Redstone Meadery - An Interview with David Myers




Redstone Meadery - An Interview with David Myers
By Pete Ricks.

If you spend any amount of time with David Myers, you will find out very quickly that he is a mead fanatic. The founder of Redstone Meadery in Boulder, Colorado, David has brewed many award winning meads and promotes the drink both through Redstone and the International Mead Association. David started Redstone in September of 2000 and now the Boulder meadery boasts 3 different lines of mead: Nectars, Mountain Honey Wine, and Reserve. Redstone is one of 60 estimated meaderies in the US and one of the few to produce kegged/draft meads. Raised in Baltimore, Maryland, David will be returning to his hometown in June of 2005 to give a presenation on the nectar of the gods at the 2005 American Homebrewers Conference.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with David for a few hours in April of 2005 over some beers and mead, and what follows is an interview based on some of our discussions.

JUNE 2005

Pete:  David, can you give us some history on Redstone and when you started the company?

David:  I started Redstone in 2000 after being a home brewer for years with our first product coming onto the market in July of 2001. We released Black Raspberry Nectar (8% ABV and carbonated) on draft to some local brew pubs and tap houses. We followed that up with our Boysenberry Nectar a few months later and in the spring of 2002 released our first Mountain Honey Wine (12% and still) which was a Traditional.

Pete:  Why did you start a meadery instead of a brewery?

David:  I actually was interested in starting a brew pub first but when plans for that fell through I still wanted to be in the brewing business. I had thought of the Meadery idea before but figured it was crazy. Well after the brew pub fell through I knew it was still a crazy idea but I just didn't care. The Meadery provided a different challenge than a brewery did. I'm quite pleased the direction my life took in opening Redstone.

Pete:  Can you tell us a little bit about the production facility that you use to produce mead?

David:  Our facility looks much like a brewery. In fact, all of our equipment came from breweries. I bought the original equipment from John Hickenlooper, now the Mayor of Denver, and owner of the Wynkoop Brew pub. We opened our facility with a 7 BBL Grundy system, 6 fermenters and 10 cold storage tanks. Later on we added 3 800 gallon tanks and recently tacked on 4 more Grundies. Since we do not add sulfites to any of our products, we have a kettle to pasteurize our honey. We are very proud of our all natural philosophy and only use real fruits and real spices along with our honeys.

Pete:  How did your first professional batches go? What have you learned about making mead since you started brewing it professionally?

David:  Amusingly! The early batches were quite the experience. You have to remember that I had no commercial experience at the time and I'm not exactly handy with my hands. I was basically trying to replicate what I was doing in my basement. So I'd be going along until I would run into a brick wall and then spend time figuring out how to get over it, under it, around it or chew my way through it till I got the system working again. Then I would continue on until I hit another brick wall.

Pete:  How many batches of mead did you brew as a homebrewer? Can you tell us about some of the more memorable ones?

David:  Hundreds of batches of home brew. Both mead and beer. One of the most fun sets of meads I ever made was with Paul Gatza from the Brewers Association. Paul and I made 44 gallons of mead in 4 hours. 3 different kinds. Paul showed up at my house with a Cajun cooker in the late morning. I had a gas cook top with some serious BTUs, a whole bunch of honey and quite a few gallons of apple cider. We whipped off a 12 gallon batch of Cyser, a 12 gallon batch of Sage Traditional and 20 gallons worth of a dagwood mead (mead made from whatever honey was left over). Then we were off for a few beers and a cigar at the Falling Rock Tap House. Not a bad day.

Pete:  How many, if any, of the batches that you brewed as a homebrewer translated into a commercial brand?

David:  Most of our brands come from old homebrew recipes of mine. The Black Raspberry Nectar is an off shoot from something I was doing at home. Also the pyments, melomels and our Winter Solstice Vanilla Bean/Cinnamon Stick mead come from meads I was making at home. Mostly I reduced the honey bill to make the products a little lower in alcohol for the general consumer.

Oddly, our Traditional which was the first of the Mountain Honey Wine line was an original recipe. The time had come to begin producing something other than Nectars. When I consulted with my VP Julia Herz, she suggested that you have to start by making a traditional. That it would be the bench mark. I reminded her that there is no place to hide in a traditional if there are any off flavors. I told her I'd think about it and decide in the morning. After mulling it over I realized like a true home brewer that I should go for the traditional because if there was an off flavor I could just dump a bunch of fruit in there and make it a melomel. The one set of recipes I did not adjust was our Reserve line. Our Reserves are 14%-16% alcohol, big heavy port like desert meads. We produce 1 batch a year, different flavor every year and ready when I say it is. It usually takes about 20-24 months before release.

