The 2015 Mazer Cup

Attendees of the 2015 Mazer Cup's Mead Mixer get down to the business of tasting...

To my knowledge, The Mazer Cup International is the largest annual, mead-only competition in existence. It features both home and commercial competitions with hundreds of entries each in which meadmakers vie for the coveted Mazer Cup trophies.

The event also includes the ‘Mead Mixer’–a large tasting event with many meaderies in attendance pouring their finest meads in an unlimited fashion. I attended the mixer this year, and it was a horizon-broadening experience–never before have I seen, nor have I sampled, so many meads at one event.

The Event:

The mead mixer was held on 3/20/15 at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado. The Omni is an inviting place that hosts many corporate events given its proximity to the technology businesses around the area. But enough about the hotel–what about the event itself?

Attendees of the 2015 Mazer Cup's Mead Mixer get down to the business of tasting...

Attendees of the 2015 Mazer Cup’s Mead Mixer get down to the business of tasting…

The Mead Mixer consisted of two sessions: a VIP session from 7pm-8pm with special appetizers and access to commercial meadmakers; and a general session from 8pm-10pm. I opted for the latter session. 2 hours at a tasting event with dozens of meaderies in attendance doesn’t sound like much time–and it wasn’t–but given the high ABV of the meads available for unlimited sampling, it was just enough time for folks to sample quite a bit of mead without getting annihilated.

Walking into this event, it became immediately obvious to my companion and I that we were not going to be able to taste every mead there in two hours. That’s a realization that is important to make at this event because, even if you did manage to taste every one of them, a few things stand out in my mind as downsides:

  1. You’re not going to enjoy the next morning’s hangover very much
  2. Your palate will get fatigued before the end, so those last few dozen meads aren’t going to benefit you that much, experience-wise

With this realization in mind, we set out to find the most interesting meads–particularly those I couldn’t easily obtain within my home state of Colorado. My apologies go out to the many fine Colorado meaderies at this point–particularly Hunters Moon Meadery, whose Prospector Peach melomel is one of my all-time favorites–for giving you short shrift as a result of my strategy above. Apologies also to the other meaderies whom I missed–there were just too many of you! Next year…

The Meaderies:

I profile a few of the meaderies whose tables I visited below, after which I include the full attendee list.

Moonlight Meadery:

Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery had multiple outstanding meads available (see the reviews below). I enjoyed Fury in particular, with its ingenious balance of chili heat and sweetness. I’ve heard from a few sources that Michael is considered the premier commercial meadmaker in the U.S., today, and for good reason–the variety of high-quality meads he produces, their attractive packaging, and the marketing all back that up. The sky is the limit for Moonlight…and I don’t just mean the high ABV content of their meads.

White Winter:

White Winter really stole the show for me. I had only the vaguest knowledge of who they are going into the mixer, but they had two meads there–Black Mead (a very dry, black currant mead) and a traditional dry mead–which blew me away. White Winter didn’t just have dry meads, though–they had everything from bone dry meads to ultra-sweet, fortified meads and even spirits (a distilled version of their blueberry mead) available, served up by Todd Marek with good conversation and Wisconsin hospitality. Not only was the spectrum of mead styles they brought enormous, but they were really great to talk to as well–sampling at White Winter was the highlight of my evening.

White Winter meads at the 2015 Mead Mixer.

White Winter meads at the 2015 Mead Mixer.

White Winter meads.

White Winter meads.

Nectar Creek:

Nectar Creek brought several lower-alcohol session meads to the table which I found interesting. I’d wondered whether the experimental spirit that I see so much in the Pacific Northwest Cidermakers (here, for instance) carried over to their meadmakers, and Nectar Creek proved to me that–at least in their case–it definitely does. I was skeptical going in of how well a mead with Chicory or Hibiscus could possibly be, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sting (a ginger session mead) was my favorite–incredibly refreshing and light, yet still clearly a mead, and a welcome counterpoint to the many sweet, sweet meads represented at the mixer. Nectar Creek brought an experimental, funky, and interesting perspective to the event that I found to be–quite literally–refreshing. Hopefully they don’t mind terribly much that I lumped them into the larger Pacific Northwest category…I do realize that Corvalis is not Seattle…

Session meads by Nectar Creek.

Session meads by Nectar Creek.

Vino Salida:

Now here’s a gem right in my backyard that I didn’t realize was there–a winery in Salida, CO that is branching out into mead. Not only that, it’s good mead–their oak-aged dry was very dry and surprisingly mellow given the use of American oak. I also enjoyed the semi-sweet mead. I gathered from Steve Flynn, the very personable winemaker there, that they use a lot of alfalfa honey, which adds a mild, earthy quality to these meads. I guess I really do learn something new every day…particularly on mead mixer day. Remembering it afterwards is another matter entirely…

Meridian Hive:

Meridian Hive hails from Austin, Texas and had an array of different meads available. I found their Huajilla to be earthy and unique, and their Wildfire to be a complicated, but compelling mix of honey, heat, and spice. They use a lot of orange blossom honey, had a hopped mead available, and seem to take an experimental approach. Their meads didn’t blow me away, but they have a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing (and tasting) what they bring to the table next year.

Meaderies In Attendance:

 The Meads:

I used the Untappd application to rate and record my impressions of various meads. Obviously, I only managed to try a small portion of the overall offerings, but perhaps you’ll find the Untappd reviews below to be interesting as a sample of what was on offer.

