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Drink Locally-Made Mead, Monday at the Coffee District in Delray Beach

At first glance, the Prawlockis seem like your average couple.

The two met at Florida State University, where 28-year-old Natasha majored in anthropology with a minor in museum studies, while 30-year-old Adam followed a fine arts major with a focus in sculpture.

By day, Natasha works for the Palm Beach County school system as a librarian. And when he's not creating art, Adam spends his time working in landscaping. But at the end of the day, there's one thing that brings them together: a passion for making mead, of all things.

Beer and wine are centuries old, but there's something that pre-dates it: honey wine. One of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to man, it's considered the ancestor of all fermented drinks.

Remember Robin Hood? Well Friar Tuck wasn't toting barrels of beer with him through Sherwood Forest, as many movies would have you believe. When the Merry Men ambushed his cart en route, it was his apiary - the beehives - he was fervently protecting.

Why? Fermented honey and water make mead. It was the age-old solution to making alcohol where neither grapes nor grain could be grown.

And if you like your drinks strong, mead may be for you. With a typical ABV (alcohol by volume) anywhere from 8 to 18 percent, at its heartiest a single 12-ounce glass is the equivalent of drinking a six-pack of your average beer.

Mead is also multi-talented, turns out. It can also be produced using an additional ingredient of grain mash, making it something called a "braggot."

A true, original Viking mead, however, was nothing more than honey and water sealed in a container and buried underground, retrieved a year later. The resulting product: a strong, viscous drink that warmed the belly - and the blood.

Full of taste - and often carrying a high ABV when cut with brandy or distilled with grain - mead making is much the same process of craft beer creation. If you love small run breweries, but are ready to try something new, mead may just be the taste foray you're foraging for.

And if you've never had it - or heard of it - you may want to attend the premier public tasting of the first run products of the Prawlocki's Stout Viking Meadery.

These days, Adam and Natasha spend their evenings creating their own honey wine variations. Their tasting on Monday, January 3 is meant to help get the word out about their product, as well as to give them feedback to guide the creation of a new mead recipe.

Here's what they he had to say about their endeavor:

So you've basically started your own small-scale meadery. How did you two get interested in mead?

A college friend named Tyson was brewing a few batches of mead and invited us to brew another [batch] with him when he was done. I was always into the idea of brewing beer, so we thought, 'Why not?' Our first batch was very dry, and not very good, but both of us being geeks, we decided to give it another shot.

Had you ever had mead before?

We had tried a few commercial meads. They were underwhelming, for the most part, or semi-sweet. We thought we could do better.

How are your meads different?

For whatever reason, I find myself really drawn to heavy beers, like the ports and stouts. I'd been drinking heavy craft brews and wanted that depth and flavor. I thought it would be interesting to try to make heavy mead. I wanted to brew something I would want to drink. [Natasha and I] decided to mix grain into the honey, what's known as a braggot.

Your first foray into mead making - where did you start?

A friend of mine, Matt, owned an apiary just outside of Tampa [which is no longer producing honey] and brought us back about eight to nine pounds of raw black honey. It was so thick it was almost like molasses, with lots of pollen and bee parts in it. The taste was so intense we knew it would make an amazing mead. It had a really wild flavor.

Then we went to the homebrew store and I basically stuck my nose in every bin of grain until I found this black chocolate malt and coffee flavored grain. I thought it would go well with honey, so I threw some in the batch. It's our port style, limited edition known as Danse Macabre. It's what I like to call a stout mead.

And just what do you need to make mead? 

All you need is yeast culture, honey, water and a container to brew it in. We use all organic honey, and a typical batch takes anywhere from eight to ten pounds to yield about 12 wine bottles worth of mead. How much you get depends on how much water evaporates during the fermenting process. You can let a mead ferment as little as three months, but these were aged longer, so they have a stronger taste.

What meads will be available to sample at the tasting?

The tasting will debut our first two recipes, the 2002 18% ABV Danse Macabre, which we are currently trying to reproduce. It won't be exact, because we won't have that same honey, but it will be close. 

There will also be a special run 2009 Christmas Mead brewed with allspice and apple, similar to a mulled wine. It can be served warm to change the flavor profile, and is slightly syrupy.

The third, what we've named Agent Orange, won't be ready to sample, but will be available later this year. We're hoping to craft the recipe around the feedback we get at the tasting. It will be a "local" brew because we use Florida oranges, and a second addition - also a native state fruit - which will remain a secret.

For those who don't know, what do meads taste like?

Some are stronger than others, but most are similar to your basic riesling or moscato wine, with a fruity or honey taste. Ours are going to be stronger, though, with a richer mouthfeel and a more complex taste profile. There's no subtly with our mead. It's definitely a bitter, salty, sweet thing going on.

But this isn't something to gulp down. Natasha and Adam caution it's a drink to sip and savor - or "you'll be on your ass in five minutes."

It's a dead middle of winter drink, adds Adam. Perfect timing! 

Enough said. The Prawlocki's have certainly whetted our tastebuds. Be sure to stop by the Coffee District in Delray Beach at 6:30 p.m. on Monday for the free tasting and learn more about their upcoming mead releases - and how you can snag some for yourself. 

325 NE 2nd Ave. #104
Delray Beach, FL 33444
Telephone: 561-455-0541

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna

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