Gordon Taulbee and Terry Rothman founded the Louisville Mead Company, a local winery that specializes in honey-based alcoholic beverages, two year ago. The company offers two varieties of mead, traditional honey and blueberry honey. They started out selling their products at the Douglass Loop Farmers’ Market, but now their mead is slowly rolling out to area retail stores. It can already be found at the Kroger Wine & Spirits store on Goss Avenue, all Liquor Barn locations, and at Smok’n Mart on Dutchmans Lane. Not bad for two guys who started brewing as a hobby.
“Mead was something that we liked, but we couldn’t always get,” Taulbee explains. “But when we could get it, it was more like a beer or it was really sweet. So, we started exploring the possibilities. We wanted what the Vikings drank. As we looked up recipes, we started learning about all of these meaderies opening up all over the country in comparable-sized cities. After a while, we said, ‘There is not a meadery in Louisville, lets start one.’”
Mead is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water. The process dates back to around 2000 B.C. Vicky Rowe, operator of the online resource Gotmead.com, says there is an unbroken tradition of mead drinking in Europe, especially in Poland where the drink is as common as wine. Rowe started brewing mead more than 20 years ago after encountering it at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. She credits Bargetto Winery with renewing American interest in mead. Bargetto, which produces Chaucer’s Honey Mead, began offering mead as a holiday drink in 1964. The number of meaderies in the United States has tripled to around 150 in the last decade as more home brewers are attracted to the honey-based beverage.
“Home brewers like mead because it is something different,” Rowe says. “The recipes are flexible. It is not tied down to established styles like beer and wine.”
Gordon Taulbee and Terry Rothman started brewing together about six years ago, after Taulbee got a Mr. Beer home brewing kit for his birthday. Both men work as code enforcement officers for Louisville Metro Government, but they first met through their wives, Tina and Melissa, respectively. Gordon is originally from Eastern Kentucky. He moved to Louisville about 10 years ago and married Tina in 2007. Terry, a Louisville native, married Melissa in 1998. One day when the couples were hanging out together, Gordon brought over a batch of home-brewed beer. It turned out that Terry had done some brewing of his own a few years earlier, and a partnership was born.
“We both like dark, malty beers, so we started there,” Terry remembers. “We were home brewing beer for a long time. We were doing it on a weekly basis. Then we started doing some research and we read about mead.”