Enjoying the Nectar of the Gods at the Kiggins Theatre
On a sunny Sunday afternoon I found myself in the enviable position of watching Stanley Kubrick’s classic anti-war film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb at The Kiggins Theatre. I was early so I slipped into the bar upstairs (The Marquee Lounge). The Marquee Lounge serves a rotating selection of local beer and cider. On this visit, I noticed something new, two large bottles that said Ethereal Mead — one with a golden fluid in it and one with a ruby colored fluid.
Mead! My mind automatically went to high school English class — Beowulf and Canterbury Tales. This Mead also brought back a faint memory of attending a Renaissance Festival and drinking Mead from a faux gold goblet to wash down a T Rex sized turkey leg. In this era of an expanding list of locally brewed alcoholic beverages Mead is still unusual.
Mead was the first alcoholic beverage consumed by humans. Ancient people in Asia, Europe, and Africa believed it to be the drink of the gods — descended from the heavens as dew and then gathered by bees. Bees were thought to interact with the Gods; so, this drink had magical and holy qualities. According to modern science, this elixir was accidentally created by leaving honey, fruit, and water in vessels or by rainwater that sat in honey combs. Wild yeast (in fruit peels) or bacteria that was present allowed it to ferment. Gary Gross of Ethereal Mead in Battle Ground began making Mead in 2004 for his son’s Medieval themed wedding in upstate New York. This hobby became a business for him in 2014. Gary uses local ingredients (honey and fruit) and primarily focuses a Melomel style Mead (made only with honey and fruit). His Mead is fermented in stainless steel and then tasted after a week to see if it is ready. If it isn’t ready he allows it to ferment longer. I tried both of his current offerings — Autumn Mist and Ruby Sunset.
Autumn Mist has a golden color. It is made with blackberry flower honey, a combination of five different types of apples from Yakima, and spice mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and orange peel. A clean yeast is added for fermentation. This clean yeast lends a neutral flavor. Autumn Mist reminded me of honey wine served at Ethiopian restaurants with a bit of holiday spice and some effervescene –crisp and spicy with a honey finish. This would be a great complement to a curry dish or a sharp aged cheese — maybe, to stay local— a Tillamook extra sharp cheddar. Gary said he served it with Thanksgiving dinner — which sounds like an excellent pairing.
The Ruby Sunset is a dark pink. It has a fruitier taste with a strong strawberry flavor. This Mead is also made with local blackberry honey which adds to the rich berry flavor of the strawberries. It is fermented with a German white wine yeast which gives it a note of sweet wine (like a Gewürztraminer). Honey is added back to the Mead after fermentation for a bit of extra sweetness. The Ruby Sunset would be a good dessert drink paired with a dark chocolate or chilled and enjoyed as a late afternoon refreshment. The Autumn Mist and the Ruby Sunset both had a boozy flavor to them and definitely went to my head. So, I would advise sipping them slowly to enjoy the complexity of their flavors and to keep yourself vertical.
The Kiggins Theatre was able to convince the City of Vancouver to allow adults to bring their alcoholic beverages into the theater. I couldn’t finish two glasses of Mead in fifteen minutes so I brought my drinks into the theater and casually sipped them. Yes, I went into the theater by myself with two glasses of Mead; but, it’s cool — it’s The Kiggins. They screen The Rocky Horror Picture Show here every month so odd behavior in the theaters isn’t generally noticed. As General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is explaining to Group Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellars) his theory that flouridated water is a communist plot to poison us as evidenced by the fact that Russians only drink Vodka (not water) I am thinking that I would happily resort to drinking Mead.
The Kiggins Theater is located at 1011 Main Street in downtown Vancouver.