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Could Mead Steal the Spotlight from Hard Cider?

This old artisanal alcohol is finally generating buzz.

Photos: Jeff Marini

Seventeen years ago in Beverly, Greg Fischer opened Wild Blossom Meadery, Illinois’s very first mead-producing facility. Given Chicagoans’ love of craft beer and hard cider, he can’t figure out why it’s taken so long for them to embrace the honey-based fermented beverage with medieval origins and a growing national following.

“We live in the prairie, which produces flowers, which produce honey,” says Fischer. “It couldn’t make more sense for the Midwest to be the mead capital of the country.”

In his newly opened tasting room at 9030 South Hermitage Avenue, Fischer pours around 15 of the dozens of varieties—both still and sparkling—he has in his repertoire. Offerings include Prairie Passion, a traditional mead that showcases wildflower honey’s floral flavor; CranApple Cyser, a fruit-infused sparkler; Sweet Desire, a bold bourbon-barrel-aged mead made from buckwheat honey; and, on the wilder end of the spectrum, the chili-pepper-infused Pirate’s Blood and the chocolaty S’mores Bochet.

Wild Blossom’s backyard is the Dan Ryan Woods, a forest preserve, and Fischer, an avid nature lover who bikes to work from his Beverly home, considers the picturesque surroundings a natural fit for his bright, skylit tasting room. “Mead is like nature in a glass, so I’ve really played that up.”

Not surprisingly, Fischer predicts a bees-to-honey effect: “Once people taste how good our stuff is, you’ll start seeing mead pop up all over.”

 

Hive to Glass

A bottle of mead

Fifty percent of the honey that gets fermented to make Wild Blossom’s meads comes from Greg Fischer’s own bees. He maintains hives in former industrial areas along Lake Michigan; at the Volkening Haritage Farm at Spring Valley in Schaumburg; in rural St. Anne; and atop his meadery in Beverly.

Fischer extracts the honey from the combs and dilutes it to temper its sweetness. It is then fermented with yeast in stainless steel tanks for 30 days so the sugars convert to alcohol. During a second fermentation, Fischer often adds fruit to impart new flavors. The mead rests for two more weeks before it is filtered and bottled.

“Every flower produces differently flavored honey, and every honey produces a different mead,” says Fischer. “The possibilities are endless.”

Fischer’s meads can be purchased by the bottle at Wild Blossom Meadery.

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