When someone asks if you'd like a cup of mead, it's easy to cringe at visions of Renaissance Faires. But "What you get at a Renaissance Faire isn't something you want to drink. It's sticky, sweet and boozy," says Dave Cerminara, who just opened Apis Meadery in Carnegie.
Mead is one of the world's oldest alcoholic beverages, first fermented by accident at least 20,000 years ago. It was revered as the nectar of the gods by Greek, Norse and Celtic societies.
It's also stunningly straightforward. "Mead is honey, water and yeast. Nothing else," says Cerminara. But that doesn't mean that making mead is easy. It takes a significant amount of patience and expertise to make a mead worth drinking.
Fortunately, Cerminara comes to Apis with a terrific brewing pedigree. He spent the last few years at Penn Brewery; before that, he says, he "brewed all over the world." Mead has always had a siren call for him, however: "I've been brewing mead longer than I've been brewing beer."
Currently, all meads at Apis begin with honey from Bedillion Honey Farm, in nearby Hickory. The meads come in three styles — Florea, Mellifera and Dorsata — all of which are fermented with the same yeast strain. As a result, tasting the progression is an experience of Cerminara's skill.
The Florea is a light-bodied mead with lower alcohol content — though at 7 percent, it still packs a punch. Mellifera is a mid-proof, full-bodied mead, with a balanced acidity that hints of riesling. Dorsata is the heavy hitter, coming in at a boozy 14 percent, and it resonates with notes of wildflower pollen as much as with the honey's sweetness.
For the time being, Apis is only available to drink on site or take home by the bottle. But Cerminara says he's working hard to share offerings all across the city. "We have a great cidery and a million breweries," he says, "and we needed a meadery." Now we have one.