Masters of Brewtality: Drinking Horn Meadery descends from the heavens
While Masters of Brewtality is generally craft beer focused, it’s no secret that we’re equal opportunity abusers of many inebriants. This month, we’re tackling Drinking Horn Meadery’s delicious take on one of our species’ oldest kinds of alcoholic beverages, fermented right here in Flagstaff from locally sourced honey. Owners Evan Anderson and Kelly Czarnecki were visibly dismayed when we arrived with two actual human skulls for cups, but then seemed suspiciously comforted by the explanation, “It’s OK, they came from enemies of the column.” For this edition, we sampled every blend and all are, hands down, the smoothest, most drinkable takes on this ancient elixir we’ve encountered. Creating a mead that’s not overly sweet and still manages to convey its flavor notes is no small feat, and Drinking Horn, located at 506 N. Grant Street, absolutely slayed it.
Mead is one of the first alcohols known to humankind. Can you tell us the history?
Evan Anderson: It certainly is. There’s a good chance you could have walked across it in our hunter/forager days. A hive gets smashed up, honey leaks down into the bottom of a tree, a little bit of rain gets in, yeast occurs naturally everywhere, and you’d end up with the start of a mead. It’s very likely that bees created all of the yeast that we use today through a co-evolutionary arms race. Bees stash sugar to use all winter and would have to keep it from spoiling; however, yeast is continually trying to get in to eat it. If you look at the inside of a hive, it’s got open cells for dehydration specifically to make it inhospitable to yeast, and yeast, conversely, has slowly evolved to make itself adaptable to greater osmotic differences. Now you have yeast that can withstand 17 percent alcohol and massive amounts of sugar.
Where are you sourcing your honey from and what kind of water are you using?
Evan: All our honey comes from Mountaintop Honey in Kachina. And the water is good ol’ Flagstaff tap water. Then we do a charcoal and microbial filter to make sure there’s no spoilage.
Meaderies are a rare beast in the booze scene. How did you get started?
Kelly Czarnecki: We were hanging out with our friends Nick and Amanda from Dark Sky [Brewing Co.] one night and Evan mentioned that he raised bees as a kid and Amanda was just like, “You need to make mead.” So, he made 25 gallons for our wedding and we went through all of it. We talked and decided we should start a meadery here in Flagstaff. It just went from there.
Evan: It took us just about three years to get up and running. It’s been a long, slow road.