That’s Colorado mead, honey! | TheFencePost.com

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Just a few house beer lovers since the 1990s, Honnibrook Craft Meadery co-owners Michael Fagan and DJ Kurtz became friends in 2010 and began a business trip together which ultimately took the surprising path of opening a artisanal mead. This trip brought growth and rewards to their Castle Rock, Colorado based facility, including winning the prestigious “Commercial Wine 2021 Best of Show” trophy at the Colorado State Fair for their Peach Habanero mead.

Officially open for business in February 2019, how did Honnibrook Craft Meadery manage to rack up the growth and rewards? Fagan and Kurtz attribute their unique approach to mead making to the use of premium Colorado honey from Lockhart Honey Farms.

Mead-loving patrons and even mead curious people regularly come in and out on a Friday night to an overflow tent set up right outside the large open door of the Honnibrook Craft Meadery warehouse in Castle Rock, Colorado. Honnibrook regularly reserves local food trucks to provide the food when the artisanal meadows open its doors to customers Thursday through Sunday. Gas fireplaces are set up between the tables when the fall nights start to get cooler. Photo by Lincoln Rogers

Mead brewers’ approach



While dedicated home brewers, the duo also enjoyed making mead on occasion. At different places they brought the two drinks, only to observe that “people were drinking beer, but they were lining up for mead.”

But it still took more to get them to make mead.



“We always wanted to brew beer, because beer was cool,” Kurtz said with a laugh as he and Fagan oversaw the machines that pumped and mixed a 55 gallon barrel of Colorado honey with filtered water from Castle Rock. According to the couple, writing a business plan was the tipping point.

“We looked at (our) business plan and needed $ 1.5-2 million,” Kurtz said of the costs of a craft brewery requiring outside investment. “We realized we were going to be employees. We weren’t going to own it.

“Do I really want to work long hours for someone else?” Chipped Fagan. “So we thought we were going to make mead, while keeping our beer roots.”

DJ Kurtz, co-owner of Honnibrook Craft Meadery in Castle Rock, Colo., Adds a proprietary blend of nutrients and yeast to the water as the honey pours into the vat at the start of a new batch of mead. According to Kurtz and co-owner Michael Fagan, their award-winning mead has differentiated itself over the past two years by approaching mead from a craft brewing perspective, versus the traditional winemaking perspective of most producers of wine. ‘mead. Photo by Lincoln Rogers

Keeping their beer roots meant approaching mead from a “light and refreshing” beer angle compared to the traditional heavier wine style of most 10-14% alcohol meads.

“It was probably about two and a half years of experimentation,” Fagan said of the makeup of their product while noting that Kurtz’s formal training as a culinary chef was vital to the process. “We were trying to get the mouth feel (and) the good taste,” continued Fagan. “We would take little torpedo barrels to barbecues in the backyard, and when people were like, ‘this is a really good beer,’ we knew we were there.”

Lockhart Honey Farms premium Colorado monofloral honey flows from a 55 gallon drum and into a tank to combine with water before a mixture of yeast and other nutrients are mixed into the Start of a new batch of artisanal mead from award-winning Honnibrook Craft Meadery in Castle Rock, Colorado. Mead recently beat many Colorado wineries and varietals to win the prestigious “Commercial Wine 2021 Best of Show” award at Colorado State Fair 2021. Photo by Lincoln Rogers

As a result, Honnibrook’s unique style of mead is a lighter alcohol content with a refined level of carbonation.

“Two and a half years of experimentation tells us that 6.2% (alcohol content) is the magic number,” Fagan said. “This is where we want him to be.”

Honnibrook’s growth resulted in Fagan and Kurtz making a new batch of mead every few weeks, instead of starting in 2019 by making batches every several months. In addition to finding their magic number of 6.2%, Fagan and Kurtz also credit Lockhart Honey Farms of Colorado for the growing popularity of their mead.

Honnibrook Craft Meadery co-owners DJ Kurtz and Michael Fagan stand among the equipment used to create a new batch of mead at their artisanal meadery in Castle Rock, Colorado. Fagan, right, is next to a 55 gallon drum of Lockhart Honey Farms’ Colorado honey that is pumped and mixed with water and other ingredients to be sent to the fermentation tanks for create their award-winning mead. Photo by Lincoln Rogers

“It’s a super rich monofloral honey,” said Fagan. “We get a super clean ferment and we get the same product all the time. We need consistency.

PREMIUM COLORADO HONEY

“This is what we bring to the table with our alfalfa honey, is that we place our bees next to large alfalfa fields and every year those fields will bloom,” Leo Lockhart said of the consistency of their monofloral honey. “When you put your bees around wildflowers and that sort of thing, you get a different balance of flowers, so each year the flavor can be very different. “

Leo and Laura Lockhart of Lockhart Honey Farms in 2020. Photo by Rebecca Elliot, Sunnybrook Photo

Second generation beekeeper, Léo takes care of the bees while his wife Laura manages the commercial part. He estimates that they have 1,200 to 1,300 beehives in Colorado, while his entire family has about 9,000 beehives in the state. While Leo and Laura also have beehives in Nebraska and move beehives across the country throughout the year, he thinks Colorado honey is the best.

“Colorado honey tastes so much better than the rest of the country,” Leo said. “I go to national conferences and always try the other honeys and have never found another that I would even put in the same stadium as Colorado.”

“The area we produce is in the Arkansas River Valley,” Laura said. “It has always been a very high quality product. It seems to be a rarer find (and) a rare taste. I’m just glad it’s something that works great for making mead that (Honnibrook) has had a lot of success with.

“We feel very lucky to have been bonded with them,” added Leo of the supply of honey casks to Honnibrook Craft Meadery. “Their mead is excellent. I think one of the reasons they do so well is their attention to quality and their ingredients.

AWARD-WINNING MEAD

This quality and care produced the aforementioned title of Best of Show Commercial Wine 2021 at the Colorado State Fair. While Kurtz and Fagan had already won Best of Show in the mead category there, the overall Best of Show took them by surprise.

A pair of happy customers from Castle Rock, Colorado – Garrett and Jessica Taylor – taste several flavors of Honnibrook Handmade Mead on a Friday evening in October 2021. Honnibrook serves tasters in smaller glasses and labels the flavors at comparison purposes. Photo by Lincoln Rogers

“These are grape wine judges who tell us our mead is better than the grape wines they’ve judged,” Kurtz said. “We won the Best of Show against the big guys. It is still difficult to understand. “

“Winning the best Colorado wine, ever in our wildest dreams,” said Fagan. “It’s just things we didn’t expect to happen to us.”

Honnibrook was also recently ranked # 1 in a list of “10 Best Wineries in Colorado” by ChoiceWineries.com. While the rewards are rewarding for Fagan and Kurtz, they love to make mead.

Honnibrook Craft Meadery co-owners Michael Fagan, left, and DJ Kurtz are proud of their “Commercial Wine 2021 Best of Show” award at the 2021 Colorado State Fair. The duo’s Peach Habenero mead has beaten wineries and wines from all over Colorado for the big win. Photo by Lincoln Rogers

“We always talk about (Honnibrook) as our happy place,” Fagan said as Kurtz nodded and smiled. “In our day jobs there is a lot of stress and there are a lot of unhappy people. When people come here, everyone is happy. They’re excited about it and we’re excited about it.

For Honnibrook Craft Meadery, the use of premium Colorado honey has led to sweet success.

For more information on the award-winning Honnibrook Craft Meadery, as well as Lockhart Honey Farms, you can find them online at https://www.honnibrook.com and https://lockharthoneyfarms.com.


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