When it comes to Columbus meaderies, two's company but three's a trend
Over the past several months, a popular mass brewer has run multiple “Game of Thrones”-esque commercials, poking fun at mead in the process. In one ad, bar patrons happily accept a round of free beers, except for one man. Upon requesting an “autumnal, full-bodied” mead, the customer is chained up in the stocks.
The spot ends by declaring the beer “for the many, not the few.”
“I appreciate the marketing they're doing,” laughed Dan DeMura, who, along with his son, Yuuki, owns Zen Bee Meadery in Worthington. “They're making mead a household word.”
Mead was off most drinkers' radars back in 2010 when DeMura began home-brewing the beverage, made from fermented honey. Once his Jack Cherry hopped mead won first place at the Ohio State Fair, he decided to become a professional mead-maker.
Opened in February 2018, Zen Bee joins fellow newcomer Uprising Meadworks on the East Side and Short North veteran Brothers Drake Meadery. Some might say three's a trend.
“I know there's a trend,” said DeMura, who, in early April, attended the inaugural Ohio Mead Festival in Cleveland. “There are over 10 meaderies in Ohio, and there's probably going to be more next year. Mead is part of the craft brewing niche.”
Rather than take the medieval approach, DeMura opted for a more personal touch in his Asian-inspired branding; DeMura's wife is Japanese and he practices Zen. The compact tasting room, open Saturdays only, features a slot machine from Japan, artwork featuring the Japanese character for happiness and a maneki-neko, or “money cat,” for good luck.
During the week, DeMura transforms the space into his production facility, where he brews in 35-gallon, food-grade barrels. The results are mostly easy-to-drink session meads, which have a lower ABV. And the unique flavors include Banana Nutter, Pear of Peaches and White Rabbit, which features a carrot blossom honey sourced from the West Coast.
“It's a huge spectrum of what you can do with mead,” DeMura said. “The additional ingredients that you can add with the fruits or with the spices — you can have a whole flavor profile.”
DeMura also carries bourbon barrel ales and plans to add another varietal, “Sakura” (cherry blossom), this year.
“At some point I would like to have a place that I could have regular business hours in a tasting room with other local alcohol,” he said.
Additionally, DeMura is interested in educating himself on the beekeeper side of the business. But he has to be careful.
“I am allergic to bees,” he said. “But I love the product.”