Over the course of three days we tasted the sugar and acid components of honey separately and in the honey We tasted more than 30 kinds of honey (including specialty honeys like Cilantro, FoamFlower, and Thyme) and mead made from many of them.
We learned about mead contaminants and tasted them (not the most pleasant part) so we could recognize why a mead did not taste delicious, and figured out what happened in the process to make it that way. We tasted mead that ranged from exquisite to some that smelled so horrible I could barely make myself put it to my lips. We tasted the same recipe of mead made with different yeasts and fermented at different temperatures, with amazingly different results. (Sometimes my eyes glazed over from all the chemistry.) The chief apiarist from University of California extension updated us on current bee issues, which are myriad. We toured the meadmaking lab of the Mondavi Wine research building at UC-Davis (an amazing LEED platinum building that is carbon neutral and uses captured rainwater ten times) and the warehouse of a honey broker. We heard case studies from a meadery start-up on the Olympic peninsula and a very successful meadery in New Hampshire. We had a mead judging session with the founder of the Mazer Cup, an international mead competition. I met some wonderful mead-loving folks whom I expect will be long-term friends and colleagues.
So why did I attend this mead course? Rog has been making delicious meads and melomels (mead made with fruit) for a few years now, and I just started making it this winter. It seems like mead would be the perfect complement to our wood-fired pizza and bread, especially since we raise a few honeybee hives. After taking this course I am excited to pursue it, but knocked down to earth enough to realize that if we do undertake it, it will take at least a year of further research, experimentation and preparation. Stay tuned.
What a great week in beautiful California, staying at a lovely Air BnB, biking to my classes every day on the extensive Davis bike path system, learning so much about mead and honey, dining with fellow classmates every night.
I must admit, I felt a bit guilty being in 70-degree sunshine when it was below zero back home. Thank you Rog and Ruth, for taking such good care of the critters while I was gone. It was wonderful, but I am happy to be home.