Tasting at Earth Fare Westgate – Friday September 4th, 2-6pm

facebookReady for another? Join us this Friday, September 4th at Earth Fare Westgate from 2-6pm for a tasting. If you’ve not attended one yet, this will be a good opportunity to get your mead fix and pick up some high-quality food to pair with it.

Hope to see you there!

Wassail

Ivar

Bee & Bramble at Asheville Wine and Food Festival!

We are excited to announce that our meads will be featured in the Whole Foods tent, this weekend, at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival. Stop by and give us a try, and be sure to visit the host site for your tickets and general information:

http://ashevillewineandfood.com/grand-tasting

Wassail!

Ivar

Basic Info for Our Fans

IvarHives (1 of 1)We regularly receive questions from customers who are interested in knowing more about our products, and business, and mead in general. The following was produced for our clients and contract sales reps in order to answer some of these basic questions. We hope you enjoy learning more about us. Wassail! – Ivar

BASIC PRODUCT INFORMATION

What is mead (aka honey wine)? – In its most basic form: honey, water, and yeast.
How is it made? – Similar to grape wines, only substituting honey-water for grape juice. When other adjuncts (blackberries, blueberries, ginger, etc) are added they are juiced first, and fermented along with the honey-water. Herbs are steeped in hot water to extract the flavors and then this “tea” is added, again prior to fermentation.
Why is ours different? – We make DRY meads, more in line with a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc and less like a late harvest—or dessert—wine. We have invested a vast amount of research into yeasts/nutrients to allow a high production level, with minimal process steps, and a clean finish (ready to enjoy) at bottling time. Unlike many winemakers we do not filter our product, as it degrades the overall mead experience by attenuating the floral characteristics.
Variety – We tailor our products to a variety of tastes; meaning, customers may like all of them, or only a few. It is rare that we have a customer that doesn’t like at least two, and when we conduct tastings our “hit rate” (percentage of tasters who end up buying at least a bottle) is around 80%. The “universal favorites” are Traditional, Head Mazer’s, and Blueberry-Ginger. Not all of our blends are available at all times, but are dependent on sales volume and seasonality of the fruits. The Order/Availability tab on our website details which blends we have in stock.
Local/NC Product – We pride ourselves in sourcing as locally as possible and working with only the most responsible farmers (which we spend time getting to know personally). Honey comes from the WNC mountains, fruits from local (Asheville/Hendersonville) farms. Though we cannot buy our herbs locally, we choose only the highest quality, organic herbs for our products. Wine bottles are US-made, and labels are printed by Wright Global Graphics, an NC company.
Boutique/Craft Aspects – We embrace the small production concept, where quality and price can both be controlled and optimized. We have no desire to be the biggest, only the best. This means we will never sacrifice quality and responsibility for higher profits or a bigger operation.
How is mead stored? – Room (70), cellar (55-65), or chilled temperatures are all fine for our meads. Avoid a lot of sunlight and temperatures in excess of 75-80 degrees if possible.
How long does it stay fresh? – Meads, unlike grape wines, oxidize (spoil) extremely slowly. Once a bottle is open, you can enjoy it for weeks without significant change in flavor. If refrigerated, much longer. It is nearly impossible to turn mead into vinegar.
Useful Mead Vernacular – Mead: wine with only honey, water and yeast; Melomel: Mead with fermented fruit juice; Metheglin: Mead with spices; Cyser: Mead with hard (apple) cider; Wassail: “Cheers” in mead-speak; Mazer: mead maker, or a vessel for drinking mead.

TIMELINE

When I started mead-making: 2010 (after decades of brewing experience)
Winery completed – Spring 2014
Commenced operations – Summer 2014
First Deliveries – November 2014

OUR STORY

What began as a challenge to create the finest tasting meads, through pressure from admiring friends, grew into a prime business opportunity for owner and Head Mazer (“mazer” – mead maker) J.D. “Ivar” Schloz. Ivar explains how the business got its start:

“In 2009, while living in Fairview, I lost my job as metallurgical engineer at a company based out west. Faced with incredible uncertainty of the future, I started consulting on an independent basis. Of course, the timing was not great — the economy was in deep recession, and with no local job prospects and not much activity in my core area of expertise (aluminum manufacturing) the outlook was pretty bleak. I had the idea that I needed to create a second business–something small and nimble, and that would be able to provide a modest standard of living for myself and my family.

