I was born in southwest Florida and grew up in Sarasota. I went to school for industrial engineering at FSU. My quality engineering professor got me into home brewing beer, and I did a class project on studying the factors in beer brewing that affect alcohol content. After graduating I moved to Milwaukee, WI in 2009. Shortly after moving to Wisconsin a new Homebrew supply shop opened, and there was a mead making class during the grand opening. Curt Stock was the instructor, and he brought a few bottles of his homemade mead. It was one of the most delicious drinks I ever had! It was rich, complex and unlike anything I had ever drank. Since then I’ve been working my way through various mishaps and a comedy of errors learning what not to do while chasing that level of quality. After getting frustrated and stopping for a couple years, i stumbled across a mead maker in Aarau, Switzerland at a weekend farmers market while on a business trip. The mead maker didn’t speak a word of English, but he graciously shared his “met” with me. It was delicious and very similar to Curt’s mead, and it re-sparked my interest. Since then I’ve been continuing to refine my process chasing that Curt Stock level of quality. I’ve made a variety of mead styles including oaked sparkling hydromel, sack, Cherry melomel, peach melomel, raspberry melomel, JAOM, Capsicumel and braggots.
I am just a cantankerous old man, retired at 55 because I had too much money and not enough time to spend it all. Born and raised in California, I’m married the second time around to a Native American Indian, and she rules the teepee. All that crap about the warrior doin’ all the work? Well, its horse pucky. I spent considerable time in Colorado oil fields from the early 70’s to the early 90’s while tending to cattle and other various farm animals (turkeys and sheep are the worst, ask me on the show sometime, I’ll tell you why), including one John Deere tractor on the farm. Came back West when the oil fields played out in Colorado, took up gun totin’ and went to work in the corporate security field. Life was supposed to be sweet after retiring at 55, filled with travel and chaise lounges on the beach but it didn’t work out that way. I was diagnosed with HCM in 2010 and had two heart surgeries that changed the outcome of the rest of my life. So, in need of a hobby to keep me out of my wife’s hair, I took up mead making and photography. I met Chris while doing another show, and recruited Aaron from some facebook mead group. Thought we’d just sit around the table and talk mead to folks that would listen!
“It’s four ingredients: honey, water, yeast and nutrient.” It sounded so simple. I was talking to a mead maker that ironically was getting out of the business years ago while I was working a circuit of Renaissance faires through the Midwest. I’ve always had a very strong interest in self-sufficiency and the thought of making my own alcohol had a certain appeal, so not long after that I got a starter kit from my local homebrew store and made a batch of dry traditional mead, which was good but not great. That batch went fairly quickly apart from some I’d saved for gifts and social events. My kit sat unused for a couple of years after that, always intending to start another batch but never getting around to it, until I met a local beekeeper at a different faire that happened to have some bulk honey for sale and decided to give it another go. My wife Sheila and I were dating at the time, and while initially skeptical, she found there were aspects of it, particularly finding new flavors, setting up batches, and bottling that she enjoyed herself as well. With her support I’ve been learning and trying different techniques and flavours for the last two years in order to make my meads better. In addition to mead, I also co-own a comedy swordplay troupe, build furniture and this spring I’ll be taking up beekeeping to get a better appreciation for the animals that create the basis for our beverage of choice, and get a small supply of my own honey for my trouble.
Sailing champion, celebrated playwright, tech mogul. These are not phrases that describe Ryan. Known to his friend as “Big Chief,” Ryan prefers the simple things in life: a relaxing day arguing politics and religion, a perfectly cooked chateaubriand garnished with grilled endives and radicchio and glass of decades old mead. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Ryan resides in Minneapolis with his beautiful wife and two spirited children (whom only semi-appreciate his sense of humor). Both of his grandfathers made wine; though neither passed on the tradition. Starting with ciders and fruit wines, Ryan moved on to grape wines, beer and mead. “The first few times I tried mead I could tell there was something special about it. I wanted to make versions of it that were tailored to my tastes and I like making things that aren’t available on store shelves. I also told my wife that it could replace much of the beer and wine we buy (it hasn’t). And, I once read there may be health benefits to drinking it.” This is the answer Ryan envisions giving if anyone ever asks him how and why he got into the hobby. His brewing bucket list includes fermenting a mead using the yeast harvested from the belly of a honeybee. It’s a thing, look it up.