Temecula Valley is becoming quite the booming town for craft breweries and is already a pretty renowned spot for local wineries.
But there is another form of wine that is hitting the scene and reviving a lost art. Possibly the oldest form of alcohol in recorded history, honey wine or mead is gaining in popularity.
The reason for this revival of mead in Temecula is due to the opening of a couple of meaderies. Frugal Homebrew had the pleasure of interviewing owner Jared Caperton of Chubby Cheeks Meadery.
Revival of the Lost Art of Meadmaking
Mead Seems to be a bit of a lost art. It’s hard to find good mead in today’s world, what made you get into mead and how long have you been making mead for?
Mead is definitely a lost art! How I got into mead (the honest answer); I was bored at work one day (Uniform sales) and I looked up videos on how to brew beer.
I watched one and said to myself, “Wow! That’s way harder than I thought it would be! Nobody’s got the time for that!” Then I saw a recommended video on YouTube about how to make mead at home in “3 easy steps” and I was hooked.
Originally, the simplicity is what drew me in, but as I got into it, I quickly realized how creative we can be with mead. I’ve been making mead for close to 7 years now.
Many associate mead with the Vikings, but it had a special place in medieval Europe as well. Mead has been overshadowed by beer and wine in recent history, but I hope that is about to change.
Chubby Cheeks Making Waves in the Craft Mead Scene
Chubby Cheeks mead seems to have a lot of bright colors and interesting flavors, is that what makes it unique? What makes Chubby Cheeks relevant in the craft mead scene?
If I’m being incredibly honest, I’m not entirely sure there is anything about us that makes us unique or relevant. I’ve always said that I can’t claim to make the best mead in the world, but I make what I like and hopefully our customers will like it too!
But, if I had to pick, I think what sets us apart the most is a combination of an entertaining environment, creative products and I think overall, it’s our connection with our customers.
We didn’t have a lot of money to build the meadery and because of that, everything inside of our meadery was built with my own two hands. From the paint on the walls to the tables and bars. I even built a walk-in fridge!
As a result, there are a lot of imperfections and personal touches that I think help create a very welcoming environment. Nothing in here is perfect (even our meads) but it doesn’t have to be. In my opinion, there is no such thing as complete perfection!
Personally I think Jared is being a bit modest here. Chubby Cheeks has definitely ventured out of the traditional mead scene. His first mead was even brewed with hops!
I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few of his meads and they are all very different and can pack a punch. Some might not hit the spot, but the interesting thing is you can come back months later and have that same mead and it will taste better than before. The wonders of aged mead!
First Mead Ever Made at Chubby Cheeks
Which mead was the first mead you made when you opened? Did it have a special meaning?
Pineapple Under The Sea. It does hold a special place for me. It’s still my favorite mead that I make, and to me it’s the most drinkable. I’ve always been a beer guy and I really wanted to make a mead that drank like beer.
Mead is such an underused medium for alcohol, and I really wanted to get the message across that it can honestly taste like whatever you want it to. Pineapple Under The Sea is still one of the first meads we give to people when they tell us they normally drink beer and it’s a great starter mead for people who’ve never tried it before.
I would say I’ve had the same experience when it comes to mead. You would think water, honey, and yeast would be simple. But in reality there are endless combinations and additions you can make.
The Trials of Opening a Meadery
Is opening a meadery different than what you thought it would be?
Definitely! I knew what concept I was going for, but nobody tells you all the documentation, licenses and permits you need. Especially for someone who’s never opened a business before.
Luckily I was able to ask for guidance from a few folks in the industry and made some friends in the city. The biggest learning curve though, was figuring out how to brew on a bigger scale with bigger equipment. I still say I’m a glorified homebrewer just with bigger toys!
It’s nice to have Jared in the homebrewer ranks! Another interesting note that I’ve seen when it comes to brewing in bigger batches and bulk aging is flavor tends to have more impact and become more pronounced.
Tips for Homebrewing Mead
What tips do you have to mead homebrewers to help them craft a delicious mead?
I get asked this question a lot. And I always say, it depends on what you’re going for. But, typically the best guidance I can give is: Sanitize everything! Try to keep your mead in a room with consistent temperature. Shoot for 3 lbs of honey per gallon of water, let it go terminal then backsweeten to where you like it.
And if you’re going to fruit your mead, I always recommend fruiting in secondary fermentation. That’s just me though, there is no right or wrong way to do it, just have fun!
I would add to Jared’s second paragraph that fruiting in secondary is especially helpful with mead that you can either put in a keg or somewhere that you can purge the oxygen from.