Hint to meadery owners: If your meads aren’t on Untappd yet, they should be–get on it!

I added a couple myself, but didn’t have time to do so on the fly for all of them given the time constraints.

Miscellaneous:

Meadology Film:

Apparently there is a documentary film in progress around the topic of mead, as there was a film crew in attendance at the mixer. I’m looking forward to seeing what they produce. This appears to be their website: Meadology.com.

Meadmakr.com:

I saw someone walking around with shirts on that featured the meadmakr.com url. I didn’t talk to him at the event, but I since checked out the site and it looks like they have big plans–including a podcast(something that has been conspicuously absent from the mead community for too long)–for content creation around home meadmaking, which as someone in the same space I find exciting. Good luck, guys–looking forward to the podcast!

Jim Davis:

I wanted to include a shout-out to Mr. Jim Davis, who contacted me through the blog a while back about hard cider and who I’ve been in touch with since. Jim also attended the mead mixer and I got to chat with him there briefly. This is definitely one of the best aspects of running a blog on topics I love–I get to meet interesting people who are interested in the same things. Thanks for hunting me down, Jim!

Home Competition Results:

3/23/15 edit: Sooo…I ended up with 1st place (Berry and Blaze, 25D–Other Fruit Melomel (Dry) and 2nd place (Kvasir’s Gift, 26C, Open Category Mead (Dry)) showings in the home competition. I now feel bad for not showing up at the awards ceremony–I didn’t realize the outcome beforehand–but I’m incredibly stoked nonetheless. What an honor!

Here are the full results:

Musings:

If you’re all about the sampling and appreciation of the finest commercial meads available, I highly recommend the mead mixer. I challenge you to find a larger or finer collection of quality honey wines in any one place in the U.S. (if you do, please leave a comment below and tell me all about it!). While it’s not cheap–this year, it was $60 for a general session ticket–it’s worth it given how hard it can be to track down and discover quality meads. Given the meteoric recent growth of the industry, however, it will hopefully become easier to find both meads and mead-related events in the near future.

If you’re all about improving your home meadmaking abilities, the Mazer Cup home competition is probably the best opportunity that exists for you to get useful feedback from experienced mead judges to help you hone your craft. Having your friends ‘review’ your meads is one thing–and usually chock full of overly positive bias because, of course, most people do not want to be critical of their friends–but getting honest, impartial feedback is worth far more…well above the entry fees and shipping you’ll pay to enter your meads into the competition. Just my two cents…

You Were There? Tell Us About It!

If you were at the Mead Mixer and tried some good meads that I didn’t get to that deserve a shout-out, please leave a comment below and call them out! Or if I missed something about the event or got some facts wrong–feel free to comment as well.

Learn To Make Mead:

If all this talk of mead makes you want to learn how to make it yourself–or to dust off those meadmaking skills you haven’t utilized for a while–head over to my meadmaking tutorial for more resources and to see how I make it (full disclosure: I use affiliate links as a way to support the site–if you buy equipment through those links I make a small commission at no additional cost to you). Feedback is welcome on the tutorial as I’d love to keep improving its value as a resource to meadmakers.

 

11 Comments on The 2015 Mazer Cup

  1. Thanks for the Shout Out to our Colorado Meadery – Hunters Moon Meadery. I TOTALLY know what you mean about so many Meads! I barely touched any after judging Mead all day! Come visit us at the Meadery to try all 13 of our Meads and our soon to be added 2 new Medal winning Meads from this weekend 🙂

  2. Great article, but you didn’t mention that all the proceeds raised by the ticket sales went to support a local food bank. And you also didn’t come find me and say HI.

  3. Kookolan Cellars stocks a stupendous selection at something approaching 120 varieties. Looks like it may have more than the mixer. Perhaps we’ll be out next year to see.

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for the heads up. I’ll check them out. As for Hierophant–you seriously run a meadery in Mead, WA? A bit providential, that.

      Any plans for making cider? I hear there are a few apples in Washington…

      -Dan

  4. I think Jeremy may have confused the Mazer Cup, which is either the largest mead competition in the world at just under 700 total commercial and home entries, or the two largest mead competitions in the world run back to back (368 Home, 327 Commercial), with the Mead Mixer Public Tasting. I expect that the Mead Mixer will grow significantly next based on feedback from the meaderies on the new venue. And nobody mentioned the excellent food!

    As Chris pointed out, the proceeds of the event will help Community Food Share of Boulder and Broomfield Counties put 6,000 meals on the tables of needy families in the area. We are pretty proud of that aspect of the Mixer.

    Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor at Kookoolan does have, to my knowledge, the biggest mead tasting room in the country, and their Elegance II mead took a silver at this year’s Mazer Cup. She is also a great lady with a big heart, so if you find yourself in the area be sure to stop in and say hello!

    • Hi Glenn,

      Thanks for clarifying. My bad on not mentioning the food–it was indeed fantastic!–and the fundraising for a great organization (once upon a time I volunteered for them and all the memories are good).

      Dan

  5. Hey Dan! Thanks for the meadmakr.com shoutout! I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk. We would have given you one of our awesome stickers!

    I’ll second that the event was awesome! We stayed to help with judging both days, and I can’t say enough about how much we learned, and how great it was to taste so many meads in one place.

    – MeadMakr

  6. Check out the more comprehensive coverage of the Mazer Cup from the guys over at MeadMakr:

    http://www.meadmakr.com/mazer-cup-2015-recap/

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