Published June 19th, 2018 at 6:00 AM
The black raspberries came in June to the fields behind his grandparents’ house in Kansas City, Kansas. Carl Hinchey remembers braving the thorns or sweating in long sleeves, all in pursuit of the tart, dark berries.
“We’d pick them and make them into cobblers and jam,” Hinchey said. “They grew wildly and they were just…summer.”
The berries have been a touchstone for Hinchey — a flavor he sought out even as he and his wife Julie lived in Colorado and California. So, when it came time to pick the first variety they’d use to launch Black Labs Craft Meadery, it wasn’t much of a choice.
“Black raspberries have quite a bit of red wine character,” Hinchey said. “You get some of that fresh fruit on top and then round it out with some vanilla bean while it’s aging.”
Mead is fermented honey, typically made with honey, water, and yeast. Much of Black Labs mead starts with Speckman honey, which is harvested on a farm in Shawnee, Kansas.
“The honey is smooth and dark,” he said. “The base is this dark red berry, and it needed something that could stand up to it.
Black Raspberried Treasure and Private Island are the first two meads Black Labs will have available at a launch party at Brew Lab (7925 Marty St., Overland Park, Kansas) from 4 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27. Mead will be available from a keg or by the bottle.
“Private Island is a piña colada without the rum,” Hinchey said. “It’s got a lot of crispness and is really refreshing on a hot day.”
The Hincheys recommend pairing cheese pizza with the black raspberry — the slightly sweet red sauce and cheese hold up well to the deep-bodied drink — and sitting on the porch for the Island Treasure. They suggest serving the black raspberry slightly below room temperature and the pineapple mead chilled.
“I can’t wait until we have mead on the menu at restaurants,” Julie Hinchey said. “I think there’s a mead wave coming, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
Black Labs Craft Meadery has a production facility in Olathe, Kansas. For now, they’re not looking at a taproom, instead focusing on online sales and pop-up events. The idea is to always have two to three flavors available, which is complicated because a new batch of mead takes a minimum of three months and can be more like seven months from idea to bottle. But both of them work as software engineers.
“We’re a data-driven meadery,” Julie said. “We can blend the art and science by measuring variants.”
Most of the meads they produce, which at this point is several hundred bottles per month, are between 12- and 15-percent alcohol by volume. The meads will be sold in 500ml bottles, just big enough for a couple to each have a glass-and-a-half.
Carl has been making mead for eight years, but it was only a year ago that he and Julie considered turning a shared passion into a business.
“We enjoy sharing it,” Carl said. “Mead is a social drink.”
The meadery is named for the couple’s two dogs, Zak and Petey. It’s also a nod to black raspberries and the spirit of experimentation and analysis that defines most labs. Carl has been playing around with chai mead made with a buckwheat honey (it’s darker and evokes molasses) base.
“What I love about mead is how versatile it can be,” Carl said. “It’s something beer drinkers or wine drinkers can enjoy.”
Need a canned beer by the pool? Mother’s Brewing’s Strawberry-Ginger Gose is out now, as is Tallgrass Brewing’s Blueberry-Lemon, a sour session ale. Boulevard’s collaboration with Tech N9ne — Bou Lou, a wheat with pineapple and coconut — dropped in four-packs Monday.
Strange Days Brewing Co. (316 Oak St.) extended hours for the World Cup, opening at 7 a.m. through Sunday. Check out Georgia on My Mind – a gose with peaches, sea salt and coriander — brewed in honor of Germany’s participation in the tournament.
McCoy’s Public House (4057 Pennsylvania Ave.) has a host of new brews, like Amber Cerveza, “a Mexican-style Munich lager, [that] has malty notes of toast and caramel and a light body and high drinkability from the large addition of corn,” head brewer Morgan Fetters wrote in an e-mail. Amber Cerveza is joined by grapefruit gose (4% ABV), a Belgian IPA (8.1% ABV) and Blackberry Tart #3 (5.7% ABV, a limited release).
—Follow @FlatlandKC on Twitter and Facebook for all your beer news.