When dealing with longer fermentation times oxygen can be especially detrimental.
Creating a Meadery Business Name
What made you come up with the name chubby cheeks?
Chubby Cheeks is actually a family trait! I’ve had these darn chubby cheeks my whole life. I’ve been 175 pounds at 6 foot 2 and still have them! When my daughter was born almost 3 years ago, she got the cheeks too.
Almost two years ago, my wife and I were thinking of names for the meadery. Originally I wanted Temecula Mead and Cider but I decided it wasn’t brandable since I eventually want locations outside of Temecula. As we were talking my daughter ran in front of us and my wife said “look at her cute little chubby cheeks” and then it was like a light bulb went off and I had the name!
That’s why our logo is a baby. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a Buddha baby! It’s meant to be the happy baby version of Winnie the Pooh, as an homage to my chubby cheeked daughter.
The Role of Water in Mead
What role does the water play when it comes to making a good mead?
Water is huge! For homebrewers, try to use purified water, not distilled. Distilled has no minerals or anything in it and those minerals can actually help the flavor. We use a reverse osmosis filtration system for all of our meads.
I’ve used filtered water myself and it works great. It may be cheaper than buying spring water also. Minerals are important to flavor profiles and it can be the ultimate way to make the perfect mead.
Favorite Honey and Fruit Infused Honey
What is your favorite honey to brew with? Do you think it’s better to brew with fruit infused honey or to add the fruit yourself?
Personally, I love orange blossom honey. Mainly because it creates a quality product that is consistent. For me, as a commercial brewer, consistency is key. It’s something I’m still perfecting.
I personally think it’s better to fruit the mead yourself in secondary fermentation. If you use fruit infused honeys, you risk losing some of the fruit flavor during fermentation.
I do know some people who’ve used fruit infused honeys to backsweeten mead though and it’s worked out fairly well.
Have you ever used beer yeast to brew a super delicious mead? Which traditional yeast do you prefer to use?
I have actually never used a beer yeast for my meads. Typically I use red wine yeast for most of my meads. I do, however, use a Hefeweizen yeast for all of my ciders! For those I use White Labs Hefeweizen yeast.
Most mead is brewed with wine yeast and that’s typically how you get the mead to such high alcohol levels. Some popular brands of wine yeast for mead are Lavlin brands especially D-47 and Red Star wine yeast.
However I have been interested in testing how quickly I can produce a delicious mead and have been testing out beer yeast in mead. You can check out my beer yeast in mead article for more information.
Cysor and Braggots in a Meadery
Do you have plans for brewing mead mixtures? Such as Cysors or Braggots?
Cysors are a cider and mead mixture while braggots are a beer and mead mixture.
Yeah! We actually already made a Braggot with a local brewery called Inland Wharf Brewing Company in Murrieta. It was a few months back and is sold out, but we are in talks with a few other breweries to collab on some more braggots.
As a licensed winery, I am not allowed to brew a braggot, a brewery has to be the one to brew it in collaboration with us.
We currently have one cyser on tap! We made a spiced apple pie cyser with caramelized honey, apple juice, vanilla and spices.
A lot of meaderies actually specialize in brewing ciders alongside mead. The reason for this is because hard ciders are actually classified as a type of wine in most states.
If you are interested in learning more about braggots you can check out my article on honey in beer.
Environmentally Friendly Mead
What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly?
We do our best to source everything locally. From ingredients, to vendors, we try to keep everything in Temecula or Murrieta. That helps to reduce any carbon footprint.
We also try to use purely organic, pesticide free ingredients. A lot of our interior is made from recycled and reclaimed wood and we use a low energy, low water dish washing machine for all of our glassware!
Making an organic mead can be tricky but for any aspiring homebrewer that wants to make something purely organic you can check out my article on organic mead.
Carbonated or Still Mead
Do you think mead should be served carbonated or are you a staunch still mead aficionado?
Personally, I prefer a little bit of bubble in my life! I love a lightly carbonated mead, and I believe it also helps get the flavor across a little more. I have had several still meads that I absolutely loved, so I don’t think there is a wrong way to do it.
I tend to agree a little carbonation is nice. But a still mead can be especially tasty and is best for special occasions. The softness of the drink is great for a relaxing late night.
Follow The Journey of Chubby Cheeks
A special thanks to Jared for agreeing to give sneak peek into the life of a meadery owner. It will be nice to see what he has in store to take mead to the next level.
You can visit Chubby Cheeks website and take a look at all the meads he has brewing. If you happen to be in Southern California make sure you pay a visit.
If this article has piqued your interest in making your own mead take a look at these beginner mead supplies.