TR Robertson –Close to 1,000 enthusiastic Mead Festival attendees wandered the garden areas of Alta Vista Botanical Gardens on Saturday enjoying samples of mead, cider, seltzer, beer, and other items as they took part in Meading at the Gardens after a two-year shut-down due to COVID restrictions. This popular event was back with 14 meaderies and cideries, 10 breweries, a craft wine maker, a kombucha and seltzer distributor and numerous other food and organization presenters as they lined the walkways providing drink and food items to sample and to purchase.
This is the largest mead festival on the West Coast where mead enthusiasts can enjoy unlimited tasters of the world’s oldest fermented alcoholic beverage. The history of mead goes back 8,000 years to the island of Crete. One hundred percent of the proceeds of the festival go to support the maintenance and improvement of Alta Vista Botanical Gardens. The gates opened at 11 am for a VIP luncheon of mead and cider with food pairings and opened at 1 pm for the general public. Admission included a 5 oz tasting glass from Bear Roots Brewing and a raffle ticket for the fifty amazing gift baskets that were donated.
Phots by Brian Robertson
Chef Aaron Love and wife Malicia, from Partake in Vista, prepared the VIP gourmet luncheon. Each course was paired with a mead or cider from a variety of meaderies. The luncheon was held in the outdoor Reception Rose Garden area. Those attending could also listen to the great sounds of the Blue Creek Band playing Americana and Blues/Jazz for the event. It began with Sour Apples with a reduction and honeycomb paired with a cranberry mead from Moonlight Meadery. This was followed with a starter of Shrimp Ceviche with pomegranate paired with a pomegranate mead from Lost Cause. The appetizer was a fresh Sourdough Bowl with Potato Gruyere soup paired with apple cider from Raging Cider. The main entrée was a brined Cornish Game Hen with Herbs de Provence paired with a lemon/lavender mead from Meadiocrity. The dessert was a Peach Cobbler paired with a peach/huckleberry mead from Twisted Horn Meadery followed by a Port-style traditional mead from Good Omen Meadery.
The majority of those attending the VIP luncheon had been waiting two years for this luncheon as they had tickets for the April 4, 2020, Mead Festival that was postponed due to the COVID restrictions. Wandering the luncheon area of 14 tables and 70+ participants, everyone was excited to return and anticipating a delicious meal with great tastings. Ken and Linda Herrill were in attendance with family members and had donated the centerpieces designed by their shop, United Plant Growers. Participants had come from all over San Diego County to enjoy the luncheon.
As the public was let in, each of the booths had been set-up and were ready to both pour tastings and to explain anything you needed to go about their product. One group, the North County Home Brewers Association, were pouring a wide selection of meads and ciders made by their members, as was the Barley Engineers where they had eleven tastings from individual brewers. They were set-up in the Ceremonial Garden where the Gone Pontos band kicked things off with their punk style musical sound.
Lining the paved road were an array of meaderies, cideries, breweries and other organizations. The meaderies in attendance included Twisted Horn Mead from Vista, Lost Cause Mead from Bay Park, Raging Cider & Mead from San Marcos, Batch Mead from Temecula, Moonlight Mead from New Hampshire, Meadiocrity Mead from San Marcos, Good Omen Mead from Escondido, Hidden Hive Mead from Escondido, Golden Coast Mead from San Marcos, Meteor Mead from Escondido, Chubby Cheeks Mead from Temecula, Wild West Mead from Oceanside, Mead Made Mod from Vista, Wild Barrel Brewing from San Marcos, and Blue Fire Brewing from Vista.
There were so many meaderies and cideries it was hard to choose what to try. Several we tried included the Port-style from Good Omen (excellent) and the Caramelized Honey from Meteor (tasty). The Midnight Mead from Batch was a delicious mead made in port barrels. The lines were long at the tasting booths but moved quickly as the attendees went from meadery to meadery and brewery to brewery. The breweries in attendance included Bear Roots Brewing, Arcana Brewing, Battle Mage Brewing, Blue Fire Brewing, 5174 Craft Brewing from Arrowhead/Riverside, California Wild Ales from Sorrento Valley, Guadalupe Brewery from Vista, and Prohibition Brewing from Vista. The 5147 Craft Brewing from Arrowhead, named after the height location of their tasting room in Arrowhead, had a tasty Oatmeal and Vanilla Bean Stout.
