Aside from sleep, one of the first things I did when I hopped off the plane from Turkey was attend a preview of the latest menu items at The Ice Cream Bar. It was fun to try the shop's fall cocktails, like the SF Honey (below), but my favorite thing turned out not to be the ice cream or the cocktails at all.
I learned that the Ice Cream Bar's also started carrying a line of meads, or honey wines, by a small company called The San Francisco Meadery. At the party, mead maker Oron Benary was on hand to pour samples — and they were fantastic.
Oron and his wife, Sarah, only source ingredients and materials locally — we're not just talking apple cider from Sonoma, but also packaging from Oakland. (The farthest-sourced ingredient is their orange blossom honey, which comes from Ojai, CA.) They also own another label, Brothers Drake Meadery, out of Columbus, OH, and only use Ohio ingredients for those meads; his goal is to eventually open more meaderies, and expand to become a national brand with local production and sense.
The San Francisco Meadery has three different meads. The Orange Blossom ($19.99) is named as such because one third of each bottle is made of orange blossom honey; it's aged for over a year for dry, light, and aromatic attributes. The fuller-bodied California Gold ($29.99) has only three ingredients — honey, water, and yeast — but comes across like an elegant semi-dry sherry, in part because it's been aged for two and a half years. And The Apple Pie ($19.99) is sweeter, with 8 percent residual sugar; it's made from Sonoma apple cider, as well as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. With such warming spices, it's a nice drink to get you in the mood for fall.
Until this point, all of the meads I'd tried had been too sweet and one-dimensional, but I could actually see myself lingering over each one of these, the California Gold being my favorite. "I'm pretty much a winemaker who uses honey instead of grapes," Oron told me. He and winemakers have at least one thing in common, though: he uses wine yeast in his fermentation process. Those who enjoy wines but have reactions to sulfites, however, can rejoice: these meads are sulfite-free.
Oron and his wife hope to eventually sell throughout the state, but currently they're only selling in the Bay Area. You can visit The San Francisco Meadery at its tasting room in the Bayview, or find the meads at Bi-Rite, Rainbow Grocery, The Jug Shop, and Northern California Whole Foods stores.