First, my apologies for no photos on this post. I recommend you go and see for yourself!
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Brett Canaday and Tia Agnew, owners of New Day Meadery, in their Fountain Square tasting room. They unofficially got their start in 2001 as a hobby and spent some time perfecting their mead and cider recipes and officially organized the brand in 2004. Their first public offering was in May 2006 in Elwood, Indiana. Today, their small but mighty crew of three full-time and four part-time employees are making quite a name for themselves in the beer community as well as their current home community of Fountain Square.
Mead is wine made from honey, and honey is made from bees, correct? So are they COVERED IN BEES? As it turns out, Brett and Tia don’t keep bees as part of their commercial business. Though they did keep bees while working on their recipes, upon commercial opening, Brett thought “it would be a better idea to let expert beekeepers be experts.” So currently, all of New Day’s honey is purchased from Wildflower Ridge Honey Farm in Anderson. As they are growing, however, they are beginning to outgrow the Farm’s offering of approximately 250 hives and will eventually be adding other keepers, such as Clover Blossom Honey, which services around 2000 hives.
Those numbers seem awfully large, right? 250 hives! That is a lot of honey! Yes, it is. A hive can produce between 50 and 100 pounds of honey per year. New Day uses three barrels of honey per month, and those aren’t the beer barrels you may be thinking of; they are the 55-gallon drums. (That beer barrel you may be thinking of, the 1/2 barrel, holds approximately 15.5 gallons).
Changing and/or adding suppliers, you say? Won’t that make a difference in the flavor? Well, yes. “Honey is different, even off the same hives,” says Canaday. In traditional unfruited meads, you may be able to tell differences between early and late season in the honey. Traditional meads will impart those differences much more than fruit meads because of the nectars specific to different blossoms. This is something New Day hopes to explore more at a later time. But for now, they are looking to maximize their new production space, now in Indianapolis.
Wait, isn’t this a beer website?
Sure! But we love Brett and Tia AND their meads and ciders. Plus, some of their process is just like brewing, and they use some of the same ingredients that we love, like hops and yeast. In fact, just about the only thing they can’t use in their production is grains. Wineries (New Day is filed as a winery) are prohibited by federal law to use grains in their production. Zero. None. Nada.
Production can also be a little different. Though New Day's meads are pretty much honey-and-water fermented, it is technically the choice of the brewer (I think the mead and cider makers are still called that) to boil this concoction or not. “Whereas breweries will brew to extract the fermentable sugars and make them available for fermentation, for us, honey is water soluble. You blend it with water and it is ready to ferment,” said Brett. It isn’t exactly that simple. It is still a hand-crafted art. It takes skill to produce and honey isn’t always cooperative. If it is too sweet, it won’t ferment. Air is key.
Wine yeast is often used to make mead, but New Day is looking into using more beer yeast, which was used in their Snap Dragon. Snap Dragon is also made with coriander, orange peel. apricots and honey. All that along with Hallertau hops and you’ve got a mighty tasty mead. 4.2 Mugs.
I learned a lot about mead during our recent visit to New Day Meadery in Fountain Square. Did you know they use 1500-2000 pounds of honey each month? Did you know that "wineries" are forbidden to use grains? I also learned that I love Snap Dragon; leave it to the beer geeks to pick one of the only meads made with hops (hallertau) and Belgian Wit yeast. It had some very nice spice to the finish and gentle flortal hints up front. I highly recommend stopping by the next time you are in the area. Try a flight so you can experience some of the unique offerings. The knowledgeable staff will walk you through the menu. 4.269 mugs.
P.S. It should be noted that if you are a gamer, they have a wonderful semi-private backroom with a pretty large table.
New Day Meadery...this place does not know a stranger. Always friendly, always accommodating, always willing to chit-chat it up. The place has a vibe like no other. At one time, you can have a group of friends gaming at the back table, a couple having a romantic date at a table for two, and a bachelorette party sampling at the bar. Oh, and everyone is having a fantastic time. Owners Brett and Tia have poured their everything into New Day, and it's terribly evident.
On this ocassion, we sampled Snap Dragon, a honey and apricot wine fermented with orange peel, coriander, Hallertau HOPS!, and Belgian Wit yeast. That's right, hops...right into a wine. It was delicious. The wine poured a nice gold color, and the nose was a little spicy, and a little sweet...definitely lured me in. It was very drinkable, refreshing, not too sweet, and the Belgian yeast definitely came through for a bit of a zip. Snap Dragon was a perfect choice for the beautiful fall evening.
I have to mention that New Day has the Apiary Room, the perfect space for any special event. It's reasonably priced at $60/hour, and it can hold up to 30 seated folks. I was especially drawn to the large table - it would be perfect for a gaming session. :)
And back to the Snap Dragon...4.3 mugs!