Chances are, you probably have never tried mead, a honey-based fermented beverage laced with fruit flavors. It’s not widely known except to those who remember it from ancient literature. But one at a time, customers who taste Gary Gross’ meads are being won over at tastings and local pubs. “Once people try it, they embrace it,” he said.
Making mead was a natural draw to the retired chemical engineer who first tasted it at his son’s medieval wedding. “There is a crossover between the science and the art involved in making mead, and I love putting those two things together,” he said.
Name: Gary Gross.
Residence Neighborhood: Manor.
Business name: Ethereal Meads LLC, 360-903-4591; www.etherealmeads.com
Educational/professional background: B.S., chemical engineering, University of Washington, 1980. Six years in global oil and petrochemical process design and startup with UOP (an oil and petrochemical products design company); 25 years at Kalama Chemical in production, engineering, international sales and product line management.
How — and when — you got started in your business: I first tasted mead at our son’s medieval wedding in 2004. I loved it and started making mead almost immediately as a hobby. As we shared mead with family and friends over the next eight years, I was often encouraged to start a mead business. In 2012, my wonderful wife, Shirley, and I decided together to pursue the dream of turning my hobby into a business. I’ve been building the business foundation and have established a few meads in the market up to now. In 2016, we are ready to grow, with the right infrastructure for production and an adequate understanding of market dynamics for mead as a beverage.
Personal/business philosophy: Life is too short to not do something you love. If you’re not starting each day excited about what you’ll be doing that day, it’s probably time for a change.
Most rewarding part of job: This is a difficult question because so many elements of the job are rewarding. Two things come to mind: 1, imagining a mead, developing the recipe, producing the mead in a process you designed and built, and having it turn out delicious; and 2, watching the faces of people who have never tasted mead before at their first sip. It’s very rewarding to hear, “Wow! That is good!”
Most challenging part of job: Selling a product that most people have not heard of. We have to win our customers practically one person at a time.
One thing you’d like people to know about your work: Mead is a fantastic beverage that deserves to be better known and appreciated. It can be sweet or dry, sparkling or still, beer strength or wine strength. Many meads pair well with food. It’s not just for history buffs!
How you describe your mead: When I’m presenting a mead, I focus on good honey and showcase the ingredient I’m combining it with — such as blackberry and cranberry — and then make those flavors shine. I source fruit and honey locally here in the Northwest and will continue to keep it as local as I can.
Best feature of my Clark County community: Ready access to beautiful nature.
What would make your community a better place: A downtown performing arts center.
Your favorite travel destination and type (cruise, car trip, train?) Destination — Norway and Turkey. I have lived in both countries and have exchange families in both with whom Shirley and I are close. As far as favorite type of travel, it would either be on foot (as in hiking), or propelling myself with fins in scuba gear over a reef.
Favorite restaurant/pub: Northwood Public House and Brewery in Battle Ground.
Hobbies: Hiking, singing, camping, fishing, travel, gardening and landscaping, brewing, home projects, reading.
Most enjoyable arts event in past 12 months: Singing in Chor Anno concerts last September.
Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: This year — establish sales from the Canadian border to the Bay Area. Within five years — export our meads to Norway and to Turkey, necessitating travel to these markets.
One word to describe yourself: Happy.
Person you’d most like to meet: I’d like to have a glass of mead with Jesus.