Where I live, mead’s not easy to come by through the normal channels – it’s easier just to make your own. I figured it was because of my remote location, but when I visited Southern California, BevMo only had two meads – Chaucer’s and Bunratty. Is it because no one’s heard of it? No – in fact, it’s more popular now than it’s been in hundreds of years. Is it because no one’s making mead commercially? Again, nope – the craft mead industry grew by more than 100% in 2014. So, what’s going on here?
Mead Production Hurdles
Right now, the biggest production problem is fizziness. Tax rules dictate that any drink with a certain level of fizz gets bumped up into a different category, and must pay significantly more. Cider makers just won the right to add more carbonation thanks to a rule change that just passed in Congress, and the mead industry leaders hope to follow close behind. As Brad Dahlhofer, the mead maker at B. Nektar says, “Customers expect these products to have bubbles.”
Not quite wine and not quite beer, mead is currently categorized as an “agricultural wine,” which means it’s subjected to all sorts of strict regulations, such as requesting permission from the IRS before trying out new recipes.
The fledgling American mead industry is just now beginning to organize, and the newly introduced Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act is currently providing a ray of hope for growing meaderies that are bogged down with unreasonable taxation and regulations.
Mead Distribution Problems
Yet another complicated layer to this mystery is on the distribution side. Because it doesn’t really fit neatly into any current category of American alcohol, it’s tough for many pubs and liqueur stores to obtain permission to sell it. That is, if they’ve ever even heard of it.
One of the best things about mead’s revival is that it comes straight from us. If you’re frustrated that you can’t find mead, or that your local selection leaves much to be desired, seek out ways to support the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, and bug the heck out of your local barkeeps and liqueur store proprietors.
Or just go to plan B and make your own.
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