Checking Out the Local Food and Drink Scene
Mar 23, 2013
05:38 PM
The Chow Down

Bos Meadery Contributes to Local Craft Beverage Movement

Bos Meadery Contributes to Local Craft Beverage Movement

Colleen Bos produces mead on Madison's east side

When you think of the beverage mead, you’d be forgiven for thoughts of medieval men in armor clanking goblets after a successful day of battle.

But ask Colleen Bos, founder of Bos Meadery, what mead is today, and she’ll tell you that the drink has taken on new stature, and a sense of modernity, since the craft beverage movement hit the country. Mead, which, at its core, is fermented honey, water and yeast, joins the ranks of craft beer, wine and cocktails that have found their niche in Madison—a community that embraces local, small batch food and drink products like Bos’s mead.

Beyond Madison, Bos Meadery has garnered international attention. Just last weekend, the meadery participated in the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition in Boulder, Colorado. It’s the largest mead-only competition in the world, and Bos’s Pomegranate Pyment variety won gold in the “Specialty Dry” category.

“It was really, really cool,” says Bos. “I was really inspired by trying so many other meads and talking to commercial mead makers.”

The Pomegranate Pyment, a sparkling mead that often reminds drinkers of champagne, was one of three varieties that Bos Meadery entered into the competition. 

Mead has been experiencing a small but steady revival over the past decade, with reports surfacing in the New York Times and NPR. But the Vikings’ drink of choice had yet to land in Madison until just recently.

Last July, Bos knew she wanted to launch her mead business and start producing commercially, but, as with any business venture, she needed the funding to do it. She used a website called Kickstarter—a grassroots crowdfunding site that connects start-up projects of all sorts with potential investors. Bos’s plan was to run the Kickstarter campaign for a month, which would hopefully be enough time to gather the $11,000 in support she needed. She met that goal in the first eleven days, but continued the effort for the full month and wound up with $16,000 in promised funding.

“An enormous amount of people I didn’t even know contributed—some a very generous amount,” Bos says. Donations of all sizes rolled in, as did the messages of encouragement and support.

“It worked amazingly well,” she says.

Since then, Bos has been producing mead with her business partner Peter DeVault at their East Washington Avenue facility. They invested in a lab and have taken a left-brain approach to the fermentation and production process, which, Bos posits, has set her meadery apart from others.

“I think one thing I’ve brought to mead making is the focus on science in addition to the art,” she says. Bos had previously brought her appreciation for science to beer brewing, which she began doing at home in 2006.

For those unfamiliar with mead, think of a dry white wine mixed with cider with distinctly earthy undertones.

“People don’t have a framework, so they think, ‘what is this?’” Bos says.

That’s why Bos calls the (now) award-winning Pomegranate Pyment the “gateway mead”—it reminds people of champagne, which is something they already know.

But Bos says she’s noticed that the craft beverage customer is a good fit for something like mead. It’s a different taste than beer or wine, but that seems to be okay.

“I think all of this is part of a trend, maybe the younger generations—they’re more open to different tastes,” she says. Her average customer lands in 23–35-year-old age range, and she finds that “they’re younger, more adventurous, more open minded” to an unfamiliar drink like mead. 

That willingness to try something new, coupled with “phenomenal” community support, has led to “more success than I’d ever imagined in the first year,” says Bos.

Next up? A tasting room at the east side facility and distribution in other markets, like Chicago, Colorado and the coasts.

Find Bos Meadery products in most Madison liquor stores and on tap at The Old Fashioned. 

Photo courtesy of Bos Meadery. 

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