Meads are fastest growing segment of U.S. alcohol beverage market
In Celtic mythology, a river of mead flows through paradise. In Rappahannock County, it flows through Amissville.
And the positive reviews are pouring in.
Hinson Ford Cider & Mead (379 Hinson Ford Road, just minutes off Highway 211) opened this past autumn as the only full-production meadery in Rappahannock County devoted to the ancient “nectar of the gods,” thought to have descended from the heavens as a honey-rich dew.
Whereas the ancient Greeks called meads “ambrosia,” Hinson Ford simply labels theirs Elderberry Mead, Goldenrod Mead, Strawberry Mead, and Dark Skies Bochet. The meadery’s equally popular hard ciders consist of Brehon Blend, Ciderhouse Blend, and the newest flavor Hops in the House.
All are offered by the bottle or case, albeit no visit to the meadery is complete without grabbing a cozy table in Hinson Ford’s taproom and sampling the various flavors on draft while enjoying the conversation around you or perhaps a game of backgammon.
“We are sort of pitching this as an alternative to wine and beer, specifically that it is lower in alcohol, doesn’t have the same load of carbohydrates in it, and the flavors are just really light and crisp — both the ciders and the meads,” says meadmaker Dennis Kelly.
“We do have one traditional mead that is definitely our strongest product, it has some residual sweetness to it, and it’s distilled. People liken it to a tawny port dessert wine.”
Hinson Ford’s meads — made by fermenting honey with water and various fruits, spices and hops — are still or petillant (slightly sparkling), and range from semi-sweet to dry. Cider choices are dry, dry oaked and hopped dry.
Kelly and his business partner (and neighbor) David Shiff point out that Rappahannock has a long and storied history of fine hard ciders that were crafted from local apples, and at Hinson Ford they’ve joined meads into the mix.
And talk about launching at a perfect time.
The meadmaker explains that while craft beer growth has leveled off in recent years — and mass-market beers, at the same time, are on the decline — hard cider has come back from the brink of extinction in the United States.
Meads, meanwhile, are said to be the fastest growing segment of the alcohol beverage market in the U.S. (which would explain why Bud Light has taken to bashing meads in their latest TV commercials).
Visitors will like find Kelly’s wife, Mary, behind the bar. Besides her educational pouring, she is the strategic planner of the meadery, and is also responsible for the beverages’ cool logos and branding, graphic design, and corporate identity.
“She designed all our labels and contributes her decades of experience as a home brewer and cider maker to our production efforts and product lineup,” Kelly boasts of Mary.
“If you have had mead before, forget what you know; if you haven’t had mead before, leave your expectations at the door,” says Kelly, “they’re like nothing you’ve tasted.”
Visit hinsonford.com or call 540-445-0024. The tasting room in Amissville is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.