Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's What Knights Drink: Even Knights in Need of a Caffeine Fix

If you make it all the way to the end, I promise there's some *actual* information about mead here.

Oh em gee, remember how these totally made me el-oh-el this summer? I find that they are still very LOWL-worthy. I mean, my god, just LOOK. Batman! With a cartoonishly oversized bottle of mead in his hand with a caption that reads "It's What Knights Drink. Even Dark Knights." That's bloody brilliant, man!*

You know what else makes me LOWL? This:

Ian Radogost-Givens, meadmaker and fun czar at B. Nektar

Wait for it...

Eh??? EH???

Okay, but seriously now. I promised Brad [Dahlhofer, owner and meadmaker] and the Ians [Radogost-Givens and Washington, fun and brand czars, respectively] at B. Nektar Meadery that I would write something in exchange for their provision of booze for me. Well really how it happened was Brad emailed me, and I was all dawdle dawdle dawdle OMG I have like all these projects I need to wrap in the next couple of weeks and am totally freaking out except not really because I haven't started one of them and if I was really freaking out I would at least be making some sort of effort (PS, those are all for forthcoming issues of Metromode, Macomb Now, Arts Spectator, couple for 944, and a couple for edible WOW, and since all of that is print except Metromode you should totally check 'em out because I won't be linking to them here and there's gonna be some good stuff that if you miss in your mission to jock my style will make you very sad indeed), so then I get a text from Ian-not-number-one-because-the-Ian-formerly-known-as-Ian-number-two-didn't-like-being-number-two-so-now-it's-Ian-NOT-number-one-and-two and I was all, well now EVERYONE's covered it (The Publication That Shall Not be Named and then some other ones too) so I was like, "I don't want to do what everyone else is doing, psssssssshhhhhhh," so then Brad emailed me and invited me to the mead tasting that they have every other Friday at the Meadery and I went and then ANOTHER writer was there (ps, Brad, you really rocked the PR with this one man) and I decided then that I was going to write something that no one else possibly could or would write despite the fact that there are, like, 800,000 f%$#ing food bloggers in this city now since it's the new "it" place to be ever since Phil Cooley discovered Detroit like Columbus discovered America, and so here we are.

So I went to the mead tasting, which they have every other Friday evening from 5:30-10:00PM at the Meadery, which is located at 1505 Muggers' Alley, Ferndale. Well, not really; this is Ferndale after all, where people move after they lived in Detroit but before they relocate to Ann Arbor. Okay, so it's located at 1505 Brad is Paying For New Shocks For My Car After Driving in That Third World Parking Lot Alley, Ferndale.

Okay, so you can "Google Map" the directions and it's pretty dead-on (head west on 9 Mile from I-75, turn left at Chazzano), but once you're there, despite the signage, it's still tricky to find. Eventually I figured my best bet would be to track the packs of aging white people I saw darting across the open terrain, using my wily urban hunting skills to deduce that packs of aging white people would not be darting across a dark third-world parking lot unless there was trendy booze to be had nearby. Within moments I had stalked and cornered my prey.

You could probably just go ahead and follow the signs, though.

The spoils of my hunt ended up being many bottles of mead. On sample (and I'm doing this from memory and a very blurry photo, so I might miss a few...plus I had a LOT of samples, so factor that in as well) that evening was: Barrel-Aged Dry Cyser, Gewurtzraminer Pyment, Strawberry Pizzazz, Wildflower, Orange Blossom, Vanilla Cinnamon, Margarita Mead, Backwoods Cyser, and the mead of honor, the Chazzano Coffee Ethiopian Harrar Mead.

Barrel-Aged Dry Cyser: Described as their most "bone-dry" mead, this apple honey mead is aged in oak barrels and is crisp, clear and palate-cleansing. This was actually my favorite of the tasting.

Gewurtztraminer Pyment: A "pyment" is a mead made with wine grapes and honey. The Gewurtztraminer grape works well here because it is already a sweet, crisp, floral grape that seems a much more natural compliment to honey than some other pyments. This would be GREAT for food pairings, well-matched with anything the Gewurtz grape is already inclined to pair well with. Quite tasty and drinkable.

Strawberry Pizzazz: Like drinking straight strawberries and champagne; this will be a wonderfully refreshing beverage in the spring and summer, and would also be a great craft cocktail mixer. But don't ask me; I'll put whiskey in anything.

Wildflower: One of their staple meads available year-round, made with Michigan wildflower honey. I have to admit the first time I ever tried it, I found the flavor a bit off-putting, but now it has grown on me tremendously. Expect more floral notes than honey, as you might be inclined to assume (like me).

Orange Blossom: Another year-round mead made from the honey of orange and other citrus trees, aged in American oak. I always think the words "orange nectar" whenever I try this, though that might just be a nonsense descriptor I'm just making up. Definitely demonstrates the essence of orange with a clear hint of oak.

Vanilla Cinnamon: Like warm apple pie in a glass, this mead is liquid gold. Made with whole cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans, it is sweet but incredibly smooth. This is the kind of flavor that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Drinking an entire bottle of it in one evening like I did once will also produce the same effect. Try it warmed for added enjoyment.

Backwoods Cyser: This is a crisp apple honey mead aged in bourbon barrels, showing the richness and warmth of the bourbon-soaked oak. By that I mean you can totally taste the bourbon. This is like warm apple pie in a glass if you make your apple pie with Kentucky bourbon.

Margarita Mead: Made with dark and light agave nectar, orange blossom honey, fresh lime juice squeezed by hand, lime zest, and orange zest. The flavor is light with just a hint of margarita flavor (instead of overpowering, like drinking a straight mix); next time I'll be sure to try it BEFORE the Vanilla Cinnamon, which has a tendency to linger.

Ethiopian Harrar Mead: Why drink coffee in the morning when you can have alcohol that tastes like coffee instead (and not the sticky-sweet stuff of espresso-flavored vodkas either)? Right? Made with Chazzano Roasters' most popular flavor, the Ethiopian Harrar, and wildflower honey, this mead is an exercise in contrast: at once bitter and sweet, it has a high acidity with robust coffee flavor--it's like nothing you would expect and surely unlike anything you've tasted before. Coffee lovers and mead lovers both will be surprised by this one. And contrary to the thought process behind warming the Vanilla Cinnamon, you should NOT drink this warmed. Trust me on this one. Warming makes it have kind of a tang, and you do not want this to have any sort of tang (it's the high acidity, which warming emphasizes even more). What can I say; I tried.

The whole point of this post was to talk about the Ethiopian Harrar Mead, be tea double you. Thanks for hanging out.

*I've refrained from my usual stream-of-consciousness cursing just in case Brad at B. Nektar or Frank at Chazzano decides to link to this post from their website for some wholly ill-advised reason. People should never give me free things. They don't know what I'm likely to do with them. Especially when there's alcohol involved; that just spells disaster. D-I-S-A-S-ter. (That would have been a much funnier joke if there could be some sort of audio component here. It was this whole play on that Gwen Stefani song where she spells "bananas" repeatedly and thankfully correctly. I should be on radio. But then you'd also miss all the accompanying erratic hand gestures and highly animated facial expressions. Therefore, I should be on TV. Someone tell someone.)