Tacoma’s Mission Mountain Meadery makes delicious hopped mead
Steve Taylor discovered something interesting when he jumped down the rabbit hole of mead, the honey-fermented craft beverage that’s seeing a big surge right now.
Brewing mead is like brewing beer. But more fun.
Taylor has started a slow debut of mead rollouts this year from his production-only Parkland meadery, Mission Mountain Meadery.
Wait a minute. Isn’t he a brew guy?
You bet. He was one half of the duo that ran the small-production brewery Brewgenix, which also was located at his Parkland home. He and his former business partner dissolved that brewery more than a year ago.
That’s when Taylor asked his wife about the brew building they built in their tranquil backyard, “What should we do with the brew space?”
His wife had an easy answer: She uses it for her exercise space. Their daughter uses it for cello practice.
But Taylor had other ideas. Or, more accurately – he got other ideas from a military buddy (Taylor is retired Coast Guard).
Jared Wharton, Army veteran and owner of FOB Brewing in DuPont, prompted Taylor with one question, “Have you thought about brewing mead?” (side note: read all about Wharton’s new barbecue menu he debuted this month at his brewery).
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE OF MEAD
Taylor had not given mead much thought, but then he started researching the beverage that is more of a cousin to wine than it is a relative of beer. Mead is honey fermented with yeast and is a flexible medium that can carry a wide range of flavors – including fruit, spices, grains and hops.
“It just lit a little fire because it’s still fermentation and that fits right into my groove,” said Taylor. “I grabbed as many books as I could. I read up on the internet. I watched Youtube videos.”
After he met John Oppegaard of Oppegaard Meadery in Tukwila, he started believing the possibilities for flavors were endless.
“It’s a lot of fun, making mead,” Taylor said. “The flavorings are endless. You can do anything with them. Experimentation is a lot of fun. It’s a lot of trial and error. I’m honing in on the perfect recipes,” he said.
“I like it because each batch is a craft batch,” he said of the small batches he’s creating in gallons, not barrels. He gets up to 32 bottles from every batch.
His batches are stunningly good.
I sipped my way to the bottom of the pineapple mead hopped with Sabro and forgot how much I am usually not a fan of hopped anything (I am not an IPA person). Dry with the subtle sweetness of fruit, the hops pushed the flavor crisp, refreshing and slightly complicated.
The blackberry mead offered subtle fruit with a lush, citrus-heavy finish from a steep of Lemondrop hops.
John Oppegaard, known regionally as a mentor for many mead makers, had this to say about Taylor, “If his first few micro batches are anything like what he’s gonna have for sale we’re all gonna be fighting over his bottles real fast.” He called one of Taylors’ hopped meads “nothing short of phenomenal.”
Taylor’s lineup also includes non-hopped meads, such as the dry cherry-apple cinnamon and the apple mead flavored with Granny Smith and Mcintosh apples. That apple mead should be on everybody’s list for deck drinking this summer.
As this year’s fruit season gets underway, expect to see all kinds of experimentation from Taylor.
There’s more tweaking on the back end with the flavorings, but Taylor appreciates that a batch of mead is a 90-minute commitment whereas beer was an eight-hour workday.
He sources his honey from a small Lakewood bee farm. Fun fact: Taylor is allergic to bees.
“The honey I use is clover honey. At the beginning of the season, the clover is really light, but at the end of the season, I just bought another 80 gallons recently, and it gets beautiful at the end of the season,” Taylor said earlier this year. “They also have a blackberry honey and tons and tons of different flavors.”
Of the beekeeper, Taylor said, “He brings his hives over to Eastern Washington. He brings them back after they feed. I know what it takes to get that honey out, it’s an unbelievable amount of work.”
THE BREWING SPACE AT MISSION MOUNTAIN MEADERY
His wife Becky, who incidentally still uses the brew space as her exercise studio amidst the meadery equipment, is notoriously picky about her beverages. “As my wife says, ‘I would buy that.’ And that’s when I know that I’ve got a good recipe,” he said.
As Becky puts it, “ I was a skeptic at first, but now I’m a convert.” She said she has a hard time deciding which is her favorite mead now.
Their sprawling backyard, where the Taylors have lived for 30 years, is equipped with the 225-square-feet brew building, but also abundant comfortable seating areas and a cob pizza oven they built themselves. It’s not open to the public, but they aren’t ruling that out down the road (it’s just a lot of permits and paperwork).
For now, mead drinkers can order mead directly from the Taylors through email or their social media, or find it at select locations that serve Mission Mountain Mead from bottles.
Their mead is a bargain – bottles start at $20. I think they should charge more.
MISSION MOUNTAIN MEADERY
MORE MEAD IN TACOMA: KVLT MEAD
In February, I took a tour of Tacoma’s first mead tasting room, Kvlt Mead. In an expansive building the size of a warehouse, there are a lot of cool things to see and sip in the space that holds Tacoma meadery taproom, Kvlt Mead. Find the meadery in South Tacoma. Read all about this meadery here.