Beer Town: Monks Meadery’s expansion continues with first taproom

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

When I first tried Monks Mead, back in the summer of 2012, I called it “a modern take on an ancient beverage.”

Some nine years later, Monks Meadery, the company founded by Atlanta homebrew buddies Martin Key and Justin Schoendorf, has become a viable beverage business. And its first taproom, which recently opened below Java Vino on North Highland Avenue, is a visible sign of that growth.

During a visit with Schoendorf at the taproom last week, I was surprised by how many different meads were on draft, as well as available to go in bottles and cans.

Not surprisingly, my favorite was Belgian Brut, a light, dry, bubbly mead made with Belgian yeast, hops, and a hint of spice, giving it aromas and flavors similar to a Belgian farmhouse ale.

But other offerings include Peachin to the Choir, a low-alcohol “session mead” with peach tea; Stigmata, a floral mead with hibiscus, rose and elderflower; and Butter Buzz, an unusual butterscotch mead with vanilla, maple and spice flavors.

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Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

For those who don’t know, mead is in essence fermented honey. But it’s long been appreciated by brewers, so much so that it earned a category in the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines.

One thing that distinguishes Monks meads is that most tend to land on the drier side of the Brix scale, which is used to measure sugar content in beverages, including soft drinks.

“Peachin to the Choir is just 0.5% residual sugar, which is going to be right in the same zone as any dry table wine,” Schoendorf explained. “I’ve always tried to err on the side of drier rather than sweet. I think with honey you get sweetness in the aroma, so my battle is always how do I make it taste drier? I use different adjuncts in the same way that hops work for beer to balance it out.”

After only a couple of weeks, Schoendorf is already seeing the great advantage of having a taproom, and has even gathered a few regulars, who like to grab a seat and sip through the offerings.

“It’s been so important to have that interface, and have that conversation with the consumer that we’ve never had before,” he said. “We were an item on a liquor store shelf in a dusty corner, or we’re sold through a handful of restaurants and bars.”

ExploreRaise a glass to these Georgia meaderies

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Over the course of its history, and due to the vagaries of Georgia alcohol laws, Monks Meadery partnered with Terrapin Brewing and then Southern Brewing in Athens to produce and package its products. With the new taproom and a federal license, though, the company will be able to produce meads in Atlanta for the first time.

“Doing small stuff and test batches here allows me to experiment and then actually recoup some of the costs of creating new styles and flavors,” Schoendorf said. “And it allows us to get that feedback on what’s a good name, what’s a good flavor, which we hadn’t had before this.

“We only had one mead until three years ago. There’s 11 on this tasting room menu here, including things that are in distribution, and things we’re experimenting with here. In a lot of ways, we’re still introducing this to people.”

Beyond increased interest in Georgia and other markets around the country, Schoendorf is proud of the medals Monks Meadery has won for its products at national and international mead competitions, including the Mazer Cup in Colorado, and the Mead Madness Cup in Poland.

“Really, 2020 was a great year for us,” Schoendorf said. “We entered three main competitions, and everything got a silver or a gold. It was a hell of a year. Even Dragon’s Nectar, which is our newest mead, got a silver medal last year. Also, Dragon’s Nectar was the official mead of Dragon Con, which was a huge launch for us as a local brand.”

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