The Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute, UC Davis, is in the planning stages of its first Mead Making Short Course. The event, to be held Thursday, February 6 – Saturday afternoon, February 8th, is the first of its kind in the country.
Mead, the oldest alcoholic beverage known to the world, is a fermented blend of pure honey and water. Often fruits and spices are added producing a dry, semi-sweet, sweet or even sparkling mead. This golden libation of the Norse gods, a staple throughout the Middle Ages, is experiencing a rapid renaissance here in the United States. Chris Webber, president of the American Mead Makers Association has over 150 meaderies on his list, but there are many more, not including beekeepers and hobbyists who dabble in the art.
The Mead Making Short Course is being developed in concert with the world renowned Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis with help from many of the country’s leading mead makers and experts. Amina Harris, Executive Director of the Honey and Pollination Center explains, “ I met a fledgling mead maker at a conference this past spring. He was so excited that I worked at UC Davis and immediately asked if a seminar of some sort could be put together for mead makers like him. Upon return from the conference, I began investigating the possibilities. “
Over the next few months Harris worked with Professor Dave Block, chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department to create a thorough program that will take participants from tasting and buying honey, right through the process including fermentation and filtration. Specialists in their fields will be presenting on the sensory aspects of mead: smells and taste, defects and texture. Winery design will be paired with a tour through the world’s first LEED Platinum winery at the Robert Mondavi Institute. “Once we had the program fleshed out, I began to contact the movers and shakers in the mead industry. With their help we have tweaked the initial plan and added some special tastings and panels and information about the current state of the honey bee and beekeeping.” Finally, international wine expert and local personality, Darrell Corti, will help lead a mead tasting to teach attendees what to look for in a finished product.
Creating a program is just one step of the process to developing a seminar in an area the University is interested in, but knows little about. Over the next few months, Block and Chik Brenneman, winemaker, will be putting together mead trials working with established northern California Mead Makers. Block will analyze those products using his expertise in the wine area.
Additionally, Jim Lapsley, an Adjunct Associate Professor and University Extension, will begin to analyze the financial costs involved in establishing a meadery. His research, which will include surveying the over 200 mead makers already compiled by the Center, is funded by the Robert Mondavi Institute. Results of that research will be presented during the short course in order to help mead makers assess their financial needs.
For someone who knew very little about mead – except for references in literature, I am learning a lot fast!” says Harris. “This program is a very exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a lot of much more experienced mead makers and help them create a valuable educational experience.”
Cost for the conference is $425 before December 15th and $500 after. The program includes classes, tours and most meals. To enroll, go to rmi.ucdavis.edu/events. For more information, contact Amina Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register here! https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/93
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