Reporting, writing and photos by Ken Evans
There is no doubt that beer is king in Akron. But, if one is willing to venture to the wilds of Mogadore, Crafted Artisan Meadery seeks to give Akronites a craft experience steeped in ancient heritage and unique flavors.
According to Kent Waldeck, owner and mead maker at Crafted Meadery, “Beer is made from malted grains; cider is made from apples; wine is made from grapes; mead is made from honey. But you can do a whole lot of other stuff with it and it can be a whole lot of different things.”
Meads can range from dry to sweet in terms of flavor, and makers can add hops, herbs, fruits, and, in Kent’s case, even graham crackers. There are special names for these variations as well. Cysers are mead made with apples, metheglins are meads made with herbs or spices, and pyments are made with grape must ー to name just a few.
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Potentially the oldest style of alcoholic beverage in the world, mead is still finding its footing in the United States. “We are kind of where craft beer was in the late ‘90s to early 2000s,” Kent says. While mead is technically a wine, it tends to attract more beer lovers rather than classic wine drinkers.
Like many professional brewers, Kent started out in corporate America, making beer as a hobby. Drawn to the mead recipes in the back of his brewing books, he began experimenting and found a passion for the beverage. “Frankly, I was better at making mead than I was beer,” he says.
In 2012, Kent started making mead professionally, operating Crafted out of his home but continuing to work full-time. He knew mead was a novel concept for many drinkers but nevertheless was drawn to the contrarian path.
“If everyone is going this way, I want to go the other way,” Kent says.
Crafted Meadery has become a nationally recognized brand in craft beverage circles and is currently distributed in 13 states. Kent has received bronze, silver, and gold medals at the Mazer Cup and the National Honey Board Mead Crafters Competition, the two largest mead competitions in the world.
Kent seeks to embrace a range of mead-making styles and methods, showcasing flavor combinations like blackberry and cascade hops as well as special barrel-aged meads from single varietal sources like avocado blossom honey.
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“We take our inspiration from a number of things — food, spice combinations, et cetera — and then we do our best to hammer that flavor hard so that the inspiration is clear and the mead is flavor forward,” Ken says — though sometimes, he admits, he just has a cool idea for a label.
While Crafted does a number of still meads — meads without carbonation — Kent has become known for his lightly carbonated dessert-inspired session meads. Releases like “Cinnaman Bun,” “Conan the Strawberrian” and “Bananas Foster Forever” invoke dessert classics like cinnamon buns, strawberry shortcake, and bananas foster. Many of these meads are limited releases, with Crafted always experimenting and rotating new flavors, Kent says. “It’s about keeping things fresh, keeping a new experience in front of customers.”
Crafted uses approximately 35,000 pounds of honey every year, sourced from the Midwest and true-to-source certified. A certification shows due diligence has been performed within the supply chain and that the honey is authentic.
This commitment to quality has led to collaboration brews with MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati and Florida’s Cigar City Cider and Mead. Kent even collaborated with EarthQuaker Devices on a cherry cheesecake Mead called Cherry Cheesequaker Device, which will be released in December.
However, Kent’s best collaboration has been with his son.
Kent’s son Isaac, who is 10, wanted to be able to do something to aid people experiencing homelessness. Kent worked with Isaac to create space within Crafted to sell his jarred “Provision Honey.”
“I wanted to teach him real-world skills, so he does everything from filling the jars to coming up with the slogan: Little Jar, Big Heart,” Kent says. All the profits from Isaac’s honey have gone to Akron Snow Angels, Community Support Services and The City Mission in Cleveland. To date, Isaac has raised more than $850 for these organizations.
Even during COVID-19, Crafted Meadery is still doing well, thanks in part to robust online bottle sales. What surprises Kent is that he is still unknown to many in the Akron area. “On any given weekend, half of our taproom is full of people from outside the state of Ohio,” he says.
Part of this, Kent believes, is a negative impression about mead, whether from a bad batch made by a relative or mead’s association with Renaissance fairs. But he insists that if you are a lover of things like craft beer and cider, you will love mead.
Crafted Meadery can be found online at https://craftedmead.com or in-person at 1189 St, OH-43, Mogadore, OH 44260. Call 330-628-444 to learn what’s available. Crafted Meadery also offers curbside pick up and shipping to your home.
Ken Evans finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.