Food & Drink: Ethereal Meads packs a delicious punch




Rachel Pinsky

If you go

Ethereal Meads, 18109 N.E. 72nd Ave., Battle Ground.;; 360-903-4591. Visits/container fills by appointment.

Gary Gross first tasted mead at his son’s medieval-themed wedding in 2004. When he returned home, he went to Bader’s Beer & Wine Supply in Vancouver, got a starter kit and began home brewing beer and mead. After years of experimentation, and the encouragement of friends and family, Gary and his wife, Shirley, formed Ethereal Meads in 2012.

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made with three basic ingredients: honey, yeast, and water. Evidence of mead production has been found on Chinese pottery dating back from 7000 B.C. The ancient Greeks considered mead the nectar of the Gods. More recently, mead has been associated with Renaissance festivals or reading “Beowulf” in school.

At the moment, mead is enjoying a resurgence based on: growing interest in craft beverages, more people following a gluten-free diet (mead is gluten free), and the popularity of “Game of Thrones.” According to Gary, “Two years ago, 80 percent of people didn’t know what mead was. Now, thanks to ‘Game of Thrones,’ thanks to an interest in Vikings, more people know what it is.”

Ethereal Meads uses local ingredients. The fruit is from Columbia Fruit in Woodland, the apple juice is from the Yakima Valley, and most of the honey comes from Corvallis, Ore. On a visit to their meadery, Gary told me that he likes to “have a direct relationship with the beekeepers.” This gives Ethereal Meads a special Pacific Northwest flavor.

Eric Starr, owner of Northwoods Brewery, recommended that Gary start making a lighter, carbonated session mead. Session mead is a good starter mead — it is light, bubbly, with just a touch of fruit, and it has an alcohol content close to beer (6.5 percent ABV). Traditional mead can have a alcohol content up to 20 percent. A traditional berry mead, that the Gross family enjoyed one summer, was dubbed Smurf Juice for its effect on the drinker.

Mead works well in cocktails. This time of year, Gary and Shirley enjoy a drink they call Mulled Spiced Cyser that’s made with apples. The Mulled Spiced Cyser is 1 ounce rum, 1 ounce brandy, 1 ounce triple sec, and one bottle of Ethereal Meads’ Autumn Mist. Heat ingredients until hot (don’t boil it) and pour into mugs. According to Shirley if you make this warm, autumn-y drink, “sit by a fire and don’t drive anywhere.”

On top of all that, mead is food friendly. A great resource for food and mead pairing is “The Art of Mead and Food Pairing” by Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor. Ethereal Meads’ Ruby Sunset, made with blackberry flower honey, strawberries and dried cranberries, goes well with a savory arugula salad or chocolates. Wild Fire (with smoky chipotle peppers) goes well with red meat and barbecue.

Ethereal Meads can be found at Total Wine & More, New Seasons, and Whole Foods in Vancouver (for a complete list visit their website). To find Ethereal Meads, just look for their traditional mead in long bottles with hand-dipped wax tops or the colorful session mead cans (with artwork by Reese Banke) depicting Sasquatch, trolls, gnomes and other forest creatures.

Rachel Pinsky can be emailed at You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @couveeats.