The craft beer craze continues unabated, with cider nipping at its heels. Hops, wheat, even apples — these ingredients have to be shipped into Florida from far away. What does the locavore drink, then, beyond orange juice? Soon the answer will be mead.
St. Bartholomew's Mead (St. Bart was the patron saint of the honey crop) will debut early in 2014 in Palm Harbor. This hobby-turned-business is the brainchild of Bob Lasseter, who started making batches of mead several years back on Wednesdays and Sundays while his wife was at church.
Forbes Magazine has recognized mead as one of the year's biggest culinary trends, with artisan honey also making the list. So Lasseter has a double-whammy on his hands. Dozens of craft brewers have tried their hands at the ancient honey-water-yeast alcoholic drink, and it's likely the recently closed Roosevelt 2.0 in Ybor City will be reborn as a cider and mead bar.
Lasseter remains unimpressed with many of the commercial efforts, saying that the honey-to-water ratio is often off and that these products aren't aged long enough. He takes local, unpasteurized honey, heats it to remove bacteria, then mixes it with liquid (water, grape juice, cider — but the ratio is 3-to-1 honey to liquid), cools it and adds the yeast. Beyond the traditional ones, he makes metheglin versions spiced with things like cinnamon sticks and cloves, and melomel styles made with fruit. Think combinations like cherry chipotle. Then he ferments for three to four weeks, ages for six months, bottles it, and ages it for another six months.
Because it is made from an agricultural product and the finished product is 14 to 16 percent alcohol (twice as strong as most craft beers), St. Bartholomew's has to be licensed as a winery. His aim is to debut one a week starting in February, with availability from a tasting room, online (visit blackfoxmeadery.com) and through Pepin Distributing.
While Lasseter thinks most people are still a little fuzzy on exactly what mead is, he thinks its future looks bright.
"There's been a renewed interest in mead because of craft beer, but here's something that's 100 percent different. People want to try something new."
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293.