The Alcoholic Side of Honey

By Harry Cramer

Although mead is not typically stocked in fridges around campus, Ricky Klein, head brewmaster of the new Groennfell Meadery in Colchester, Vt., is confident that Vermonters will embrace the alternative drink.

Though it is not known by many, mead is one of the oldest drinks ever created, steeped in roughly 12,000 years of sweet history. Mead is an alcoholic drink made from water and fermented honey.  Klein illuminated the otherwise mysterious process.

“The basic way to think about it is [as follows]: if it starts with grain, it ends up as beer, and if it starts as apples it ends up as cider, but if the fermentables start as honey, it ends up as mead,” Klein said.

Klein works alongside CEO Kathy Klein. He graduated from the College with focuses in religion and philosophy, but his interest in mead began during his exchange in Denmark.

“Mead is all over in Norse mythology and popular culture there,” Klein said, “but I couldn’t find it to save my life.”

When Ricky returned to the United States, he sought to change that.

“My first batch was terrible, absolutely horrendous,” he admitted. Despite this setback, he fused his brewing with his ongoing education by paying for his masters with the money he earned at a “homebrew brewery consulting business.”

It was during these formative years that Klein established his reputation at as “the mead guru.” Soon thereafter, he had a revelation.

“All of a sudden, I realized that I would much rather be doing this with my life than whatever I was going to do with my masters,” Klein said.

Klein and his wife then moved to Vermont, a state known for its pro-brewer legislation and culture. He has been working on the brewery almost full time since October, well over a year.

Although much of that time was spent wading through red tape and fixing equipment, the Groennfell Meadery is now moving product to local bars.

Klein has spoken with local restaurant 51 Main and plans to market his brews to students returning from the holidays this December. He added that, eventually, “we’ll be pretty much anywhere that you can buy hard cider.”

Despite its relative infancy, Klein hopes that the brewery will eventually grow to become the “Boston Lager of mead.” The meadery currently offers three different flavors. It has also experimented with hopped meads and plans to institute a publicly elected seasonal draft to its selection.

Much of the reason for his mead’s commercial viability, Klein contends, is because of its comparatively low price point. Most meads cost upwards of 15 dollars, a price steep even to Klein.

“If anyone out there should be buying Mead,” he pointed out, “it should be me.” Groennfell meads are available for just $2.50, roughly the price of a craft beer.

Klein pointed out that, “There are about a hundred meaderies in the US, and you’ve probably never heard of any of them.” He hopes that soon Groennfell Meadery will change that.

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