Mead–ancient beverage made in University Place

“Kristina Anderso, right, displays bottles of ‘Ambrosia by Kristy’, her mead and new spiced mead products, in her University Place home. Displayed with them are Speller the bee and a skep in which bees were traditionally kept by people from ancient times. They collected honey from the domed beehives which were often made with twisted straw. (Photo by Bonnie West) Some years ago Kristina Anderson of University Place was offered a glass of mead. She’d never had it before and was so impressed with the taste, she asked where she could buy a bottle. You can’t, she was told. It was made by her friend’s boyfriend.From that moment, Anderson decided she would find out all she could about mead.I knew that if I liked it, somebody else would too and I said, ‘I’m gonna do this some day!’ Anderson said. And that day finally came. I loved the history of mead, and started researching in-home brewing and what makes it good and bad.Mead is produced by mixing honey, water, and yeast and letting it ferment for three months. The finished product is sweet-but not over-poweringly so-and leaves a delicate coating of honey on the palate. In addition, the 12.0 percent alcohol by volume puts a definite buzz in the brain. Evidence of mead has been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs and at Stonehenge-dating back more than 8,000 years and making it the oldest known alcoholic beverage.In Medieval times it was traditional for newlyweds to drink mead from moon to moon, and hence the term, honeymoon.Anderson was guided by a winemaking friend and by March of 1997, she acquired her Washington State liquor license. In June of that year she produced over 350 cases of mead from her first batch under her label: Ambrosia by Kristy. Ambrosia is a more solid form of mead and has been called ‘food of the gods’, she explained. At that time I thought ‘Oh, my gosh, I hope this sells!’ I had $4,000 in glass alone!Kristy’s mead is made with blackberry and fireweed honey, all Oregon and Washington honeys, and her spiced mead has blackberry and buckwheat honey-which gives it a darker color.The idea to bottle spiced mead came after Anderson spent too many times trying to explain to people what spices to add to the regular mead. Then I was telling a friend, ‘You add this and this and, well, I’ll just bottle some.’ So I did. She introduced the new spiced mead November 18. The sweet taste honey left on the palate is unmistakable. There is literally a pound of honey in every bottle of mead, Anderson said. It’s 30 percent honey.Mead is called a wine, although it isn’t made from grapes, that’s just the classification given to it. Some people look at it as a beer, but beer has added hops, she said. To be classified as a beer you have to have 50 percent grain and have certain alcohol levels. Otherwise it’s a wine whether it’s made with fruit or honey.It’s been a learning process along the way Anderson said of her undertaking. She now uses a many-sided bottle for her mead. They look like the hexagonal wax cells honeybees build in their nest to contain their brood and stores of honey. The original bottles were square and the pressure of filling them sometimes made them burst, she said. These bottles I discovered in a Vancouver glass distributor’s warehouse and they are perfect-much stronger.Once filled, Kristy stops her bottles, which hold nearly 16 ounces, with t-tops which can be removed by hand. She then hand-dips the bottle tops in melted refined bees wax for a final touch. The label’s design, by Margaret Treleven, and the quaint bee, by Tacoma artist Mary Mann, give the bottle the look of a work of art.Anderson said her mead was first sold at Freighthouse Cellars at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma, and it had the distinction of becoming the store’s number two selling wine that year.In Pierce County, Ambrosia by Kristy is now available through a number of stores: Pacific Northwest Shop, Queen Anne Thriftway in Tacoma’s Proctor District; University Place Liquor Store, Fife Liquor Store, Cascade Brewing Supply, Vinotique, Lakewood Market Place, and Puyallup Fred Meyer. Pacific Northwest Shop, which features Pacific Northwest goods, has carried Ambrosia by Kristy, Since the beginning, according to Pam Lindgren, wine and food buyer for the store.We tried it and it was great and it’s just so unique, she said. There are those mead people out there so they were excited when we got it. It does really well here, and now she has the spiced mead. It’s a great product and people really love it. Cascade Brewing Supply is another store that has carried Anderson’s mead for nearly two years. Everyone loves it, said owner Christine Perez of the mead. We carry five meads, and if someone has never tried mead before and tries hers, they will know what it is. Hers is a nice mead.Perez said there is a whole world of meads out there, made unique with a variety of fruits and spices added to them. In Olde England they used to put herbs and spices in the mead and give it to you when you were sick, she explained. It was called methiglin and that’s where our word ‘medicine’ comes from today.Perez said having mead available on the market is pretty new. Even ten years ago nobody made it and you couldn’t find it commercially.Word is beginning to get around about the unique taste of mead, and the increase in popularity of the product surprised Anderson this year. She intended to sell her mead at the Gig Harbor Renaissance Fair for a dollar a glass, and ended up selling 20 cases. I usually sell one case at festivals, she laughed. Mead, as it turns out, ages beautifully, and makes it possible to add an old tradition to special occasions. When a friend of mine had a baby, I took her my mead, Anderson said. In Medieval times when a girl was born a special batch of mead was made and saved for her wedding day. The French believe you should age it 25 years.One couple purchased two cases of Anderson’s mead and flew it with them to Florida where, at midnight, they celebrated the millenium.Anderson said as far as she knows there are about 60 meads available in the United States, And I’ve tried about 30 of them. There are dry meads as well as sweet, she discovered.Anderson said she’s working on national distribution of her product and would like to sell it in Canada too.This is always fun to do, she said of her life’s work. And I still love mead!Ambrosia by Kristy can be purchased at Anderson’s web site at:, or through a commercial wine web site at: can be reached at: 253/307-5156, or send her e-mail at: “