Pizza n’ mead is not your standard “pairing” but it may delightfully surprise you. If you are not familiar with mead, this is the original drink of passion, glory, and love and it is the oldest beverage known to man and dates back over 8,000 years.
Mead is not beer or wine. It is made from pure honey. The honey is mixed with water, and then yeast is added to start the fermentation. It can be made in many ways just as beer and wine have varieties, so too mead has complexity. If fruit is added, you have a Melomel. If spices are added, you have a Metheglin, and many other variations. Monticola Meadery currently has the Melomel available in locations across Lewisburg and Fayetteville.
“The guys make a very high quality mead. Even my parents loved it. Really something old but new. Try it!” – David Meriwether
Dry meads taste good with cheeses, pastas, and other Italian food. It’s also nice with steaks and barbeque style foods. Cheese especially pairs well because think about wine and how they are often served together. Monticola Melomel is best served chilled and because of its dry flavor, pizza pairs nicely with the spirit. The combination of the Melomel and T-Rex pizza at Hill & Holler Restaurant is an invigorating combination. The wood-fired T-Rex includes bold flavors including pepperoni, sopressata, house capacola, house sausage, and fresh mozzarella. The Melomel also pairs well with Hill & Holler’s Proscuitto and Pesto Pizza. This pie has prosciutto, basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, arugula, and pecorini-romano.
To give you a better understanding of mead and how Monticola Meadery launched in Greenbrier County, we interviewed the owner, Jefferson Casto . Here is a Q&A:
1. How did you get started making mead?
Several years ago I moved out of a neighborhood and had enough land to play with some outside projects so I got some chickens and bees as a novelty/new hobby. As the bees produced I started to gain a surplus of honey, in the tune of multiple 5 gallon buckets laying around the house. I, at some point, had heard or read about mead and thought I’d try it.
2. How long was the learning process? When did you make your first batch? How long does it take to make?
I’m a voracious reader. As far as learning to make mead, I read everything I could get my hands on. Starting with a small batch in a bucket and transferring to a glass carboy, after several months I gave it a taste. And was pleasantly surprised. I was happy enough with it that I started experimenting with it with more batches. I worked with berries and spices and citrus. I made dry meads and sweet meads. As time passed I focused on dry meads in a more traditional style, seeing if I could make a reproducible recipe and a strong vigorous fermentation. I upgraded homebrewing equipment. I bought small pumps and filters and learned their use. At this point I had enough bottled mead that it was either time to slow down or take the plunge to go commercial. I began a search for a suitable space and spent a couple years coming up empty-handed. Eventually, I came in contact with the Ronceverte Development Corporation who were wonderful to work with. They had a space that fit what I was looking for, so it began. I signed a lease and immediately began the licensure process and buying of equipment.
“Done a little taste testing and loved it, can’t wait for this to take off!” – Rusty Nelson
3. How did you choose the name, Monticola Meadery?
Monticola is Latin for Mountaineer. As mead is a very old beverage, possibly the oldest alcoholic beverage, I wanted a name that reflected that. Latin being the root of all romance languages seemed right. Mountaineer is self-explanatory.
4. Have you always been a local resident?
I grew up in Beckley until I went to WVU. In 1995 I went to El Paso with the Army. The following 10 years were all over the US and world in Active Duty service. I spent a year in Korea in 1996-7. I deployed to Iraq as a battlefield surgeon in 2003-2004 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2005, upon leaving the Army, I moved to Greenbrier County and have been here since.
5. How is traditional mead made versus your mead?
Traditional mead, by definition, is mead made from honey, water, and yeast. I have a traditional mead aging in the tanks as we speak. Melomel includes citrus. That is what Monticola has bottled for sale at present. My idea of fermenting a melomel is not to use citrus, in this case orange, as a flavor infusion, but more to add nutrition to the primary fermentation. I don’t believe in post-fermentation infusion. I decided from personal preference that I want Monticola’s meads fermented dry. So many commercial meads are so sweet that it overpowers any underlying mead flavor. (in my opinion). There is always room to add recipes in the future if I choose to go that direction. Primary fermentation is over within 2 weeks. Secondary fermentation (the last bit of honey fermented) can take several more weeks. I filter and bottle when I think it’s ready, usually 5-8 months.
6. How would you describe the taste?
The taste is delightful. There are overtones of honey and of the hive itself in mead. The flavor can evolve as you drink it. The best advice is to try it with an open mind. It may look like white wine, but don’t expect that flavor. Taste it. Let your palate adjust to a totally new experience. Then taste it again. By the third sip you’ll love it.
7. Do you have any events scheduled for October?
Find us during TOOT on Saturday, October 8th. We will be set up at Robert’s Antiques in downtown Lewisburg. Stop in and try the mead!
8. Where is your mead available?
Monticola Melomel is available in Lewisburg at the Loft Liquor Store, Robert’s Antiques, Hill and Holler, and The Asylum, and in Fayetteville at Studio B.
For more information about Monticola Meadery, find them on facebook or call 304-992-4324. The meadery is located at 211 Chestnut Street in Ronceverte, WV.