Gandalf swilled it in The Hobbit. The Queen of Sheba and King Solomon favored it, and the ancient Greeks referred to it as the “nectar of the gods.” Mead, with roots reaching back to 7,000 B.C., is an alcoholic drink made from fermented honey, yeast, and water, and is making its mark in the Upstate craft beverage scene.
What’s all the buzz about this honeyed elixir? “Five years ago, there were 50 meaderies in the U.S.; now there are 400,” says Brian Daughhetee of Wandering Bard Meadery in Mauldin. Brian and his brother and business partner, Adam, who hail from Maryland, each started out with education degrees before switching to IT careers that brought them to Greenville. Motivated by the growing popularity of mead, the brothers launched a meadery in 2017, though Brian still runs his own IT company on the side.
Hidden behind Tato’s Pizza in Mauldin, their production facility may be small, but it’s nonetheless a hive of activity. There, they ferment the honey, press the fruit, age the mead, and bottle, label, and package their product. Brian, a home-brewing enthusiast who produced his first batch of mead in 1990, “does the science,” while Adam handles the marketing and operations. They currently produce 15 different types of mead, from the smooth, semi-sweet Traditional to Old World Bochet, Brian’s take on a 600-year-old recipe, made with caramelized wildflower honey, long-pepper, grains of paradise, ginger, cloves, and green cardamom. Seasonal rotations infuse mead with fruit such as peaches, cherries, and elderberries.
Brian and Adam source 60 percent of their ingredients from South Carolina, including local wildflower honey. Mead, though fermented with yeast similar to wine, is in a category by itself. For that reason, Wandering Bard has found a home in both wineries and breweries. “It fits in like cider in a tap room,” Adam notes.
Future plans call for a tasting room to open on-site this summer (until then, you can sample mead at their facility on the first Saturday of every month). “We do a lot of different styles of mead,” says Brian. “So you can find something to please most any palate.”
Wandering Bard Meadery, 109B Miller Rd, Mauldin;
(864) 729-3025, wanderingbardmeadery.com
Find Wandering Bard mead in retail outlets around the Upstate, including Total Wine, Wine Express, The Community Tap, Greenville Beer Exchange, and Lowes Foods.