It began at Beveridge Place, when my friend Clark asked me if Carla and I would like to join him and his wife there. A friend of theirs who made mead in Dayton was going to be pouring some new releases, and two of his meads were also on tap. Carla jumped at the opportunity, as she had wanted to take me to our neighborhood dog-friendly beer pub ever since trying it out with our puppy a few weeks before.
Reggie Mace arrived from Mace Meadworks sporting a dark baseball cap, light red mutton chops and a hunter moustache, and large brown-framed glasses that rested over nearly the entire upper portion of his nose. He walked around the bar distributing samples of his latest batches of Dry and Thistle Cask meads, the latter of which also had an earlier batch on tap. I was nursing a glass I had picked up from the bar in between scratching my dog’s ears. It tasted rich and pungent with flavors akin to a scotch that had left its barrel early.
“Where is mead originally from?” I asked.
Clark studied his iPhone a minute and smiled. “Oh I have to read this Wikipedia entry,” he said, halfway chuckling. “It’s profoundly poetic:
‘Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, although archaeological evidence of it is ambiguous. Its origins are lost in prehistory. “It can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks,” Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat has observed, “antedating the cultivation of the soil.”
Claude Lévi-Strauss makes a case for the invention of mead as a marker of the passage “from nature to culture.” Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar.’
“It’s so refreshing to drink something different from basic wine or beer,” I remarked. “I’ve been so inundated with them the past few years that my taste buds often want a break.”
“We’re going to Reggie’s mead bar in early November for a concert,” Molly said. “You should come. The band is guys you met at our wedding celebration.”
We were sitting at the Mace Meadworks bar in Dayton, two mead cocktails in front of us. We had received a text message from Clark earlier on our drive from Seattle that he and Molly would be unable to make it at the last minute. My William Tell Routine was running low, a room temperature glass of dry mead, Jones green apple soda, and cinnamon-bourbon sour.
“People usually show up late,” said Reggie, smiling, “so we’re gonna’ wait until more people trickle in here.
One of the bands’ drummers Matt had arrived, an old friend of Clark’s who had joined us at Beveridge Place when we had first tasted the mead weeks ago.
I ordered a bottle of Mace’s First Anniversary Mead made from wildflower honey to share amongst the evening’s acquaintances. Only a few bottles remained of this pure, velvety batch. As its relaxing effects kicked in, Zebra Hunt took the stage and kicked off with liveliness. They played about a half hour and handed the stage to Branden Daniel and the Chics.
As I reach the end of my reminiscence, I feel eluded by my efforts to capture my cozy exuberance that evening. We had escaped to a site full of undiscovered gems, as I had only visited downtown Dayton once during my college years. Live music, one of my favorite things, was washing over our ears in the narrow lounge and we were taking in new tastes over friendly conversation. Music and complex libations have a rare interplay of sophisticated ease. An author once told me his favorite place to eavesdrop is a wine bar, because the conversations there are of a deeper and more intriguing flavor than that of a bar serving hard alcohol. With mead, the oldest known alcoholic beverage, the same must have been true of the sounds that evening, and perhaps evenings in the distant, ancient past.