1Nectar of the Hops, Redstone Meadery, Boulder, Colorado. Lightly carbonated, dry, and refreshing; the hops make themselves known more in the spicy aroma than in the flavor. A good alternative to champagne: “Brunch-a-rific!” was one taster’s comment. This Colorado meadery is a leader in experimental meads.
2HoneyMaker Dry Mead, Maine Mead Works, Portland, Maine. An extremely easy-drinking mead with a shockingly clean and dry finish. It smells intensely of honey and beeswax, but the flavors are subtle. You could probably get away with swapping out a Riesling or Muscat Blanc for this mead—it’s by far the most winelike of the bunch, with a subtle honey flavor and a hint of apples. One of the most food-friendly meads we’ve tried.
3Madras Carrot Blossom, Heidrun Meadery, Arcata, California. First spotted on the menu of the great San Francisco gastropub Magnolia, this golden-colored Humboldt mead is almost champagne-like: fizzy, tangy, and dry, with a pleasantly yeasty, chestnutty nose. It was a favorite of one of our tasters, who has consumed it on multiple occasions and reports that it’s a crowd-pleaser. The meadery also makes other single-source varietals, available online.
4California Orange Blossom, Heidrun Meadery, Arcata, California. We enjoyed Heidrun’s carrot blossom mead so much that we wanted to try more of the meadery’s offerings. Like the carrot blossom, this is also made in the méthode champenoise. Heidrun does the real deal: tirage, riddling, disgorgement, etc. This gives the mead tons of tiny, tight, vigorous bubbles. This would be a perfect starter mead: It has a true honey flavor, but it’s light, drinkable, and leaves you wanting a second glass. It kind of reminds us of a shandy, but made by mixing a heavier mead with a light lager beer.
5Apple Cyser, Rabbit’s Foot Meadery, Sunnyvale, California. Cyser is a type of honey wine dating back to the Middle Ages that’s mixed with apple juice. This version is citrusy and tart, like a light-bodied, noncarbonated hard cider. It would pair well with pork. The well-regarded Rabbit’s Foot Meadery also makes an excellent mead with raspberries.
6Sierra Nectar Wildflower Mead, Mountain Meadows Mead, Westwood, California. With its massively sweet, fruity nose (one taster remarked that it “smelled like strawberries”), this mead is lighter and drier on the palate than you might expect. It has a slightly yeasty aftertaste, and would be good paired with blue cheese.
7Scheherazade, Celestial Meads, Anchorage, Alaska. Besides being a character from One Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade is also the name of a style of fruity, spiced mead. Sweet and rosy-amber-colored, this version tastes of clove, cardamom, cinnamon, pomegranate, and plum. It would be good served hot, like a mulled wine. At a recent mead-pairing dinner at SubZero Microlounge in Anchorage, it was reduced in a sauce for fennel-encrusted lamb chops.
8Moonlight Magic Mead, Mountain Meadows Mead, Westwood, California. A sweet but balanced still mead with a strong cinnamon nose and a fresh honey flavor. One taster thought it would be “great with some salty cheese.”
9Orange Blossom, B. Nektar Meadery, Ferndale, Michigan. Earthy to the max, this oak-aged mead from Michigan has a funky barnyard aroma that was off-putting for some of the less adventurous tasters, but alluring for fans of stinky cheeses and weird Belgian beer. Sweet up front, it finishes on the dry side. Good for aging.
10Melia, Rabbit’s Foot Meadery, Sunnyvale, California. Light, smooth, and crisp like an ice wine, this orange blossom mead is sweet but balanced with a citrusy honey nose. This is the one they served at the French Laundry last year. It would pair well with a dessert course, and comes in an elegant bottle that would make a nice wedding or hostess gift.