I had resurrected my hobby interest in brewing, something I had done for decades but had not had much motivation to do here in Asheville (mainly due to the excess of great local beers, and great brewmasters). When a friend showed an interest in making mead, I was intrigued — I had always enjoyed meads made by friends, but I did not much care for most commercial meads: too sweet, not a lot going on aroma-wise; suitable for renaissance fairs and holidays, not much else. To me this represented a challenge — I wanted to make a mead that was more ‘dry’, something with an abundance of aroma and that one could drink regularly, as with a more usual red or white wine.

Being a process engineer by training, my core skills are fine-tuning processes, making the best product given the inputs — materials, equipment, etc. So I decided I would apply my skills to making mead more enjoyable. I played with different honey sources and varieties, special yeasts, and different methods of fermentation. This all took place over a year-and-a-half period, after which I had something that I was very satisfied with. I love beer, and red wine, but found myself passing over these and favoring my own meads. I started to take my homemade honey wines to Old Time music festivals, and shared it with my friends. Over and over I heard two things from those I shared it with: ‘wow, I don’t even like mead but this is great’, and ‘you should really think about making this a business’. The idea took hold of me and I could not shake it. “

With its great local resources, and a rabidly-”locavore” population, the Asheville area seemed a perfect fit for the business. Business development was marked by numerous delays and issues, and great hardship was endured in getting all of the necessary licenses and approvals from government, and in building the winery itself. It wasn’t easy; what kept it going was the reception and enthusiasm from all of the local businesses we’ve worked with, and especially the potential customers.

Going Local, Staying Local

From the beginning, Bee and Bramble has strived to be as “local” as it can be — from the honey and fruits, even the label artwork, every aspect of the business focused on staying as close to home as possible. We are very proud of this, as we believe that it serves the community much better than a desire to do things as cheaply as possible would. Ivar explains:

“I see this as the new model — getting away from the “big guys” and doing more to promote and sustain community-oriented businesses. The artwork for the label was done by local artist Keith Phillips, the website from local web developer Susan Lee. Honey comes from a nearby source in the Appalachian mountains, fruits from McConnell Farms in Hendersonville. Labels from Wright Label (a NC company). Our t-shirts are done by local printer Cheney Graphics. Nearly all of the equipment I use is USA-made, even the bottles are made here. If I could have gotten everything locally I would have, even if it meant slightly higher cost. If my business only benefited myself, and not the wider community, I probably would not have done it.”

In recognition of this concept, Bee and Bramble applied for–and received–from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (“ASAP”) certification for the “Appalachian Grown” label. We are one of few local wineries to receive this certification, and have contributed–by request–suggestions to ASAP’s guidelines for fermented products.

A Different Take on Mead – from Novelty to Daily Drinker

There are other honey wine offerings out there. Some of them fit very well in the category, but therein lies the problem: the public is used to mead as a sweet, overly-honey flavored beverage, suitable only for hot spiced drinks or renaissance-fair events. More often than not, a glass of mead represents an “every once in a blue moon” prospect. We know this from sampling what is available in wine stores and groceries, and we couldn’t imagine drinking very many of them on a regular basis.

