I noticed something odd while browsing a beer trading forum recently. A person was offering a beer valued at around $50 on the secondary market for something called Schramm’s Black Agnes. The responses ranged from the polite, “You’re going to need to add,” to the more direct, “LOLOLOLOL (crying laughing face, crying laughing face).” Not only had I stumbled upon a beer I’d never heard of, I stumbled upon a really valuable beer I’d never heard of. So I did some digging.
Turns out, Schramm’s is not a brewery; it’s a meadery. In fact, it’s one of a few meaderies I’ve now come across in beer trading groups over the last couple of months. I’ve seen mead trade for some of the most valuable beers I know of—Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation, Bourbon County Vanilla Rye, and rare releases from Toppling Goliath.
Mead is ready to break through, to become the next sought-after alcoholic beverage. But what is it? Which bottles should you be on the hunt for? Can you get the good stuff shipped to your door? We’ve got you covered.
Like most alcoholic beverages, mead’s been around for some time. Mead’s history dates back at least 8,000 years, as there’s evidence that suggests it predates wine. Enjoyed on the Isle of Crete, mead was—and still is—fermented honey water. Yeast eats the honey’s sugar and you’ve got a beverage that ranges from about 8% alcohol to 20% alcohol. Meads have long been flavored with spices, herbs (including hops), and/or fruits, and, like wine, can be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
While ancient mead was naturally fermented by the yeast in the air, today’s meaderies add yeast themselves for a more controlled environment and to produce insanely flavorful offerings unlike anything from the Isle of Crete. Today, fruit is a major component, as are fun adjuncts like coffee, licorice, and other grocery store staples. Meaderies are getting as wild as some breweries, making meads from the strangest of ingredients. Of course, just as with breweries, some makers are not as plugged into that scene. If you want to try the mead that demands the best beer in a trade, here’s what you’re looking for…
Which Meaderies Should You Know?
Makers of the aforementioned Black Agnes, Schramm’s shines when it comes to fruited mead (melomel). They support local beekeepers and rely on them for the honey used to craft their bold libations. The bottle people absolutely go bonkers for is The Heart of Darkness, which, with over 1,200 reviews, pulls a 4.81 on Untappd. For reference, that’s higher than Heady Topper, Pliny the Elder, and everything from Tree House. Oh, wait, it’s actually higher than EVERY BEER! Link
If you had to pick one meadery leading the current mead charge, you’d have to go with Superstition out of Prescott, Arizona. Leveraging unique ingredients like Arizona mesquite honey, marshmallows, and other oddities, they craft insanely unique and flavorful meads. Often aging their mead in port wine barrels, the mead Superstition puts out packs a ton of enjoyment for your taste buds. Best of all, depending on where you live, you can even order online. Link
One of the hottest bottles in the game comes from this Illinios-based meadery. Blue Suede Shews is made by Pips and was crafted with blueberries and cashews. Clocking in at 14%, Blue Suede Shews hides any alcohol notes so you can sip dangerously away. Pips likes to play with things like licorice, orange blossom honey, and bourbon barrels to craft flavorful gems you should want to get your hands on. Link
Another meadery with bottles for sale online, Brothers Drake out of Columbus, Ohio, can get a bottle of next-level mead right to your doorstep (if you live in a state they can ship to). That means, for about $25, you can get a bottle of mead made with coffee, mead meant to mimic apple pie, or another interesting bottle without traveling to their facility. Trust us on the apple pie one, it’s insane. Link
New Day Craft
Since 2006, New Day Craft has been churning out killer cider and mead. Always using whole fruit and wildflower honey, New Day Craft’s mead is always vibrant and flavorful. Their Breakfast Magpie series is out of this world. They take a black raspberry mead and infuse it with espresso beans. Then they make variants by adding vanilla, cardamom, or throwing it in a bourbon barrel. A sip is worth a trip. Link