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Thursday, April 11,2013

Honey and history

Redstone Meadery pours ancient alcohol concoction

By Steve Weishampel
Photo by David Accomazzo

We have a tendency here to be fascinated with the new. Uh, we’re journalists. This whole beer tour was inspired by the explosion of new breweries in the county in the last few years. But celebrating Boulder’s beer is just as much about the long-standing as the new, and we’re certainly not ignorant of history.

And you can’t get much more history than at Redstone Meadery, a 13-year-old establishment making what might be the world’s oldest liquor. Claude LÚvi-Strauss, one of the fathers of modern anthropology, said mead was a steppingstone “from nature to culture.” That’s right: We’re talking the bedrock of civilization here.

No, it’s not technically beer. It’s not much like beer. Mead is also called honey wine, since it’s fermented rather than brewed, but you know what? It’s alcoholic, and it’s not liquor, so we’ll count it. After all, we tried the berry cider at BJ’s, and we’ll try every barleywine or cider or lambic on a menu.

In the Redstone tasting room, four taps pour sparkling nectars, the carbonated — sorry, we’re in wine world, “sparkling” covers it — version of Redstone’s mead, each flavored with a fruit or, in one case, with hops. The nectars are honey-sweet, light and delicious. They’re also a little more alcoholic than an IPA or porter, coming in at 8 percent ABV.

In fact, mead’s generally a little weightier than beer. Redstone’s seven mountain honey wines — non-carbonated, still, with a slightly heavier body — tip the scales at 12 percent ABV. Not quite wine country, but enough to get the staff giggling as we plan the staff picks for this year’s Best of Boulder issue, now just two weeks away.

Mead’s also quite a bit sweeter than beer. Aside from the hoppy nectar and a few of the mountain honey wines, Redstone’s offerings are infused with fruit and typically deliver a sweet balance between the fruit or flower infusion and the ever-present honey.

Staff favorites varied. Joel’s was boysenberry, and any of the sparkling nectars, which he called “great in the heat of summer;” David, who says “all those nectars, I think, are really, really good,” chose the hops; Jeff named the blueberry honey wine; and I, as always, loved the seasonal offering on its way out, the vanilla bean and cinnamon honey wine. Dessert in a glass.

Mead’s not a pale ale that you’d grab a six-pack of and sit with on the porch for a Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t even come in six-packs, first of all, and it’s a little high in alcohol for that. It’s best sipped, a glass or two at a time, before striking out on some medieval quest. And if there aren’t any of those around, mead is still a connection to mankind’s honey-sweet history.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com Next stops: Shine, 2027 13th St., Boulder, 4 p.m. April 11; Twisted Pine, 3201 Walnut St., Boulder, 4 p.m. April 18. Members of the public are welcome.

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