We have a different take! Historically, meads were not always meant to be dessert offerings; instead, many were made to be true “wines” — where there is as much going on in the aroma as in the taste. We have fully embraced the concept, and our meads, melomels (honey fermented with fruits) and metheglins (with herbs) are all on the “dry” side, and with abundant nose to complement the taste. In order to preserve these, our wines are also unfiltered (filtering on a very fine mesh removes any yeast from the wine, which will cause significant carbonation if too many residual sugars remain after fermentation), and unfined (active fining agents such as Isinglass are often added to wines to clarify them). Leaving out these additional steps places a lot of emphasis on getting the fermentation process “just right”, though it helps preserve many of the more delicate flavors that would otherwise be stripped out. The key to this is to maintain a healthy yeast activity and ferment to almost no residual sugar; as a result, very little CO2 is produced in the bottle, and we can avoid these steps. The result is a unique beverage that really does compete with the more typical beer and wine as a daily drinker, or paired with a variety of foods–we even provide pairing suggestions on our labels.

We are very excited at Bee & Bramble to offer the Asheville area a new take on a classic beverage. Please look for us in local wine shops and bars, and give our honey wines a try!

– Ivar

J.D. “Ivar” Schloz
Bee & Bramble LLC
Ivar@beeandbramble.com
www.beeandbramble.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeeBrambleFineMeads

Tasting at Whole Foods AVL – Saturday, July 25th 12-3pm

Hey All –

Please join us for a tasting as we roll out at our newest customer: Whole Foods Market Asheville! The Head Mazer and his lovely assistant Judy will pour any or all of our four available varieties, as well as answer any questions about the company or our approach to mead making. Stock up on your favorite natural foods while you are there!

Wassail!

Ivar

Traditional Dry Mead – Keg Tap at Ben’s Tune Up 7/10

benstasting

Our good friends at Ben’s Tune Up will be tapping our first keg of Traditional Dry Mead on Friday, July 10, starting at 5 pm. Come on by and celebrate the alt-bev scene with the finest mead and Ben’s own house-crafted sakés (I am a huge fan!). Another super-fun event, not to be missed!

Bee & Bramble Featured on UNCTV’s “Carolina Weekend”

Had a great time hosting UNCTV’s Deborah Holt Noel and photographer Bob Gunter. We took them in the hives, and later treated them to a mead-cheese pairing at Looking Glass Creamery. Check it out at the following link:

UNCTV Carolina Weekend June 11, 2015

Wassail!

Ivar

Say Cheese! (and Mead!)

Mark your calendars for this Saturday, May 23rd, 2-4 pm at Looking Glass Creamery!

This will be an extra-special tasting this weekend, with our good friends–and neighbors–Andy and Jen at Looking Glass Creamery here in Fairview, at 57 Noble Rd.LookingGlass (1 of 1). We will be rolling out or latest offering, the one you have been waiting for: our Traditional Dry Mead! If you want to know what a pairing of a variety of top-shelf cow and goat-milk cheeses (the best I have tasted!) with a constellation of dry mead choices is like, this will be of great interest.

I’m very excited for this event. Come join the fun

Wassail

Ivar

May 14 Tasting at Artisan Gourmet Market – Black Mountain

Black Mountain peeps rejoice! This Thursday, May 14, 5-7 pm we will be sampling our four available varieties — Head Mazer’s, Flower Power, Carolina Cyser, and Blackberry Buzz. As a bonus, we hope to have sample bottles of our Traditional Dry Mead to try (they will be bottled in a week or two, hurray!). Kurt will have bottles to buy, and an order form if you forget your folding money. These are usually well-attended and fun, hope to see you there!

Wassail

Ivar

Easter Saturday at the Chop Shop Butchery

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust in “case” you miss us April Fool’s Day, you can join us at the Chop Shop Butchery, Saturday, April 4th, for a dynamite combination of meads, and meats. If you haven’t visited, these guys are the Roll’s Royce of butchers. I’m a big fan of their Prosciutto di Parma–heavenly! There will be special meat-related festivities as well (stay tuned for details), so it should be a great time. Great opportunity to stock up for a “real” Easter brunch while you’re there. Veteran owned and operated, just like us. Wassail!

B&B at Appalachian Vintners

AppVintApril1Ready for the next one? Appalachian Vintners will be hosting us next Wednesday, April 1st, from 5-7. Don’t be a fool! Come out and try the latest blends, you will not be disappointed. Wassail!