The National Honey Board’s inaugural Mead Crafters Competition showcased an astounding 344 meads from throughout North America. Judges tasted meads for their aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression. San Diego-based Lost Cause Meadery's Heavy Meadow took home a gold medal and the third-place Best of Show award, and we chatted with Billy Beltz, co-founder of Lost Cause Meadery, about the buzz surrounding Heavy Meadow.
How did you come up with the concept of Heavy Meadow?
Big fruit meads or melomels are really popular right now and a great way to showcase a mead with high residual sweetness balanced by a lot of acidity. It’s a style that’s very popular, and we hadn’t made one yet so we wanted to put our take on it and on the style. In our meads we like to highlight the honey varietal; we like making meads where the unique honey varietal shines through. We needed a very unique honey to stand up to all this fruit, and I knew I wanted to do a blackberry red wine grape mead, a pyment, for a while, so I thought let’s do it with this one. So we did one with blackberry and red grape petite sirah grapes. It was perfect for the big, fruity acidic mead, and I wanted a unique honey varietal so I chose meadowfoam blossom honey.
Meadowfoam is delicious!
You open up a jar of meadowfoam, and it’s like a vanilla marshmallow bomb went off. People who haven’t had a lot of honey and they try it — you see their eyes light up. It’s a great honey to use to educate people on what honey varietals can be. It’s a big contrast of flavor — you have the really dark, petite sirah blackberry flavors with a lot of tannin, a lot of acidity. With the honey it’s the complete opposite: vanilla, marshmallow, candy — I call it fluffy. It’s the polar opposite in flavor, and they turned out to make an amazing combination. It almost tastes like a candied blackberry red wine. Our approach to mead making is that it’s not just mixing ingredients together, it’s what really works great as a contrast. Heavy Meadow is our take on the classic sweet fruit-forward mead style, but the honey varietal has a starring role and contrasts beautifully with the fruit.
Let’s talk about fermenting with honey and how the meadowfoam honey flavors came through in the final product?
It’s the same process as the other meads with Heavy Meadow, but with this one we went for a higher residual sugar, bigger body, thus to balance that additional acidity and tannin that we normally do. We aged this one in oak. We chose American oak to complement the vanilla notes of the honey and it helped tie everything together.
We also have our own house yeast that’s a little unusual, which contributes to the flavor profile and the fruitiness. We ferment at cool temperatures and retain as much of the aromatics of the honey that we can.
The name Heavy Meadow is interesting. How did that come about?
It’s a play on words and the fact that we wanted a name that fit the theme of the mead, which was big and bold and a little extreme. We had an artist from Oakland, who does a lot of rock and roll concerts up in the Bay Area, design the packaging on this one.
What prompted you to enter Heavy Meadow into the mead comp?
It was exciting that it was the inaugural competition, but it turned out all of the best meaderies in the country entered! There aren’t a lot of mead competitions where everyone enters. I am guessing the judges liked it with the style of mead that’s popular right now. They call them fruit bombs — with that style sometimes the honey can get lost or not matter at all, and that’s such a shame to such a mead purist as myself. I think that’s why the flavor profile did well, because the honey did as well as the fruit.
For a full list of winners, please visit http://meadcrafterscompetition.com/2019-winners/.
We’re taking registrations for the 2020 Mead Crafters Competition. Learn more about submitting here: http://meadcrafterscompetition.com/.