Meet the MeadMaker: Heidrun Meadery
Heidrun Meadery’s Gordon Hull
By Clayton Schuster
WHEN DID YOU START MAKING MEAD?
About 1995. I was working as a brewer in Humboldt County and decided to experiment with honey at home. I crafted a rough draft of a recipe and went for it. I didn’t think I would have much success, I was just curious what the outcome would be. Thankfully, that first batch was actually quite lovely. I enjoyed it, and wondered if I could replicate it. So I brewed another batch and it was quite lovely again… but different. The only thing that changed was the type of honey I’d used. That really intrigued me. If you ferment all the sugar out of a honey, are you tasting what the flower created? Could it be that different between one flower and another? I completely caught the bug.
How do you choose which honeys to brew?
That’s the most fun I get to have. Generally, I taste a honey and if it seems like something I’ll want to work with then I’ll buy a barrel or two barrels. I try to be varied in my approach. I’ll buy light honeys, medium, medium-dark, and dark honeys. I’ll try to keep a good spread. For light honeys, you can pretty accurately predict what you’ll end up with. They make really beautiful and delicate meads. The dark honeys are completely different. They have so many flavor compounds that, during fermentation, some are broken and eliminated and others rise up and become more pronounced. You never really know which will survive that whole process.
ANY PARTICULAR BATCHES COME TO MIND THAT SURPRISED YOU?
The textbook for that is the carrot blossom. It’s pungent, dark, vegetal tasting honey. It’s got so much going on. When the beekeeper in Oregon offered me a sample of that, I worried that it might ferment and taste like overcooked cauliflower or something. And what would I do with 100 gallons of that? But you have to go for it because nobody else has done it, nobody else is doing it. I would say that our carrot blossom is like a Saison on steroids: It’s amped up, pretty cool, and everyone tastes it differently. Half the people taste it and say it’s interesting but no thanks. Others taste it and say that it’s exactly what they want to have.
WHY DID YOU START BREWING?
I was working as a geologist, so I was steeped in the physical sciences — a little bit of inorganic chemistry. That appealed to me, and I still love that discipline. Brewing was an opportunity to explore organic chemistry and biology, which is something I didn’t get a lot of in geology. There was an element of escape. I was brewing beer at home and it was intoxicating, so I pursued it a little further. I ended up taking a leave of absence from my geology job and enrolled in a ten week course at the American Brewers Guild. Afterward, I got a job-offer to brew.
HOW DID YOU JUMP FROM BREWING BEER TO MEAD?
Part of it was practical. When I was brewing beer, I was thinking of starting my own brewery. But at the same time, I happened to be experimenting with mead and that first one was so good, all I thought was that I could definitely drink it. The thought really turned me on, the thought of the path less traveled. It seemed so different. I had no idea if anyone else would bite, but I figured that if I liked it, that somebody else would, too.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
11925 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station