HONEY, WATER, & YEAST
Black Rabbit Mead Co. opens in Reno’s Brewery District.
Written by Claire McArthur
Photos by Candice Vivien
From left, Jake Conway and Will Truce, co-owners of Black Rabbit Mead Co., at their bar in Reno's brewery district
When Will Truce and Jake Conway were approached by fellow teacher (and beekeeper) Al Sindlinger about the prospect of making mead together, neither man knew what the drink even was.
Fast forward seven years and hundreds of batches of mead later and that certainly has changed for the two co-founders of Black Rabbit Mead Co., Nevada’s first meadery, located in the Brewery District on Fourth Street near Wells Avenue in Reno.
A simple recipe
“We were really confident that what we were making was going to be enjoyable to a lot of people — and unique,” says Truce, who met Conway and Sindlinger while teaching at the former Argent Preparatory Academy in Carson City. “We also were spending so much time, money, and all the forms of energy you can imagine on this hobby that it either needed to move to the next level, or we needed to pull back to achieve a better balance in our lives. It was almost unthinkable to pull back.”
For years, Truce and Conway experimented with a variety of mead recipes in their kitchens using Sindlinger’s honey. Sindlinger started his beekeeping business, Al Bees, in Elko County before moving to Reno in 2006 with his wife, Ursula. Today, he has nearly 125 hives and sells a huge portion of his honey to the budding meadery.
“Mead is similar to wine in the way it’s produced because we never add any heat to it, unlike the beer-making process,” Conway explains. “You mix honey, water, and yeast (called must), and you keep that must at a certain temperature in order for the yeast to thrive.”
Mead is thought to be the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, with roots dating back to the seventh millennium B.C. in China’s Henan province. It’s believed that mead first was discovered when rain filled a honey pot and the combination inside fermented from wild yeast in the air. Throughout history, almost every culture across the globe drank it at some point, from the Vikings to Ethiopians.
Mead’s popularity waned in the 17th century due to new tax laws, increased availability of sugar cane, and the rise of wine and beer. Today, it’s experiencing a small but mighty resurgence. According to the American Mead Makers Association, about 450 meaderies operate in the United States today, up from just 30 back in 2003.
Stamp of creativity
The process to produce the fermented honey beverage takes about nine weeks at Black Rabbit. While most meads are sweet and viscous, Truce and Conway opted to create a cider-style mead by force-carbonating the batches.
“It’s more approachable, drier and not too sweet,” Conway says, explaining that it also reduces the alcohol content from about 12 to 15 percent to around 7 percent.
Their original mead recipe — only honey, water, and yeast — is called Church of Roger, an ode to Truce’s father, a retired contractor who helped them build out their English-pub-inspired tasting room next to Lead Dog Brewing Co.
The remainder of the menu, however, is a creative selection of meads infused with fruit and herbs and even mixed with beer.
Fresh pineapple and jalapeños are steeped in mead to create the Hawaiian Ember; raspberries are used to add tang to the Song of Rasputin (a nod to the increasingly popular sour beers); and blackberry and rosemary flavor the top-selling Rosemary Black mead.
A mix of galaxy, citra, and Amarillo hops is used to create the dry-hopped 3 Headed Rabbit, while a selection of beers from neighboring Lead Dog Brewing is mixed with Black Rabbit’s meads to create a trio of beer-style meads. The PB & J, for example, is comprised of Lead Dog’s Peanut Butter Stout and the raspberry-flavored Song of Rasputin. It’s a flavor profile that you won’t find anywhere else.
“Beer-style meads came about because we wanted to broaden our menu, we love beer, and we also wanted to work with other breweries and people making alcohol in town,” Truce says.
Black Rabbit’s location in Reno’s Brewery District has been fortuitous for a number of reasons.
“We saw how this neighborhood was becoming a celebration of industry, creativity, and craft alcohol production,” Truce adds. “We started talking with other alcohol producers down here, and they were so friendly and helpful and gave us a lot of inspiration, confidence, and knowledge.”
Conway adds, “How much help everyone has given us has made this whole thing possible.”
Claire McArthur is a freelance writer with an affinity for all things “craft.” After trying both types of mead — the syrupy-sweet kind and Black Rabbit’s cider style — she is very much on Team Carbonation.
Black Rabbit Mead Co.
401 E. Fourth St., Reno • Blackrabbitmeads.com
A flight of meads featuring, from left, PB & J, Hawaiian Dankster, Rosemary Black, and the 3 Headed Rabbit