On a brisk Saturday in May, I ask John Mere, the brains behind one-man fermentation operation The Meredery, what exactly it is he likes about mead.
While he thinks about how to answer, I brace myself for something bombastic and ambitious, a response that uses the phrase “notes of” one—or four—too many times.
“What I like about Mead?” he eventually says.“It’s adult juice boxes.”
And if Mere doesn’t win you over outright with his refreshing, transparent approach to a topic that’s so often muddied with culinary buzzwords and pretension, the wildly popular and experimental mead he makes out of his Columbus basement definitely will. And while Mere doesn’t yet have an official business for his hobby, a move in that direction could be on the horizon.
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Mere is producing local libations in some legitimately fun and undeniably original varieties, with
flavors such as key lime pie and oak-aged blueberry. He created a tiramisu-style mead crafted with Blackline coffee, and even a rose petal tea flavor with lehua honey.
While honey is present in all mead and actively drives its fermentation, what Mere sourced for this creation is an ultra-special Hawaiian version that blends perfectly with the floral taste of rose petal tea.
“It’s the most exciting part about this one,” he said. “The aroma from this honey, you’ve never smelled anything like it.”
The more Mere has continued to experiment with flavors, the more Columbus has been drinking them up.
“Over the last six months my production has skyrocketed. Pretty much the minute anything new is finished, it’s already gone,” Mere said. “I’d love to be able to try some of these after they’ve aged for a few months in the bottle, but a lot of times that’s not possible.”
One of the many reasons Mere’s stock runs out so quickly—and another part of his mead’s quirky mystique—is the fact that he can’t legally sell anything. Not yet at least. This means he has to give his mead away.
As it stands now, Mere is technically a hobby mead producer—a really, really, popular one—as he isn’t yet operating a business and doesn’t hold the requisite permits. So how do people try some of the many meads he regularly turns out?
While there’s no polished system in place to determine who exactly gets what, for Mere the demand is high enough that there are always new faces, and things on this end tend to self-regulate.
One issue he’s facing more and more recently, though, is cost.
“Here’s the thing, one bottle would probably go for around $30, but it’s illegal for me to sell them. Especially with all the fruit I’m using, it adds up. It would be nice to break even at least,” Mere said.
Soon enough, though, he may get his wish, and then some. Although no concrete plans are in place, Mere is seriously considering making The Meredery an official, fully-licensed business.
“I’m a teacher first and foremost, so that’s important for me obviously,” said Mere, who teaches first grade. “But with summer coming up, I’ll have more time on my hands, so this would be the time to get started. ”
And while all the details aren’t currently hammered out, Mere does have a specific vision for how the concept—if it officially launches—will operate from the start.
“Running a taproom isn’t what I want to do,” he said. “But I think a members-only pickup spot could be a good first step. Right now, I like where I’m at. There’s no pressure on me. But I’m at a place right now where I want to turn [The Meredery] into something real.”
And I’m pretty sure that’s something Columbus wants as well.
To keep up with Mere’s newest releases and mead-related news, follow him on Instagram @Merederymead
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