I recently wrote an article on Artesano Meadery after touring their Vermont facility. Nicole Wolfgang started the company with her husband Mark Simakaski. You can learn more about Artesano in the article along with the answers to the questions below. Hopefully you can find some inspiration for your future mead endeavors.
What got you into mead making?
It all started with bee keeping and home beer brewing. My husband, Mark, bought me a bee hive for a gift once and it went from there.
What was the first mead you made?
The first mead we made was in Paraguay, South America in 2005. We had no access to commercial yeast or even brewing equipment so we improvised. We boiled our water and cut up fruit to provide the yeast. It was not half-bad, but no comparison to what we make today.
Where do you find inspiration for your mead making?
Mark and I find inspiration from our local farmers and food producers. We keep strictly to local, real and fresh. One year the local raspberry crop did not produce so we moved to blackberries and it was a hit.
What is the wildest ingredient you’ve added to a mead?
Our Chili Cinnamon and Spiced meads were the result of much experimentation. We wanted to make a “whole hive mead” with bee pollen and propolis, but the government wouldn’t approve it!
What made you decide to open a commercial meadery?
We were looking at what made sense to us. At the time Mark and I had just come back from the Peace Corps as the first step in our plan to make a significant life change. We both knew we wanted to work together in a venture that meant something to both of us. Artesano was the answer.
What’s the biggest failure you’ve had in mead making (or mead business) – what did you learn from it?
Making a full batch without first doing a small trial. It’s good to go slowly and carefully!
Any tips for mead makers looking to make the jump to commercial production?
Make sure you have a high quality product with an image that reflects that. Also make sure that you have sufficient capital.
Any new products on the horizon for Artesano?
More sparkling products.
Where do you see the mead industry in 5 years? How does Artesano fit into that future?
More meaderies are coming online and there is room out there as more and more people become aware of what mead is. I see the market growing and Artesano will be right there with it, but we still are focused on staying small enough to maintain the high quality of our product and balance work life with home life.
What’s your favorite food/mead pairing?
Tough question. It depends on my mood. I really enjoyed our Sparkling Cranberry when we served it at our Thanksgiving table. A nice warm spiced mead on a cold winter evening is also a favorite of mine. One of the most memorable dishes that a chef at The Chef’s Table in Montpelier Vermont put together was a duck breast with a Blueberry Mead gastrique and paired with the same Blueberry Mead. Oh and our Traditional Mead makes a great float with peach ice cream!
What piece of brewing equipment can you not live without?
It’s all important. Each piece serves its purpose.
Favorite use of honey outside of mead?
We also make all natural, local ingredient ice cream (Best in Vermont according the Boston Globe Magazine last year!) at our Meadery. One of flavors is Bee’s Knees which is a peanut butter ice cream with a honey drizzle. The inspiration for the flavor was my love for peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I also use honey for cooking and baking, we are a sugarless household, relying on honey and maple to sweeten our lives.
#1 tip for first time mead makers?
Be patient. Too many meads, usually home-brewed meads have been immature. Mead makers rush to get product out the door. I cannot tell you how many people we had to say “No it is not ready yet” to, especially our first year. It takes time to mellow and get a nice balance of flavors.