"The reason we got into mead is we thought it would be a great alternative to beer and cider," says owner Gary Gordon, "that it would give beer drinkers something different."
Back up a minute, what is mead?
Touted as one of the world's oldest alcoholic beverages, mead is a fermented mix of honey and water, also known as honey wine. According to Mead: The Libations, Legends and Lore of History's Oldest Drink, the Vikings and Romans were among mead-drinking civilizations, which is why it's often associated in pop culture with the eras of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.
Despite its longstanding medicinal uses, mead was considered an "ancient" beverage by the mid-19th century, author Fred Minnick writes. But it's back: The beverage is figuratively on the tip of many Americans' tongues today, thanks to a royal Bud Light commercial that pokes fun at nerdy descriptors like its "layered aromas" and "fantastic after-essence."
Mead comes in several styles, each characterized by additional fruits, vegetables and herbs added during fermentation. Traditional mead is bold and boozy, with an alcohol content in the double-digits and a sometimes cloyingly sweet taste.
Local owners Gary Gordon and his son Blake Gordon know how boozy it can be. Blake has been home brewing beer for 15 years, but when he attempted to make mead the first time? Well, "it was really bad," his dad says. That only encouraged Blake to keep at it, Gary says, and last October, the father-son duo decided to go pro.
Breaking Brew Meadery specializes in session meads, which are lower in sugar, lower in alcohol and maintain a refreshing, fizzy flavor drinkers might not expect.
"Perception is our biggest problem," Blake says. "A lot of people think it's some kind of salty grog... or they think it's syrup. They think I'm pouring them a glass of syrup to go with their pancakes."
What's on tap?
Each mead at Breaking Brew begins with the same base recipe, called the Magician. Served on its own, it "has kind of a vanilla start to it, then it finishes with a little bit of butterscotch or honeycomb," Gary says. That sets the stage for Breaking Brew's line of dry and semi-sweet recipes featuring Texas wildflower honey sourced from Walker Honey Farm in Central Texas, which is owned and operated by another meadery called Dancing Bee Winery.
Other popular flavors include the Ginger Bear, made with ginger and citrus; the Bee Sting, featuring green jalapeno aromas and a spicy kick at the finish; and Raspberry Beret, an unfiltered mead with juicy fruit notes.
While mead is like wine, it skews sweet. Honey is the main driver of flavor and depending on where bees fly to pollinate, the same colony can produce honey that tastes vastly different from year to year.
Breaking Brew is continually rotating recipes through its 12 draft taps, and in the spring, the owners plan to debut a line of traditional meads. Those will be sweeter and boozier, and served in bottles like wine, Gary says. One is billed as an apple pie mead, created with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and other spices.
For now, drinkers can belly up at the modest 1,875-square-foot taproom in Farmers Branch to enjoy pints and flights of mead onsite, as well as take them home in growlers and crowlers. Eventually, Gary wants to make Breaking Brew's mead available at local beer bars and maybe even some restaurants that are "looking at meads as mixers," he says.
Does Texas have a mead scene?
Breaking Brew Meadery is one of just a dozen mead-makers in the state, according to Wendy Rohan, vice president of the Texas Mead Association. That's an improvement from 2009, when Rohan Meadery in La Grange, Texas, opened as the state's first, she says.
"When we first started out, the only mead in Texas you could find was an English-Irish style," Rohan says. "Some of us don't even consider it real mead. It's like back-sweetened white wine."
Wendy and her husband, John Rohan, began by experimenting with mead-making in the Czech and German tradition, but with a Texas twist. In 2011, they helped organize the inaugural Texas Mead Fest and Wendy has been delighted to see others mead makers shape the scene. Some meaderies, such as Dancing Bee Winery, operate their own honey farms. And because mead-makers require a winery permit under Texas law, many also produce red and white wines, as well as cider.
"Everybody has their own take and their own style on traditional mead making," Rohan says. "Mead has come so far beyond what it used to be... it's as varied as wine. It's kind of an exciting time to be doing it."
Where can I get some?
Texas is home to just 12 mead-makers, according to the Texas Mead Association. Many have taprooms that drinkers can visit to enjoy the libations and they also sell wines online, honey wine included. Here's what you can get a taste in Texas.
- Black's Fairy Meadery (West Columbia)
- Blessed Bee Winery (Bastrop)
- Breaking Brew Meadery (Farmers Branch)
- Dancing Bee Winery (Rogers)
- Enchanted Manor Meadery (Todd Mission)
- Elgin Meadery (Elgin)
- Meridian Hive Meadery (Austin)
- Mystik Oak (Anahuac)
- Rohan Meadery (La Grange)
- S3 Meadery and Craft Foods (Uvalde; coming soon)
- Texas Mead Works (Seguin and Hye)
- Thorin's Viking Mead (Austin)