No Ren Fest? No Problem! Gratifi Brings More Mead to Houston

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
These are just a few of the many meads on the market today.
When I hear "mead," I think of the Renaissance Festival.

So I was surprised earlier this week to be contacted by Kevin Strickland, the owner of a newly revamped Gratifi, saying he had just gotten in some mead, which is essentially honey wine.

"Do people actually drink that?" I wondered. I mean, when they aren't dressed like bar wenches and knights in shining armor? Didn't mead go out of style, oh, I don't know, back when we discovered the world isn't flat?

After doing a little research, I learned that mead is still very much a thing. I have friends who are home brewers who dabble in mead. Spec's carries a wide variety of meads--if you consider five different brands a wide variety, which, by mead standards, I do. Flying Saucer currently has a mead for sale by the bottle, and Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant stocks tej, a traditional Ethiopian honey wine.

Photo courtesy Rockwall Brewers
Ancient and modern meads both start with one thing: Honey.
The practice of fermenting honey and water, turning it into mead, can be traced back to around 7000 B.C., though it's debated where, precisely, mead was invented/discovered. Mead is mentioned in the Bible, the Rig Veda, the Aeneid and Beowulf, as well as Greek mythological teachings about Bacchus and Norse mythology. Microscopic remnants have been found in Chinese pottery dating back to 5000 B.C. or earlier.

It reached the height of its popularity in Europe in the Middle Ages, when, as you might have seen at the Ren Fest, kings had mead halls dedicated to drinking the stuff. It was thought to have magical healing powers and to aid in fertility. And it got you good and drunk, which was an even more popular pastime back then, pre-Facebook.

Once people started to get better at making and storing beer and wine and the laws governing the production of alcoholic beverages became more strict, the production of mead waned. Lately it's experienced somewhat of a resurgence, though, due in part to the popularity of mixology and obscure ingredients, but also because it's naturally gluten- and sulfite-free.

So when Strickland was presented with the opportunity to stock some mead at the bar at Gratifi, he figured, why not? I moseyed on over there in my best velvet capelet recently (not really) to taste some of his new stock.

His mead is produced by Redstone Meadery in Colorado, and it comes in beautiful blue bottles with rubber stoppers. He had five varieties, and we opted to taste-test three: The Traditional Mountain Honey Wine, Juniper Mountain Honey Wine and Sunshine Nectar.

This story continues on the next page.

Location Info

Gratifi Kitchen + Bar

302 Fairview, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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