Barrel Riot was an interesting business in attendance offering award winning spirit barrel-aged wines. Owner Daniel Lipsky had a five-sip tray of their wines for visitors. Their philosophy is “Don’t Drink Wine – Experience It.” Their Merlot was excellent, aging in both rum and bourbon barrels. The Tequila Barrel-aged Orange Muscat was a Gold Medal winner at a recent competition.
Golden Coast Mead poured an unusual mead, a traditional form of mead called Gruit, made with yarrow, mugwart, heather and lemon, using ancient techniques from long ago. Mead selections today are mixed with a variety of flavors. An example is Deep Purple from Chubby Cheeks Mead with hibiscus and pineapple tastes and Liquid Gold with mango and vanilla cider.
Husband and wife team Derek and Danielle Batch had moved to Temecula to open their meadery, Batch Mead, when COVID hit and caused them to rethink their process of getting the meads and ciders out to the public. They personally drove the online orders to customers, putting 40,000 miles on their car in 2020 as they delivered their mead and cider orders. They were pouring five selections at the festival and had one of the longest lines for the event. Choices included flavors blueberry, peach, pineapple, pomegranate, and their port.
Many of the festival attendees stopped by Kookslam Hard Seltzer from Vista and Dr. Boochart Kombucha for different taste opportunities. Dragons Breath Jerky from Temecula and Party Pop Popcorn, from San Diego, came in a variety of flavors and were also busy throughout the day as was the Temecula Valley Honey Company, the key ingredient of mead, and the San Diego Beekeepers Society with demonstrations of beekeeping and the importance of bees to our environment.
Other organizations in attendance included So Rich Chocolates from Vista with Johna Nilson handing out great tasting handmade chocolates made in her kitchen. The maple chocolate sample was delicious. MicroSoil handed out samples of their product, used to help provided a balanced soil environment. The Coastal K9 German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego provided information about adoptions and volunteering with their organization.
One of the most popular events attendees took part in was the Viking camp area, set-up to demonstrate metal work, leatherworking and offering a chance for participants to throw axes at a target. Many of the Norway Hall, Odin’s Fish Club, Raiders of the North and Red Hand members were in authentic dress for the event. Taking the Main Stage in the Ceremonial Garden in the afternoon was the enthusiastic and crowd-pleasing Dread Crew of Oddwood Band, described as a heavy metal pirate band, although they described themselves as a heavy mahogany pirate band. They had the audience jumping and singing along with the music. I am sure the intake of mead and cider also helped with the enthusiasm.
A number of food vendors offered food choices for those in need of a quick bite to eat. Businesses like Best Pizza and Brew of Vista, Bread and Cheese Eatery, Sticky Chicken, Sivilized and Ron’s BBQ gave those in attendance a variety of selections for food opportunities.
Overall, the day was extraordinarily successful for Alta Vista Gardens and everyone throughout the day showed an excitement for the return of this major event. Happy faces, laughter, good music, great offerings from all the participants and a chance to return to normalcy after a two-year absence was appreciated by everyone at the festival. The sponsors for the Meading at the Gardens were the Vista Village Pub, Bear Roots Brewing Company, Best Pizza and Brew of vista, Aloha Printing and Wild West Homebrew Supply Company.
Next up for Alta Vista Botanical Garden is a free Earth Day Event on April 23rd, beginning at 10 am. The following is a list of a few web sites to check-out some of the participants at the Meading at the Garden. You can also Google each of the Meaderies, Breweries, Cideries, bands and other organizations to find out more about each of the business and what they offer. Many of the meaderies, breweries and cideries offer trivia nights, game nights and other events and their web sites will offer more information.