Once I entered the giant Total Wine & More shop in Brookhaven, the first question I asked one of the employees was, “Where’s your mead section?”
The first staff member stared at me blankly.
Meadery: Etowah Meadery
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Style: Black currant mead
Bottom line: A beautiful subtly tart mead
“What’s mead?” they asked.
“Honey wine,” I replied.
I figured this person must be new, so I asked for assistance from another employee. It took three tries to find someone who knew what I was talking about.
This is a massive wine shop full of styles that I can’t even pronounce. You would think they would know what mead is. After all, it’s one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages, dating back to ancient Greece, Africa or northern China depending on who you ask.
I asked Blair Housley, mazer (mead-maker) and owner of Etowah Meadery in Dahlonega about his experience educating the general public on mead.
It turns out, Housley comes across many people on a daily basis who have no idea what he’s selling.
“Around 80% of my customers have never heard of it or tasted it,” Housley said. “I tell them it’s wine made from honey. It’s always a learning experience for patrons.”
Since 2018, he has been canning his mead and sending it off to wine shops around Georgia.
Never having tried mead from a can before, I jumped on the opportunity to grab one of Housley’s meads.
Housley said he was inspired to begin canning his mead after people kept asking to take the drinks to-go from the taproom. Since the mead on tap was either nitrogenated or carbonated, he didn’t feel comfortable sending it off in bottles. The carbon dioxide in the drink has the potential to put pressure on the cork, causing it to explode.
So far, canning the mead has proved a success.
Loving all things tart, I decided to indulge in the meadery’s Cane Break, which is made from Georgia raw honey and black currant.
Housley said he chose to incorporate black currant into the mead as a means of offsetting the sweetness of the honey flavor with the tart, bitter berries.
Initially he made a full-version mead that came out at 12% alcohol by volume. He soon found out that a lot of people enjoyed it, but they wanted a lighter taste.
Housley decided to make this one of his session meads, which means he bumped the alcohol content to 6.5%, making it a little lighter and easier to drink.
The final version of Cane Break morphed into a sweeter version of the original.
Although the drink is undeniably sweet, it’s on the dry end for mead. It has a beautiful semi-tart black currant punch on the backend.
You’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy this mead. Even if you’ve never tried mead, this offers something that’s easy-drinking and not overly sweet.
If you take a look at the can, you’ll see a rabbit holding an American flag. The can’s art was designed by Grant Searcey, who recently died from cancer. Housley said Cane Break is one of the last pieces Searcey created.
Cane Break holds additional significance to Housley because it supports veterans and a domestic rabbit rescue group.
A portion of the proceeds from Cane Break are donated to local veteran organizations and the Georgia House Rabbit Society in Marietta.
Housley and his wife currently live with four house rabbits.
“We wanted something that would honor veterans and my wife for the rescue efforts and desire she has for house rabbits,” Housley said.
The name of the mead was also influenced by rabbits.
Cane Break comes from the canebrake rabbit, also known as a swamp rabbit.
“These are the rabbits that grew up in the thickets of cane along the Etowah River,” Housley said. “Native Americans and early settlers hunted this rabbit.”
If you’re ever in Dahlonega or near a Total Wine & More shop in Georgia, I urge you to try this mead. I don’t like to throw out the words “unique” or “special,” but this drink definitely falls into that category.
Etowah Meadery is located at 3003 Morrison Moore Parkway in Dahlonega. For more information about Housley’s tasty mead, visit etowahmeadery.com.