Bos has a declared preference for dry meads; here, Wildflower and Buckwheat & Wildflower versions.
Mead fans and day-drinkers found common cause at High Noon Saloon on Saturday, as Bos Meadery held a party to celebrate both the launch and early success of its fermented honey beverages.
A healthy crowd had already paid its cover and filled up many of the tables by the time I arrived, just before 3 p.m. Colleen Bos and partner Peter DeVault were splitting time between greeting folks in the crowd and giving shout-outs and updates on the stage. Hostesses dressed as bees mingled and distributed glitter to everyones shoulders and elbows.
Bos announced her relief at scheduling the launch party for nearly two months after the actual product launch, as their early success has kept them busy. DeVault put a finer point on it: approximately 1,500 bottles and 30-40 kegs have been topped off since September.
If you haven't tried mead, you can't blame it on not being a Renaissance faire person anymore. The popularity of this ancient beverage has been growing rapidly in the broader brewing world over the last few years, showing up in strong numbers at traditionally beer-centric events like Great Taste of the Midwest. It's honey, water, and yeast, so what's not to like?
Aided by a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $15,000, Bos turned personal and public investment into Madison's first meadery and one of only a few in the state of Wisconsin. The operation currently bottles three varieties of mead, plus a lightly carbonated pyment -- distinguished from traditional mead by the addition of grape juices.
The Pomegranate Pyment, one of two Bos products on tap at the High Noon for the party, was my first taste. "Lightly carbonated" is right; frankly, I didn't notice it -- it might have been whooshed away in the tap line. The acidic punch of pomegranate hit hard right away, though, with mellower honey and grape sweetness coming out at the end of the sip.
Wildflower is the closest to the essence of mead, with no odd flavors or fruit additions. It is also used as the base mead for a couple of Bos flavor variants. Floral aromas pour out of this glass as it nears your lips, and the flavor is lightly honey-sweet. Bos' stated preference for producing dryer meads is evident here; this one could really pack a sticky sweet wallop in less deft hands.
A chardonnay-oaked version of Wildflower wasn't available for this event, but Black Pepper was; a hefty dose of ground black pepper goes directly into the fermenter with the base mead. Once tapped, the black pepper helps bring this brew's grassy underpinnings to the fore. The pepper flavor itself is almost subconscious, but this was the favorite of my drinking team.
(Incidentally, something in the tequila and tonic I had between meads amplified that black pepper spiciness tenfold. I put the same trick to the test with one of my friends in attendance, and she was taken aback by the change in flavor. Try it at home!)
Lastly, the oddball of the group, Buckwheat. The bee leading our tour of the production facility told us that buckwheat honey has a bad reputation in the world of honey, given its somewhat funky flavors. I don't know the world of honey, but this mead had some real funk going on. Dark, boozy, and with a surprising but not entirely unpleasant ammonia note, Buckwheat gave off impressions of maple, clove, and (sorry, I'm not a wine writer) grape Jolly Rancher. This is love-it-or-hate-it territory. I think it'd be fun to cook with.
The tour bee said that Bos and DeVault are still hoping to turn part of their production facility into a small tasting room, but right now they're too busy filling that space with kegs and cases to spare the square footage. (There's a bee joke here somewhere, I'm sure of it.) Bos meads are popping up on store shelves all over Madison, and even some tap lists. Pour a glass and taste a locally-sourced history lesson.