Mead, often referred to as honey wine, is one of the oldest known fermented alcoholic beverages with ancient roots that span a multitude of cultural affiliations and across numerous continents. Yet in the past six years we have been noticing this diverse product popping up in large, bi-coastal cities as a funky new ingredient in craft cocktails as well as carving out a niche in the gluten-free market, competing with conventional wines and appearing in different presentations with both still and sparkling varietals.
RMFR checks in with multiple bars and restaurants in Colorado Springs, welcoming the mead movement and currently carrying the locally based, AnnaPurna Mead. We speak to Patrick Dobbins, owner of AnnaPurna Mead, along with a few prominent culinary influencers to find out more about their attachments to the versatile vino-beer fusion, why it has a place in the land of libations and to discover more about it’s pairing potential.
“Using honey as our base we have real options to layer flavors on top of that,” says Dobbins. “Because of it’s high acid content and shelf stability we can move away from apple and pear-centric flavors, like in ciders.”
503W takes that concept and expounds upon it, utilizing AnnaPurna Mead to concoct low ABV cocktails that blends their creative approach with the brightness of AnnaPurna’s Sauvage Mead Blanc, a wild white mead with tropical undertones, which reads similar to the grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc it’s inspired by.
“I think it’s inevitable that mead would make it’s way into the craft world because it’s a nice liaison between ciders and cocktails,” says Emillio Ortiz, co-owner of 503W. “The honey acts as a gateway because it can be added as a sweetener, as opposed to using simple syrup or a heavy Demerara sugar.”
Honey also serves as a natural carbonating agent in AnnaPurna’s sparkling mead which makes it an attractive substitute for champagne in mixology.
“I like the effervescence of it,” says Ortiz. “Any kind of fizz’s you would add bubbles too, a gin fizz for example, I think you can use their mead in a similar fashion.”
We find AP to be the perfect compliment to the Asian fusion cuisine served at 503W with suggested pairings from Ortiz that include accompanying the fruit and nut salad, the Thai noodle bowl or spicy poke.
Just around the corner at Colorado Craft Tejon Street Social, known for their commitment to local sourcing, AnnaPurna was able to fill the void when they “were looking for something a little different,” says Mario Vasquez, co-owner and executive chef at Colorado Craft.
“Mead is really fun and interesting and it is similar to the wine and beer process,” says Vasquez. “It’s light, has lots of fruity notes and the honey really does shine. It’s all local as well so I felt it played with what we’re doing food wise.”
Vasquez recommends trying AnnaPurna products with their burrata dish, where the balsamic coupled with the mead harnesses a equivocal sweet to tart ratio. We also see a solid placement for AP alongside the savory pork bolognaise creating a balance that he says “cuts through that rich cream sauce.”
The wine-like elements of AnnaPurna’s mead carries across varying styles of food, seamlessly arriving on the menu at Bonny and Read Fresh Steak and Seafood, where “it’s becoming an employee favorite,” says Josh Kelly, corporate executive chef for Joe Campana’s restaurants.
“It’s kind of untapped, continues Kelly. “I think a lot of people are interested in it because of dietary restrictions and trends and for us it really works.”
AnnaPurna provides “mild, refreshing drinks that go well with the buttery flavors of the seafood,” says Kelly, and suggests the Sauvage Mead Blanc with their most popular dish, the Alaskan halibut with crispy red potatoes and grilled asparagus that subtly swims in a silky lemon beurre blanc.
“Normally I would recommend a nice white wine but now, I would recommend this,” says Kelly confidently.”
AnnaPurna is not just imitating traditional wine and beer offerings and produces thoughtful flavors in the form of Cherry Bee Dazzled with notes of vibrant cherries and floral hibiscus that Kelly predicts will be a “fun summer drinking flavor that I think we’ll see everywhere at picnics and parties.” For the Love of Ginger, which offers digestive benefits as well as it leans into sweet pineapple and zesty ginger that favors the feel of kombucha, and really pops with Bonny & Read’s coconut shrimp with red cabbage and pineapple pico in a blood orange sticky sauce. Even more adventurous seasonals like the pumpkin chipotle pave the way for a versatile combinations that includes, carrot and turmeric, as well as orange and basil, slated to debut this year.
“Using the honey as the back bone allows us to be really innovative in our profiles and makes them very food friendly,” says Dobbins. That gives us a wider palate to play from and to co-ferment with a bunch of really interesting flavors.”
*Header image courtesy of AnnaPurna Mead