Kent Waldeck is the owner and mead-maker at Crafted Artisan Meadery, a meadery in rural Suffield Township just east of Akron. Waldeck, a former homebrewer, launched the meadery two months ago. Crafted has a tasting room that is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and Waldeck recently inked a deal to have his mead sold at the Acme Fresh Market store in North Canton.
Question: Why did you become a brewer/mead-maker?
Answer: I really liked the idea of "creating" something that could be shared with others and educating them on what went into it ... the process. The idea of exploring and directly controlling the end product to create unique experiences and flavors with the best local ingredients available really sucked me in. These ideals are really what Crafted Artisan Meadery is based on. I was really floored by the whole process and still am today.
Q: Since you were a homebrewer before opening your commercial meadery, why did you decide to focus on mead and not beer?
A: Shortly after beginning brewing I started playing with different styles of mead and discovered it was something that was not readily available and it was a completely different drinking experience than beer or wine. The existence of mead is/was not known by a lot of people and what mead there was on the market at that time was generally mass-produced and not truly representative of what mead could be.
Mead is recognized as the oldest fermented beverage and is dated between 7,000 and 9,000 B.C…it's an ancient beverage that had sort of been forgotten about!
The quality and freshness of the ingredients are critical so there was an agricultural component that was really interesting. The base fermentable is honey, so there was a whole other backend exploration of locally sourced Ohio honey, the importance of honey bees, and the different varieties of honey (there’s a ton) not to mention the other ingredients that can be used such as fruit, spices, or herbs. Between all of those things I found myself presented with endless directions to take my meadmaking and the creation of unique flavors which is the foundation of Crafted Mead and the meads we make.
Q: For those unfamiliar with mead, what is it and how is it different from beer and wine?
A: If the surge in craft breweries opening is a return to pre-Prohibition then the relative growing number of meaderies in the U.S. and the popularity of mead in general is a return to pre-history. Mead has been the fundamental alcoholic beverage of nearly every culture at one point or another throughout history and still is for many cultures today.
It is a beverage created with honey as its base fermentable. But just as you have different malt or grape varieties, you also have different varieties of honey which a lot of people don’t realize. Tupelo, orange blossom, buckwheat, wildflower…the list is long. Each variety has its own unique flavor, color, and aroma that are derived from the nectar source which the bees happened to be visiting.
For the average 750ml bottle of Crafted Mead it takes roughly 6,500 honey bees visiting 1.3 million nectar sources, and flying the distance equivalent to 1.4 times around the planet to produce the honey used. It’s easily assumed that because we use honey as our base fermentable that mead is always sweet which is not the case. Mead can range from bone dry to tooth achingly sweet and anywhere in between.
A traditional mead is made with only honey water and yeast such as our Tupelo Mead but there are a number of styles of mead that can also use fruit, cider, spices, herbs, malt (a braggot), or wine grapes. Mead can be carbonated or still but the majority of mead available is still.
We use fermentation processes similar to grape wines in that we are not boiling anything, in doing so it would drive off the delicate honey flavors and aromas. Mead is similar to beer though in the process of creating unique flavors. We can explore and are not confined, for example, to only the varieties of grapes available such as with wine. We have a dry hopped mead call Hop Nectar which uses whole leaf cascade hops or we have Spiced Apple Cyser which uses locally produced apple cider fermented with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla that just screams of being local to Ohio.
Each of our meads are a completely unique experience and stand on their own. Since opening and creating our initial five offerings we are now ready to begin “experimenting” a bit and offering some smaller batch, limited run meads that incorporate anything from bourbon barrels to coffee beans or peppers.
Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals for your meadery?
A: Our short-term goal is to keep the lights on! Joking aside, we are in our second month of being open and are super grateful to our customers for exceeding our expectations. Our tasting room and brand showcase in Suffield Township has provided the great opportunity of educating our customers first-hand about mead while they get to sample the different styles we have available.
We’re also located in a relatively rural area with many farms close buy so we always have fresh ingredients close by. We recently were picked up by Acme Fresh Markets and will be initially available at their North Canton location. We’ve begun partnering with other retailers as well in the Akron/Canton and Cleveland areas and more are on the way.
If we have specific short-term concerns currently it’s that the proper attention is given to the state of the honey bee population and the problems with CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) that continues to cause reductions in its population.
It’s a problem that doesn’t just affect Crafted Mead but affects our entire population. Honey bees are responsible for a third of our entire food supply. It’s a big deal! Although recent research has begun to link the problem to some pretty common agricultural pesticides the search is still going on for definitive answers. Purchasing organic produce from farms that do not use pesticides and buying honey from local beekeepers are just a few things we can do to help.
Looking forward into the next few years we want to focus on continuing to provide the highest quality mead to our customers while creating innovative flavors and experiences. We will not sacrifice the quality of our ingredients to become a “large, nationally distributed” brand but instead prefer to stay local to the region we live in. By supporting our local beekeepers and farmers, we can continue to source the best honey and freshest ingredients that Ohio and our surrounding region has to offer.
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: Today ... I’m thinking Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. It’s just simply a delicious beer. You could ask me tomorrow and I might say any one of the great LOCAL beers made by the breweries here in Ohio that we are proud to call neighbors.