What is a fermented beverage that is older than wine and is said to date back to the Vikings? If you answered “mead” you would be correct. Mead is neither a wine nor a beer, but rather its own beverage whose main ingredients are honey, water and yeast. I had the privilege to visit with Adam and Shawna Shapiro, owners of Black Forest Meadery, and they gave me the 411 on mead production. (By the way, if you haven’t visited the Black Forest area since the fire, its amazing to see the devastation!!)
Since honey is the critical ingredient in mead, lets start there. The Shapiros are proud that their honey is 100% Colorado and obtain it from 2 local producers. Honey, and therefore the eventual mead, is totally affected by where the bees gather their pollen. Clover-based honey is actually lighter and makes sweeter meads. Bees “hanging out” in wildflowers provide a different flavor in the honey and usually a dryer style mead. Adam said his mead “is a local drink, from local producers and offers a taste of Colorado in each bottle.”
There are two fermentation cycles. The first is the primary fermentation where yeast is added to the water and honey. In addition to the type of honey used, the type of yeast used also influences the mead’s taste. Secondary fermentation occurs as the mead sits in stainless steel tanks for 2-3 weeks. The Shapiro’s do not filter their meads so they “re-rack” the mead (changing it from one tank to another) to remove the sediment. Black Forest ages their meads for about 9 months, although you can age it for 3-4 months and then bottle it.
Black Forest makes 4 different meads… Their “Forest” and “Woods” are dry and their “Merry Chokeberry” and “Melody” are sweet. Over the next few years they plan to incorporate fruit meads into their line, using peaches, plums and cherries from their own orchards. Black Forest is a family owned and operated meadery as well as a small farm where they raise animals and have an orchard and vineyard. Their label depicts their property and includes their sentiments of “enjoy [their meads] with friends and quality sunsets.”
To taste and enjoy their meads you basically have 3 options….stop by their tasting room, which originally was a church, Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. (they ask you to call ahead), at the Colorado Farm & Arts Market in Colorado Springs and at various wine festivals. So open up your mind and palate to a different taste experience and try a mead soon!