Mike Wright

A Mead of Their Own

Words Adelle McLean
Photography Tim Sugden

Everyone loves a good story. This story takes us to a field that for over a hundred years felt the dusty hooves and heard the low moos and deep bellows of grazing cattle. A century farm, still nestled in the dotted tree-lined, landscape of NW Vancouver, and all too familiar with the prevailing winds that whirl through the tall blades of grass, whipping around fence posts, cutting across the graveled driveway and rattling the giant, rollup doors of a state-of-the-art, brewing facility.

Out walks Mike Wright, co-founder and head brewer of Author Mead Co. He strolls the property surrounded by history; by serenity and the periodic buzz of honey bees. Quietly resting on the horizon sits the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Hood -the same view that greets the morning sun and compels him to say, “I’m just blessed to come out here and do what I do for Author Mead. And I get to work in the environment that you see here today. It’s… just amazing.”

Checking the hydrometer -his mind continuously immersed with re-envisioning tradition. How do you take the oldest fermented drink known to man and ignite the taste buds of the Pacific Northwest? Just ask Mike. He’ll tell you the story….

Being in the industry of craft beverage brewing, how does the term, Author come to fruition?
Our team wanted to work on something where we write our own story, something original. That’s where the idea of Author Mead Co. came together. We’ve re-envisioned traditional mead by applying craft brewing principles to mead, with the mission of revolutionizing the craft beverage industry. Just think about it: as an author, you’re creating a book; a story. We’re creating our own story with our Draft Mead.

For those unfamiliar with traditional mead, could you shed some light on its origin?
Mead is one of the oldest, fermented beverages that goes back over thousands of years. You know how wine gets its sugar from grapes, cider from apples, beer from barley? Mead gets it from honey.

Traditional meads have a “stillness” so-to-speak. What is Author’s approach?  
I categorize mead into two categories: still mead, which is not carbonated, and draft mead. What we are creating here is a Draft Mead. It’s carbonated like a beer. It’s light, crisp, easy to drink. Traditionally meads can be 12% ABV or even higher, like a wine. Our mead is 6 ½% to 7% ABV. It’s not syrupy like other traditional meads or “hot” because of the high alcohol content. This allows us to highlight some of the other ingredients and aspects of our Draft Mead.

Author selects its honey from local beekeepers. What do you look for when sourcing honey?
We partner with very select beekeepers because we want quality and to know the origin of our raw and unfiltered honey. Our honey is produced in very iconic areas of the Northwest, including the Willamette Valley, Yakima Valley, and across the Columbia Basin. We utilize other ingredients like raspberries, sourcing them from farmers in Oregon. Same thing with Marionberries, which are unique to Oregon. The semi-sweet doesn’t have any fruit, but really focuses on the local honey as the primary ingredient. Our Semi-Sweet is honey, water and yeast. It’s as simple as that.

What’s really exciting about Author Mead Co. is its innovation in mead making. How is Author leading the way in breaking the tradition?
My background experience is in beer making. We took the techniques of that industry and pioneered a new method of making mead almost exactly like I brew beer. We are not constrained to a typical mead box, so we are mixing our yeasts, grabbing them from the beer and wine industry. This allows us to take our temperatures to certain degrees and we’re able to drop them out of suspension, stopping the fermentation process, allowing you to taste the honey profile and the fruit we’ve selected.

Mike, your success in the brewing industry is impressive and key to the success of this company. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is you do.  
I started brewing beer from home about 5 or 6 years ago. I contracted with other breweries in the local area and we formulated recipes, competed in brew challenges like the Washington Beer Awards, and won medals/awards. It’s nice to be able to take that experience that I’ve learned from beer brewing and marry it to making mead.

Your headquarters are located on this beautiful, old, family farm. Are you planning to do anything with the old farmhouse that was built over a hundred years ago?  
Yes, absolutely. Our plans are to restore its historic nature, bring it onto the brewery property and utilize that as a tap house. I’m kind of envisioning… it’s night time, it’s cool out, we have a fire going, Edison bulbs hang overhead as we’re serving food, drinking Draft Mead and having a good time. All in Clark County on this old farm.

I’ve had the opportunity to sample your Draft Meads (My thoughts? More Please!) How would you characterize your flavor profiles?
The three that we’re talking about here are the Semi-sweet, the Raspberry and the Marionberry. The Semi-sweet is the flagship style and it boasts a golden color and crisp character. When we’re talking about the Marionberry Draft Mead, this style is full-bodied and has a nice refreshing flavor. My favorite Draft Mead is the Raspberry. It’s sweet, a bit tart and what I love more than drinking this one is when my glass is empty you can smell the remnants of raspberries and honey.  

Where can fans and the curious-minded find Author Draft Mead in Portland and Vancouver?
We offer our Draft Mead on tap and in cans. Soon, we’ll be in bottles. We are selling at People’s Food Co-op in Portland, Green Zebra, and we have it on tap at Oregon City Brewing in Oregon City, ABV in Hillsboro, the Growler House in Sherwood and Newberg. On the Vancouver side, we’re in Ben’s Bottle Shop, and Hockinson Market on draft and in cans. We are expanding and have other retail locations lined up. The response has just been overwhelming, so we’re kicking up production and increasing our efficiency to get more product out there.

So, what’s next?
We have huge plans for Author Mead Co. Besides opening a tap house on our property, we are in the process of finalizing one of our recipes: our Dry Mead, which is not sweet. Then, we will be launching our IPM, an India Pale Mead which is a play on the IPA beer. We are going to continue growing Draft Mead because this product is a game changer.

You are awakening the Pacific Northwest’s senses with not only the revival, but the TRANSFORMATION of mead. What is the dream?
As an owner, the dream is that Draft Mead gets elevated in the ranks of craft beverage, and consumers can find it anywhere they would a craft beer or cider. As a brewer it’s kind of funny, but I have this thought or a dream. I’m lying there thinking, “barrel aged meads.” Without getting into specifics, this mead that we have envisioned is one that is aged in an old Bourbon Barrel and maybe we’re using coconut or using Madagascar vanilla beans along with a meadowfoam honey, and all those flavors combined gives a bourbon-y flavor. It might be a little sweeter, it might be a higher alcohol content, and it’s a seasonal mead. It’s things like that, that we are constantly thinking about — merging the beer industry, recipes, and craft into this mead world that we live in.