The honey bee has become a homebrewer in Dahlonega.
Hops, grilled pineapple, caramelized honey, currants, blueberry, raspberry, rhubarb: Etowah Meadery is churning out a bubbling variety of carbonated meads that are taking the little-known beverage to new places — and into the hands of beer fans.
Blair Housley and his team entered an open market when the company launched in November selling wine made from honey, called mead. With only two other producers in Georgia, Blair Housley and his team are banking on the popular return of one of the oldest alcoholic beverages on planet earth.
Mead has existed for thousands of years, traditionally as a simple mixture of honey, water and the little critters that turn sugar into alcohol.
But the shop just outside of Dahlonega is getting its most popular hits on recipes that stray from the traditional.
Classic mead has a warm, sweet, rich flavor and about 16 percent alcohol — not the sort of thing you’d pack in the cooler and carry out with you on the boat on a Saturday.
Housley and Co. have come up with a series of what they call “session meads,” canned, carbonated beverages with about 6 percent alcohol and a deep bench of flavors in the mix.
A few of those recipes brewing at 3003 Morrison Moore Parkway in Dahlonega started out as tests on the tap wall at Etowah Meadery but are now being produced in larger batches.
Southern Luau is a carbonated mead mixed with grilled pineapple and bananas, while IPA Wanna Bee is a hopped, gluten-free mead with a flavor approximating an India Pale Ale — it’s not a beer, but it wants to be.
Etowah Meadery hours:
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday: 12:30-7 p.m.
Battle Branch is named after a gold mine in Dahlonega where men fought over the gold that lay in Battle Creek. It’s made with cherries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, cocoa nibs and aged in a chocolate rye whiskey barrel.
Figgy Pudding is an uncarbonated mix of fig mead and fall spices that Housley calls “Christmas in a glass.” If you’re waking up with a pumpkin spice latte (you poor soul), try finishing your evening with a glass of fig-infused Christmas spirit.
“That’s one of the aspects I like about making mead: It’s so versatile and you can play with it so much. With wineries, once you have that particular grape in that particular harvest that particular year, that’s pretty much it,” Housley said at the meadery on Thursday, Aug. 9. “Whereas honey … it doesn’t spoil, we can play with flavors and we can try it on our tap wall to see what people like.
“We’ll do some small batches — some of them we were doing only 5 gallons — and we’ll make bigger batches if it was very popular.”
Kegs of Etowah’s session meads are popping up at Gainesville’s Downtown Drafts and Cumming’s Cue Barbecue.
Look for new Wanna Bee recipes coming later this year — different takes on pale ales and even stouts as Etowah Meadery blends its honey wine and grainless beer-brewing crafts.
Stouts, sometimes called a loaf of bread in a glass, will have to be made “very carefully,” Housley said, because it will require caramelizing large batches of honey.
“We’ll put some coffee beans in it, we’ll put a little chocolate in it,” he said. “By caramelizing the honey it gets some of those toffee-style flavors, it gets it a little darker — we’ll be creative.”