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Taste of honey: Knowledge of bees leads biologist to successful mead-making venture

Albuquerque native Evan Anderson had no idea that growing up with bees would change his life.

His parents raised bees, but it was not until Anderson’s move to Flagstaff that he realized where his knowledge of bees and honey would lead him when someone asked if he had made mead. Anderson, who attended Albuquerque Public Schools and obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of New Mexico, had a career as a fish biologist working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But making mead piqued his interest, and he began reading books on mead making and tried fine-tuning recipes.

His hobby was put to the test when he married his wife, Kelly, in 2015. Anderson made several flavors of mead for the wedding, which was a big hit among the guests. Anderson began making mead at home, but his wife was not fond of the mess it left behind, including the sticky ceiling from explosions during the trial-and-error process.

Moving the minimal-scale operation out of the house soon turned into a full-blown business. In early 2017, the Andersons began commercial production as Drinking Horn Meadery.

“I never thought it would turn into the monster that it has become,” Anderson said.

In August 2017, The Food Network’s Guy Fieri made a stop at the meadery for his show “Guy’s Road Trip” and advised the Andersons to set up shipping. They took that advice and now ship to 40 states and are looking to expand to more states. Drinking Horn can be found at various venues throughout Arizona, including Trailcrest Brewing and Whole Foods.

“Business has grown,” Evan Anderson said. “We’re going through 1,200 pounds of honey a month. It has become quite an operation.”

The honey is locally sourced in Arizona. Drinking Horn Meadery uses Flagstaff wildflower honey, orange blossom honey from an area just north of Phoenix called Black Canyon, and honey from its own beehive at Camp Verde.

“We actually get to go and help our honey guy harvest hives,” Anderson said. “I love using good-quality products that have not been manufactured or anything like that.”

For his mead, Anderson has taken very old recipes and fine-tuned them using current innovations, which he will discuss at the Fermentation Festival on Saturday, June 23, at GutiĆ©rrez-Hubbell House in the South Valley. He also will provide an overview of the role mead has played throughout history, from its beginnings in China in 7,000 B.C. to its presence during Prohibition in the United States as well as mead’s connection to the word “honeymoon.”

“It’s halfway between making beer and wine,” Anderson said of mead. “You ferment it the same way as beer and ferment and age it similar to wine. It’s an interesting little process. It’s a half-beer and half-wine process. Mead is the mother of all alcoholic beverages. It makes sense.”