“Mead, that’s like honey right?” “Will there be bees there?” Those were the responses I received when I suggested we stop at Meadiocrity Meadery in San Marcos. The answers are yes, and no. All mead starts with honey, water and yeast, but like craft beer the end product comes in a wide variety of flavors. No, there are no bees in the brewery. In fact their lease expressly prohibits it!
We pushed through the doors, and order a mixed flight. The Saturday afternoon crowd was mellow. Low music played, and it was cool inside. A mix of families, and couples drinking, coloring, playing games or even reading books were scattered throughout the room. Wood honeycomb installations suspended from the ceiling. A beekeeper suit hung around the corner from the bar. Low tables filled the main tasting area, and the far corner of the room is where the liquid is produced. The stainless steel sparkled. The meadery is technically a winery, but it felt like we’re in the tasting room of a brewery.
I think we all expected something thick, syrupy and sweet. Something that invokes the revelry of kings and queens around the roundtable, or Greek Gods toasting to good luck in battle. Instead we found meads with an eclectic mix of flavors and mouthfeels. In our flight samples, along with the 100% raw California honey, we tasted mango, ginger, vanilla, rose and oak. There is mead featuring rosemary, apricot, pineapple, sage and thyme. Some are sweet. Some are dry. The carbonation varies. Most are very drinkable between 4-8% ABV, with only their flagship mead, Foundation, being a true sipper at 12.5% ABV.
Earlier in the week I sat down with Meadiocrity co-founder, Mark Oberle. More than once he mentioned how the team, and head meadmaker John Botica, want the honey flavor to be celebrated. “Honey is the showstopper,” said Oberle. “It’s what makes mead.” The type of yeast used, brewing process, added flavors, and the season and location the honey has been harvested are all variables impacting the final taste buzzing on your tongue when you take that first sip.
We viscerally experienced that when we tasted two different honeys produced by some of the estimated 6 million bees in 100 hives managed by Meadiocrity’s beekeepers Andrew Segina and Nate Fredericks. It’s rare that a meadery manages their own bees, but for Meadiocrity it is part of their “Bee to Bottle” process. The first batch of honey is a light golden color with a subtle honey taste featuring a dainty blast of sweet citrus. The second batch is a dark amber with a warm, caramel finish. The flavor difference is extreme.
It was shocking to learn that these honeys were produced by the exact same bees during the same year. Just in different locations and times. The first in Valley Center during spring 2019. According to Mark, the bees would have been feasting on delicate, cold hardy flowers nestled in with the orange groves of the area. The second batch was produced later at Palomar Mountain. The bees would have moved beyond early season flowers likely to buckwheat which flowers during the summer season and is more drought tolerant.
Part of Meadiocrity’s mission is to raise awareness of mead. When asked what one thing he wanted people to know about the drink Oberle replied, “Mead is as varied, or more varied than craft beer. Even if you’ve had one that you haven’t liked, or don’t think you’ll like mead, give it a shot. And give it a shot a couple different spots (meaderies), because people will find there is drastic differences in style, flavor profiles, alcohol, and sweetness levels at each location.”
Back with my group swap the word “hoppy” for “sweet” or “dry,” and the conversation sounds a lot like any of the thousands I’ve had in breweries discussing the color, aroma, tingle on the tongue, and flavor of beer. An added benefit of supporting this particular meadery is we’re also supporting the expansion of their beehives. I’m looking forward to adding meaderies into the rotation of breweries and fine drinking establishments I find myself.
If you want to try this ancient, almost mythic, style of liquid for yourself you can order online at meadiocritymead.com, or stop by Meadiocrity at 1356 Grand Avenue in San Marcos every Thursday through Sunday to get a glass, or take a bottle or growler to go. My personal favorites are the semi-sweet Ginger Creme on Nitro, and the off-dry Stop & Smell the Roses. It’s easy to find just off the Las Posas Road exit on Highway 78. Check out their website for specific hours, draft list, special events and a lot of information about mead.
Important reminder, you will, most likely, not get the coronavirus (COVID-19) from Corona beer, but I still recommend finding a local brewery with a fine tasting pale lager to try instead. Perhaps from Rip Current Brewing found on the other side of parking lot from Meadiocrity. Don’t forget to follow our Cheers! North County adventures on Instagram and Twitter: @CheersNorthCounty.