Things have continued to change in the world. Just this week, the CDC’s mask announcement put a lot of breweries in a bit of a predicament having to explain to guests that masks are still required in California (until June 15th).
And cities throughout the county are trying to decide how to manage the popular outdoor dining set-ups that were temporarily allowed during COVID-19, but may not be considered legal long-term. I, for one, hope they find a way to keep the patios.
One of the first features I wrote about in the Cheers! column was on Meadiocrity Mead. I popped into the meadery and tasting room in San Marcos and then came back with the family to just share some of the more unique flavors they offered.
We sat inside, other customers sitting next to us as we drank and laughed and talked. February 2020 was a simpler time. I reached out to Mark Oberle, co-founder of Meadiocrity, to find out how they’ve been adjusting in the moment.
Cheers!: Hey Mark, thanks for catching me up on what’s going on at Meadiocrity. After 13-months of trying to run a business in a pandemic, what is the physical and emotional status of your company and team?
Mark: COVID has done a number on everyone in the hospitality industry, and we certainly felt it. We opened our tasting room about six months before the pandemic started so we quickly went from excited to tactical; scrapping trying to keep things moving.
During the period we were banking on typical normal growth for the business, we suddenly found ourselves locked down and needing to get creative to reach customers as we had no relief on bills or rent (actually, our rent was raised during the pandemic).
Even though sales were impacted substantially, we were (and still are) shocked to see the number of people coming week after week during the shutdown to try the oldest alcohol in the world. That was a huge motivator for moving forward rather than throwing in the towel.
Cheers!: You were able to add outdoor seating due to the changes in rules for hospitality businesses during Covid-19. Will you be able to keep that moving forward? How did the on-site vibe change with so much being outdoors?
Mark: We love having outdoor seating, although that has come with its own set of challenges. We had a tent for a while until the wind decided we shouldn’t have that any longer. Our final large windstorm last year folded the structure in on itself forcing us to put together a more robust and welded structure that we now have.
We will keep the outdoor space as long as the local and alcohol licensing exemptions remain in place, and our landlord continues to allow the parking spaces to be used for the Mead Garden.
I personally love being outdoors. The vibe is a little more makeshift due to the transitory nature of the space compared to the indoors, but customers have really responded well. We have tried to incorporate some brand elements into the space to still make it feel like home.
Cheers!: As we’re phasing out of the tier system, how do you anticipate business will change?
Mark: While we do still sell a lot of growlers, we are seeing a lot of people coming out and wanting to enjoy mead on site. The fluctuations have been a staffing challenge, going from a week where almost no one comes into a week where it’s nonstop service for hours.
Many of our customers now are new customers that discovered us during the pandemic, so they are anxious to try meads straight from the tap and enjoy the tasting room space.
I think we’ve all been desperate for community connections, which is why we have started hosting maker’s markets. Our space is large enough that we can hold vendors and guests with plenty of distance, so it’s been a nice way to connect the community while not feeling like a transmission risk.
It has also been a great way to put local vendors out in front of customers that they haven’t seen in a long time. We will be carrying those forward even as the lockdowns lift.
Cheers!: I find that Meadiocrity is always pushing the boundaries of what I might understand to be mead. What inspires a new flavor? The Green Tea Latte on nitro comes to mind.
Mark: Mead has the luxury of having honey as a flavor backbone, and that flavor melds with essentially every other food out there. I got into the beverage industry because of a love for food, so my favorite food flavor combinations are typically inspiration for new mead flavors. I don’t think most people realize what a wide reach of styles and flavors mead can have.
We often get customers that assume a mead must be sweet and syrupy or a bone dry high alcohol scorcher. They are pleasantly surprised to find mild-mannered but full-flavored fruity, spiced, or traditional meads that are easy-drinking, clean, and often times lightly carbonated.
We started pushing into some unknown territory recently by making some beer-inspired meads where we are again able to leverage honey flavor to complement and underscore unique hop, fruit, and spice characters. If you drink alcohol, we can pretty much guarantee you will find a mead on our menu that you enjoy.
Cheers!: What is the best way for North County residents to get their hands on some mead right now, and any particular upcoming beverages or events you’re excited about this spring?
Mark: The tasting room is still the best spot to get our mead and where we release a new flavor every two weeks. We were looking to expand wholesale just before the pandemic, but that obviously didn’t go as planned. We will be expanding back out over the next quarter as we put one of our flagship products in a can, so keep an eye out on store shelves for our signature mottled honeycomb.
Cheers!: Anything else you want readers to know about Meadiocrity right now?
Mark: Whether you are a beer, wine, seltzer, kombucha, or cocktail drinker, we have the perfect mead waiting for you.
Just last week, Meadiocrity Mead announced a new lineup of beer-inspired meads brewed with hops. It sounds perfect for the beer drinker willing to try something new. Follow their updates on Instagram @meadiocrity.mead for new flavor releases, changes to hours—currently open Thursday through Sunday, and pandemic policy changes. Head to their Facebook page for their tap list which is updated daily.
PLUS: If you like craft beer, you probably also love a good cup of coffee. Pour a mug, and check out the most recent episodes of the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast featuring interviews and coffee education with great local coffee professionals.
Stream it now on The Coast News online or search for it on your favorite podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thanks for listening, and for following Cheers! North County on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.