honey is about 85% sugar. Converting all this sugar to alcohol without diluting would be impossible because the yeasts can’t tolerate alcohol above around 17%, and converting all that suger would result in about 42% alcohol! Most standard wines are about 12% alcohol, so that’s what we aim to achieve with our traditional meads and our Fruit Honey Wines, so we dilute to about 22 percent sugar before we add the yeast.
The next challenge is getting the yeast to finish the fermentation, and that can be a bit difficult. Honey is one of the few foods that generally won’t spoil. Honey has been found intact in the tombs of Egypt, thousands of years old! Because of the anti-microbial properties, yeast doesn’t like living and working in the harsh environment that honey creates.
When yeast cells are fermenting under difficult conditions, they sometimes aren’t able to finish the job in a timely manner, or they might stop working altogether, resulting in a sluggish or even a stuck fermentation that would invite other, undesirable microbes to come on the scene and cause equally undesirable flavors.
We hear of home mead makers fermenting their brews for 6 months, a year or more. Because of our proprietary techniques and careful monitoring, we’re able to ferment our honey into mead in about 7 days if need be. This results in a clean, fresh mead with great aroma, flavor and mouthfeel.
Our honey wines are very different from many grape wines because they do not require aging before bottling, and they don’t require aging in the bottle before customers can enjoy them. They simply require the TLC of our expert mead making team. Our crew has been at this for a while. We learned the old tricks and discovered some new ones along the way. As usual, attention to all the details makes all the difference.
Once the honey is fermented, we make it into a variety of products. Our 4 traditional meads are simply 100% honey wine with varying degrees of residual sugar. King Arthur is the driest at about 1.5% residual sugar. Lancelot is about 3%, Medium Sweet Honey Wine is roughly 5% and Sweet Honey Wine is 7%. Whatever you prefer is what you should have, and that’s why we make about 14 different honey wines. We want to maximize the chances that you, dear reader, might find something that really pleases your palate.
Melomels: Honey Wines blended with our own Fruit Wines
Our Fruit Honey Wine series is a bit different. Because we make fruit wines for one of our sister wineries, St. Kathryn Cellars, we are able to blend these with our meads to create some of our most popular products. Take Peach Honey Wine for example. Because we make a peach wine, called Peach Passion, for St. Kathryn’s, we make enough peach wine for both labels. We make the peach wine first, then carefully blend it with the honey wine to create with a really tasty melomel.
Finally, we make four decadently delicious dessert meads. Three are Satins: Chocolate Cherry Satin, Raspberry Chocolate Satin & Blackberry Satin. These are sweet honey wines blended with a fruit wine, then fortified with brandy up to 18.5% alcohol. The fourth dessert mead is called Honey Shere’. It is extraordinarily rich and delicious.
Meadery of the Rockies is well-known for innovative new flavors and tastefully sensational products of the highest quality. We invite you to visit our tasting room and sample our honey wines. You may be very pleasantly surprised.
Here’s a video on our bottling line, hosted by Owner/Head Winemaker Glenn Foster.