- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
There also could be a "u" in mead, as in "you."
There's definitely a honey bee, as without the bee and the honey, there's no mead.
The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, headed by executive director Amina Harris and headquartered at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, is planning a mead-making short course, billed as "the first of its kind in the country."
The event, "Mead-Making Short Course: From Honey to the Shelf," will take place Feb. 6-8, 2014 at RMI.
What is mead, you ask?
It's the world's oldest alcoholic beverage. "It's a fermented blend of pure honey and water," Harris says. Sometimes mead makers also add fruits and spices to produce a dry, semi-sweet, sweet or even a sparkling mead.
Mead, says Harris, is "the golden libation of the Norse gods, a staple throughout the Middle Ages." It's now making a comeback in the United States. More than 150 meaderies belong to the American Mead Makers' Association, according to president Chris Webber.
The UC Davis short course has engaged the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology and some of the country’s leading mead makers and experts.
“I met, Frank Golbeck, a fledgling mead maker, at a conference this past spring," Harris recalled. Golbeck asked if she could "put together a seminar of some sort could be put together for mead makers like him." Harris began pursuing the possibilities as soon as she returned to campus.
Since then, Harris has worked with Professor Dave Block, chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department, to create a program that will take participants from tasting and buying honey, right through the process including fermentation and filtration." Specialists will present the sensory aspects of mead: smells and taste, defects and texture. Also planned is a tour of the world’s first LEED Platinum winery at RMI.
“Once we had the program fleshed out, I began to contact the movers and shakers in the mead industry," Harris related. "With their help, we tweaked the initial plan and added some special tastings, educational panels and information about the current state of the honey bee and beekeeping.” International wine expert and local personality Darrell Corti will help lead a mead tasting to teach what to look for in a finished product.
As of mid-October, 20 persons have registered. They span the United States: Alaska, New Hampshire, Florida, California, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Colorado.
The Honey and Pollination Center's mission is to showcase the importance of honey and pollination through education and research. The Center works with the agricultural, beekeeping and food service industries. The stakeholders include growers, grocers, chefs and students.
Meanwhile, the year-old Center continues to be quite active. On behalf of the Center, the UC Davis Bookstore is selling Northern California wildflower honey and pollinator note cards.
Another project is to develop a Honey Tasting and Aroma Wheel. “As more and more people become interested in artisanal and varietal honeys, it is believed the Center could help them understand the depth and flavors of honey," Harris said. "The wheel will be a terrific education opportunity."
Additionally, the Center plans to develop a Master Beekeeping course offered through UC Davis.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn how to make mead, you can register for the short course for $425 before Dec. 1, 2013 and $500 afterwards. The program includes classes, tours and most meals. To enroll, access rmi.ucdavis.edu/events or email Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Want to friend the Center on Facebook? Go to https://www.facebook.com/UcDavisHoneyAndPollinationCenter.