Mead—or wine made from fermented honey—might be the oldest form of alcohol on earth, but its modern manifestations taste anything but archaic. More and more Colorado brewers are formulating their own twist on the drink by the day, so even if you’re only familiar from watching your favorite Game of Thrones characters indulge, mead no longer has to look like (or taste like) the cough syrup-esque libation that you’d expect to drink out of a Viking’s horn. Whether you’re simply looking for a new craft beverage to add to your repertoire or maybe a gluten-free substitute to free you from a cider rut, we scoped out six local ways to delight in the age-old drink.
Sometimes, it’s all in a name—and the fact that Deborah Lee names her Queen Bee Brews after “queens, goddesses, and kickass chicks” tells you everything you need to know. With over a dozen different meads to try at her Denver taproom, the spread might be a bit daunting at first—but fret not. Lee has laid her menu out as a scale, ranking the meads based on your palate and how adventurous you’d like to get. For a fool-proof foundation, try the Elizabeth—a metheglin (mead infused with herbs or spices) made from Washington raspberry blossom honey and infused with rose petals from Lee’s own garden. If you’re feeling a little more bold, try the Dorothy, a melomel (mead made with fruit) with a slightly acidic hint from Palisade peaches. Other honorable mentions include the Lindsey and Vonn-Yay pyment meads, made with wine grapes and packed with their own twists (the Lindsey has been barrel-aged in Downslope Distilling whiskey barrels for a smooth, oaky finish). 800 E 64th Ave., #6
This watering hole is worth the drive to Castle Rock, as co-owners Michael Fagan and DJ Kurtz keep a rotating tap list of their semi-sweet session meads, including a few rotating flavors of mead slushies (yes, you read that right), which are a hot commodity even in the winter months (catch the Hive Mojito mead when it’s on as a slushie, and thank me later.) Sitting right below seven percent ABV, Fagan and Kurtz have managed to find the sweet spot between a wine and craft-beer experience with their carbonated recipes. If you’re a mead rookie and want to sample some no-nonsense, pure-honey taste, Fagan suggests the Natural Beauty as your first base. The passionfruit-, orange-, and guava-infused Island Hopper is another great go-to (and frequent award winner). Or If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, and if you ask nicely, Fagan will pour you one of his favorite combos: a mix of their coffee and hazelnut meads—though mixing is encouraged at Honnibrook anyway. Pro-tip: save some room for a sweet or savory bite from the Street Snack Bubble Waffle food truck out front. 2276 Manatt Court, Unit B9, Castle Rock
Other Local Sipping Spots
Annapurna Mead Co. at The Market at Larimer Square
This Colorado Springs-based meadery brings craft-beer flair to the mead world with their slew of canned session meads. Owners Patrick and Amalia Dobbins have concocted their meads to be drier (and less sugary) than most, and Patrick tapped into his prior experience in the wine world to liven the meads up with balanced, fruity profiles that hit the palate just right—like the pineapple that works hand-in-hand with the aromatic hoppy flavor in the Sauvage Mead Blanc (it genuinely tastes like a honey-dipped, carbonated version of it’s grape-based namesake). The Bee’s Squeeze offers another refreshing option with its orange and basil-steeped, off-dry essence—or if you’re looking for something less sweet, the For the Love of Ginger mead packs an unabashed zesty punch. Grab a can at the the Market at Larimer Square, order online, or keep an eye on their website to find out where its on tap in Denver, Boulder, and beyond. 1445 Larimer St., Colorado Springs
Viking Blod at Finn’s Manor
If you’re really hankering to enjoy the nectar-y booze like the vikings once did, this Nordic mead sold by the ounce at Finn’s Manor in RiNo might be your best bet. It’s worth considering grabbing a snack from one of the food trucks at Finn’s beforehand, as you probably won’t want to brave this one on an empty stomach—ringing in at 19 percent ABV, this hibiscus honey wine is one of the hardest hitters on the roster. But don’t be deterred by the thick, syrup-y consistency and its strong, boozy nose. It’s a warming wine that goes down smooth. Start with two to three ounces to sip on, and work your way up if you so please. 2927 Larimer St.
Mead to Enjoy at Home
Joe Weir has fine-tuned the art of harnessing the simple, natural wonders of honey at his meadery in Golden. With a mix of canned session meads and bottled traditional meads to get your hands on at Front Range liquor stores—and less than three grams of sugar in most of the offerings—Randy Buzz is arguably serving up the driest mead in the state. Grab a bottle of the traditional for a pure Colorado honey taste that finishes similar your favorite dry, white wine—or if you’re looking for something more adventurous, snag a can of the appropriately named Feisty Ginger session mead. Not big on ginger? Weir’s Purple Rose mead is a floral, middle-of-the-road option, infused with grapefruit peel and purple roses from Yunnan, China. Randy Buzz also has a taproom with limited hours (Friday 3–7 p.m. and Saturday 12–4 p.m.), and tours are available by appointment. 15810 W. 6th Ave., Golden
This honey wine out of Palisade does not shy away from the sweet capabilities of its main ingredient, with an assortment of traditional meads, fruit-blend meads, and even a few dessert wines available at liquor stores across the front range or to order online. The rich, tart berry flavor of its award-winning strawberry wine definitely leans on the sugary side but is a perfect primer to their selection of fruit blends, which taps several ripe profiles like apricots, raspberries, and of course, the region’s famous peaches. Each flavor is labeled based on sweetness level and has an ABV expected of your typical wine—and if you’re feeling even more gluttonous, they’ve got plenty of recipes for playful wine cocktails to concoct with the honey spirits. And if you’re in Palisade, stop in to the tasting room and retail store—just down the road from parent company St. Kathryn Cellars and Talon Winery’s tasting room—or book a “bee-hind” the scenes tour of the production facility in advance. 3701 G Rd., Palisade