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5-29-18 Tonight we’re getting with Billy Beltz, award-winning mead maker.

Billy Beltz is the Co-Founder of Lost Cause Meadery located in in San Diego, CA. Billy and his wife Suzanna opened the doors to Lost Cause in November of 2017. After only six months of being open they have already amassed several national awards for their meads including medals at the Mazer Cup International, the San Diego International Beer Competition, and the CA State Fair Wine Competition.
Prior to opening the meadery Billy was an award-winning home mead maker with over 34 medals for his mead including four Mazer Cup awards. He also had his research on ale yeast strains for mead making published in American Mead Maker and Zymurgy, and is a BJCP Certified Mead Judge.
Lost Cause takes pride in crafting delicious, complex and slightly carbonated meads that showcase unique honey varietals and a passion for experimentation. The meadery is located in a shared space with a cidery (Serpentine Cider) and a scratch kitchen (The Good Seed Food Co.).

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Billy had a couple questions he asked in the AMMA group before the show. Here are the questions and what people had to say:

What, if anything, is or should be sacred in mead making? (think use of certain ingredients or processes to make mead, is there anything you feel you’ll never do, or does it just matter what the final product tastes like)

Meads made for for mass appeal (sales) vs competitions (win awards) vs hype/ratings (like Untappd). Are these often the same or different meads? Why or why not?

  • Carvin Wilson:  
    • 1 – Beside using a certain percentage of honey, I feel nothing should be sacred. You should not limit your palate, recipe design, or exploration based upon what others say. Exploration is one of the main components to innovation, so break rules and never stop asking what if or why.
    • Item 2 – It’s nice when a mead can cover all three categories, but from talking with a lot of professional mead makers it seems what sells is not always what wins awards or carries a lot of hype. As a business owner, it’s important to keep your target audience in mind and that’s not always judges or hype buyers.  
    • One of the reason I think a mead that sells well does not do good in competitions is it does not fit nicely into style guidelines. Another reason is judging will always be subjective, you must have a good mead on the right day in front on the right judges.  With a hype mead, not only do you need a solid mead, but you really need to have your social media and fan base game going strong to pull something of that nature off. There are a lot of meaderies making solid mead, but they are not paying attention to the social media aspect; thinking that their mead is good enough on it’s on to get hype.
  • Alex Gonzalez:
    • #2 – I think there is a lot of gray area there, and most of the time at least 2 of those will over lap. I personally pull from all 3 categories, though “mass appeal” & “untapped rating” are hard to separate for reasons that Sean mentioned. I pull inspiration locally from our surroundings, which includes produce/honey, cultural (both the communities and my own), as well as the local brewing community. What works and sells locally may very well be a mead in the low to mid-80s at Mazer, but your community is already acclimated to your style and flavor profiles leading to an average of 4+ on Untappd. It’s definitely a fun conversation to have. I think really displays market variation well and how there is no one path that a mead maker needs to go down to ensure they are successful.
  • Andrew Geffken:  
    • 1) Nothing. There are lots of meads that I personally don’t like taste-wise, but I respect the producer for just going for it and continuing to experiment. Being open-minded is the best way to learn.
    • 2) I think you can have the same for any combination except for mass appeal and hyped/rated. Look at the ratings for not just meads, but the Treehouse/Hill Farmstead compared to the mass appeal beers. To make the really hyped ones usually requires expensive ingredient costs or aging times that preclude it from being available broadly.
  • Sean Grant:
    • 1) I will never boil the water that has honey in it
    • 2) I know a few people who put a lot of preference on Untapped for deciding what to buy when they haven’t had something before…especially when it comes to mead due to the perception that people have for mead (i.e it is strong, super sweet and ‘that is the stuff at the RenFair’).
  • Aaron Schavey:
    • 2.) imo just comes down to branding. A lot of the hard to get /hype stuff you don’t see being entered in competitions. Not certain reasons behind not entering but I know some brands choose not to enter competitions for their own reasons. I’ve had a lot of really fantastic mead from the hype harder to get category as well as the competition side. Some of the very best mead I’ve had have been made from some of the Mazer cup winners in the home brew sector.
  • Amy Drew Hasle:
    • 1. I feel extremely strongly that the primary ingredient be honey, and that no candy or sucrose make a major contribution. I absolutely think that there should be a labeling restriction that only fermented beverages with 51% or more honey be labeled as Mead.
    • 2. I chuckle at that question. HoneyRun stopped entering mead competitions because our style highlights the fruit, you can’t leave honey off the entry description, and there isn’t a “correct” BJCP balance of ingredients in our melomels that have fed the fam and kept gas in the car for 20 years.
  • Peter James Schultz
    •  Item 1 – as soon as there is something you will never do, there is a portion of the consumer base you will never capture. Be closed minded at your own peril.
    • Item 2 – different meads IMO. To echo what Patty said above: The best thing a Meadery can do is have a diverse portfolio of flavors. Offering your consumers meads varying in sweetness, abv, acidity, etc will allow you to accommodate more people than if you only sell one type of mead.
    • You can have your session mead for quick inventory turnover, your single origin honey with high quality fruit to win awards and a barrel aged mead with whichever fruit is trendy at the time for your hype mead.
  • Keith Weidemann:
    • 1) To me it’s all about the end product. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you got what you were aiming for,  and if you didn’t, turn it into a special one -off. Some times those are the best ones lol. I’ve had the debate about mead being at least 51% honey with myself a lot. Because if other ingredients are dominate then to me it’s whatever with honey added. That being said,  if you want to call it mead who am I to say its not, you made it, and I’ll drink it.
    • 2) I think if your doing things like Billy then they are the same and should be what you’re striving for. But a question I have for this is,  if you do enter a competition, are you entering a large batch pull off, or do you make a small batch just for the entry so you can control everything more precise and lower the risk of bad marks?
  • Adam Thompson
    • #1) I hold nothing sacred when making mead and I don’t think anybody else should either.
    • #2) They can be the same but they don’t have to be. I think of it like commercial beer where most beers on shelves would score low to mid 30’s if blindly entered into a homebrew competition but they still sell well for a variety of reasons.
  • Jeff Katra
    • 1. I think the only thing sacred in mead making is not adding any refined sugars. I can understand secondary types of sugar like maple/etc when making a certain style where it’s called for, but back sweetening with granulated sugar would be a sin.
    • 2. The dynamic between mass appeal/hype versus actual style and quality is very subjective. Personally I think that every product should at its core be of the highest quality. While not every batch is perfect it should have been the result of meticulous process and passion for making it. With the competition in the market, excellent branding and positioning in the market place is almost necessary. What makes me sad or angry is when I see meads that are incredible fall by the way side due to poor marketing. And even worse mediocre meads that were over hyped.
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Vicky Rowe
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Vicky Rowe

Vicky Rowe has been active as a promoter and supporter of the mead industry since the mid-90's with Gotmead.com, and is totally serious about seeing the mead industry take its rightful place as a popular craft beverage on the world recreational drinking stage.

She is also an experienced marketing coach and consultant who has recently decided to focus her marketing expertise exclusively on the craft beverage market to help meaderies, cideries, breweries and distilleries expand their business and get more customers while doing what they love.
Vicky Rowe
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