Last year, National Public Radio aired a story about the renewed interest in mead — the honey wine believed to be the first alcoholic beverage in history and "the preferred drink of Beowulf, Geoffrey Chaucer and the Vikings." Most of us associate the drink with Renaissance festivals, the Society for Creative Anachronism and college-era debauches. (The first and last time I ever tasted mead was as a college student; it wasn't my worst hangover, but it was most assuredly in my top 10).
On Saturday, February 4, a local painter and African drum maker, Mark "Dingo" Koch, will be teaching a class in how to make the honey wine. Offered through Communiversity, "Introduction to Mead Making" will be presented from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the kitchen of Kansas City Academy at 7933 Main. Koch (pronounced "Cook") says he's still accepting participants, who can contact him at email@example.com before Saturday. The class fee is $24, and each participant is required to bring 3 pounds of honey to the class.
The kind of honey one brings to the class can influence the taste and intensity of the honey wine, says Koch, who tries to purchase different kinds of local honey when he's traveling: "Most of the honey made and sold in the Midwest is clover wine," Koch says. "It's a very good, true honey and makes a very nice mead."
"Mead can be one of the most simple fermented beverages or can be as complex as any cabernet sauvignon or merlot," says local mead maker Matt Spencer. "The kind of honey you use can add different spice notes or complexity."
Orange blossom honey, often found in the American South, creates a fine fruity mead according to Koch, who also likes to create fruit-based wines, melomels, using honey and fresh fruit (he's currently fond of using strawberries, raspberries and blueberries). All the mead possibilities, he says, are covered in his Saturday class — the first one he has taught for Communiversity — which traces mead production back to the earliest civilizations.
"People have become more interested in mead now," Koch says, "because it's a natural, organic product. Honey is really good for you."
Koch says he became interested in mead making in 2008. "I couldn't find anyone to teach me," he says, "so I taught myself through experimenting and a lot of trial and error."
During the class, Koch will show his students how to make a gallon of mead. The mead will need to ferment for 60 days, he says, then age for 2-4 months. Saturday's class is open to adults only.