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Leave it to a small meadery along the southern coast of California to tell the story of the plight of the honeybees, and help bring about their return. As the oldest alcoholic beverage made by the fermentation of honey, mead is as natural as they come: sunshine, flowers, honeybees in a healthy ecosystem, honey, fermentation and finally, a refreshing “nectar of the Gods.”
At Golden Coast Mead in Oceanside, California, cofounder, CEO, and Head Mead Maker, Frank Golbeck, believes with all his heart that drinking mead can help save the honeybees. We caught up with Golbeck after first meeting him at the San Diego Fermentation Fest (read about the festival in a previous post) and couldn’t resist stopping by his tasting room and production facility in Oceanside to sample a “flight” of his unique meads made with a 1-to-4 ratio of California Honey to Palomar Mountain spring water and an ale yeast.
Perhaps a disclaimer is needed here: We love mead. But the surprisingly flavorful and unique styles of mead crafted by Golden Coast Mead go unparalleled in our travels. And we have sampled some amazing meads from other parts of the country. But every kind of mead at Golden Coast had its own story, usually based on the source of the honey and the pairings with other ingredients, like coffee or Serrano peppers — and the flavor profiles change throughout the year. We tried a mead flight of Orange Vanilla, Savage Bois, Coffee, and Pucker Punch.
“My vision is to craft a regenerative beverage that supports a healthy ecosystem,” says Golbeck, as we grab a seat in his tasting room and took a sip of our first glass of Orange Vanilla Mead. “Just like Patagonia shifted the buying power of the cotton market, I want to make mead scalable to the point where we can do that for bees and honey.”
“We’re doing very different things,” Golbeck continues, on what sets his operation apart from others. “We call it San Diego-style mead. Ours is defined by using an ale yeast. We use some sour cultures to give them a bit of a complex edge. No one else is really doing ale-based meads on a commercial scale. No one else is really doing sours on a commercial scale."
We started our flight with Orange Vanilla Mead. We could taste and smell both the orange blossom and vanilla.
“We want to frame this as an ‘adventuring mead,’” explains Golbeck, on what he termed a short mead for their Orange Vanilla. “It’s only 6 percent alcohol, unlike our 12-percent meads where you might drink a bottle and that’s the end of the night.” He laughs.
“On our flight today, only one of them we have in our bottles,” adds Sam Schiebold, Marketing Director, who also joined our guided tasting. “Most of the stuff we have on tap are experiments or what we’re playing around with.”
“It’s magic is the way I like to think of it,” smiles Golbeck. “It’s terroir taken to the next incredible level of quality.” By the end of our testing, we agreed. We seemed to have traveled the coast without ever leaving the tasting room. If you like the taste of the mead, you’ll likely enjoy the place where the honey is from and the time of year it’s harvested.
The Ecology of Mead proclamation on Golden Coast Mead reads: “Beekeepers who make amazing honey on organic pasture using no chemicals in their hives will get premium prices for honey that will make premium meads. People will get to enjoy it knowing they're supporting a craft that regenerates soil, incentivizes biodiversity, creates good jobs, and builds the world they want to adventure in and enjoy.”
So, drink up, we say. Savor what is good for the Earth, and do your part to help preserve the honeybees that must be allowed to thrive in healthy ecosystems. No monoculture crops of grapes or barley. No chemicals. Just great taste.
And if you want to learn how to make mead like the pros, take one of Golden Coast Mead’s workshops.
If Gandalf traveled in these parts of California, he’d definitely include this place on his wanderings. And yes, Golden Coast Mead ships.
John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.