Pete:  I notice that you use a blend of different honeys in your meads. How does that play into the balance of your meads? What kind of flavor and honey aroma are you shooting for when you formulate recipes, or does it vary from product to product?

David:  It differs from product to product. Honey is like grapes in that different grapes make different grape wine different honeys make different honey wines. I find that there is a unique flavor that can be achieved by blending two honeys into a single flavor. It adds a depth and complexity that I believe is very difficult to achieve with a single honey. Our Nectars are mostly Colorado clover with a bit of Colorado wild flower mixed in. Since our Nectars have a fruit that is the leading character using a more neutral honey like clover is the way to go. Our Traditional is mostly AZ orange blossom with a bit of Colorado wild flower mixed in. Because of the orange blossom honey there are notes of citrus to the mead making it a good pairing with curries, Tai food and blacked fish or chicken. Our Juniper Berry mead I chose a blend of AZ desert blossom which is basically AZ wildflower with AZ orange blossom. The desert blossom has a mesquite earthy flavor to it and blended with the citrus from the orange blossom makes a nice base for the juniper berries and the aging with oak we do. All of these combined flavors make for a complex mead. It begins a bit sweet and piney at the tip of the tongue, gets a bit spicy in the middle and finishes a bit woody and dry. Nice paired with sushi, lightly cooked fish and ham. It accentuates the saltiness in the ham.

As I sit back down to try and finish these answers I am enjoying a fine Meadmosa. One of our Nectar products mixed with orange juice. It's drinking with vitamins!

Pete:  Yes, I've come to really appreciate the desert honey that we get in the Southwest because it comes from so many different sources of nectar, which really gives it a nice, well rounded depth.

You have been called the Chairman of Mead and have kind of taken the torch and marched forward in promoting the beverage. Mead is such a great drink that can take so many forms, but yet it seems to have fewer consumers, and less visibility, in the marketplace compared to wine, beer, and spirits. What is the chairman's plan to get the word out about mead and close this gap?

David:  I refer to mead as the oldest beverage no one has ever heard of making it a difficult sell at best. Education, education, education. People need to be turned on to mead. Good mead. This is a revolution! What we need is for the public to go out and ASK for MEAD! My mead, her mead, his mead, I don't care just ASK for MEAD! One of the great things that is happening in the industry is that we are seeing more meaderies making quality mead opening their doors. We estimate that there are 60 meaderies in the US whose primary products are mead. We estimate there are another 20-30 companies such as breweries and wineries that produce a mead. When you add on another 250 companies throughout the world and the mead industry is beginning to grow. I have been contacted by several people this year that are in the process of opening their Meadery or are considering opening a Meadery. We at Redstone believe this is good for the industry. The only way to get mead to the mainstream is to have more good mead being made. Mead is a diverse beverage. It is not just a desert wine. Mead is for the dinner table, mead is for behind the bar. What we have discovered is that mead is for everyone but wine snobs. The mead industry is coming together under the newly founded International Mead Association whose main event is the International Mead Festival. Of course, my official title is Chairman of the Mead.

Pete:  That plays into our next question which is the International Festival of Mead. I hear the 2004 event in Boulder was a great one and we talked a little about the upcoming one in 2005. Can you tell our readers a little more about what is in store for Meadfest 2005?

David:  The International Mead festival will be holding its 4th competition in Boulder, Colorado on February 10th and 11th. We wound up not holding an event in 2005 due to the fact that we moved the event from November to February. We did this after receiving feedback from companies participating that November is a busy time of year and that more would be able to attend the festival if it was held in the winter. In 2004 we had 88 meads from 32 companies representing 7 countries. That makes it the largest collection of commercial meads to be judged and sampled by the public. In addition to all the great meads, representatives from 23 of the companies were on hand to pour and talk about their products. Our goal is to have 100 meads for the 2006 competition. Last year we added seminars with speakers that included Ken Schramm, author of the Compleat Meadmaker, and a panel discussion about the business of mead. Great fun, great people, great event! Come out and join us. www.meadfest.com

New to this year's event is a homebrew competition. We are very excited to add this to the International Mead festival. Details are to come out soon but we are looking forward to tasting some great mead made by your readers. Last year the host hotel sold out. They can get information about the entire event at meadfest.com or find out more at our website redstonemeadery.com

REDSTONE MEADERY
4700 Pearl Street Unit 2-A
Boulder, CO 80301
720-406-1215

www.redstonemeadery.com

www.meadfest.com