Self-taught mead maker Dan Cook is launching what we believe is the Bay Area's first mead brewery in Berkeley next month. Cook is going to be bottling his first batches, as a professional, under the name The Mead Kitchen, and the project came about after fourteen years of making mead for home consumption, and perfecting recipes good enough that some of his brewer friends convinced him to go pro. Berkeleyside has the whole scoop, and it certainly sparks our interest.
Mead, for the uninitiated, is a spiced, honey-based, sparkling alcoholic beverage that's mentioned in The Canterbury Tales and dates to ancient times. But as Cook says, despite the honey, it's an extraordinary and often very dry beverage after fermentation. He describes discovering this, after making his first batch of orange-ginger mead, and finding it to be like "crazy honey champagne," and "a dry, alcoholic ginger ale, with no residual sweetness, but notes of orange and ginger." Cook plans to start with a production line of 150 cases per month, and ramp up from there.
And mead seems to be trending, along with craft spirits and beer, with the number of "meaderies" growing in the last few years to over 150 nationwide. (See some listings here.) It just hasn't become much of a thing around here, where, obviously, wine has been king for over a century and grape-growing is prevalent.
The Mead Kitchen will be distributing just in the East Bay at first, but you can expect to hopefully see some Mead Kitchen products in S.F. bars and restaurants later this year. The first two varieties will be that orange-ginger, and hops-infused version. He's also experimenting with fruits like dried cherries, grapes, and plums.
The Mead Kitchen joins local artisan drinks boom [Berkeleyside]