May 24, 2017
We love mead. Heck, that’s why we spend literally every waking moment making, tasting, and enjoying it.
But have you ever thought about the brave humans who wade waist-deep in the honey to create this exquisite beverage, the oldest known alcoholic beverage in the world?
We figured it was high time to give our makers the spotlight, and to gain some insight into what their jobs entail- the hardships, the not-so-hardships (the easyships?), the agony and the ecstasy of artfully creating liquid gold.
My name is Renee’ Kolleth-Thomas and I am one of the Makers here at B. Nektar, as well as the Co-Head Maker in the Funk Lab.
I am typically the first person in the shop so I open the meadery for the day. I prepare any chemicals that are needed, do some house keeping tasks (putting parts away, sweeping, picking up after the boys, etc.) and, most importantly, I make the mandatory coffee. Once everyone arrives, we split duties and do what needs to be done: packaging, making, filtering and cleaning. Everyone is crossed trained in pretty much everything, so we split the work to make the day run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. When everything is completed down at the main production facility, I come down to the Funk Lab and tend to all the funky ferments. Brad and I brainstorm what we want to accomplish and we get it done. It’s imperative that I organize my day to end and not start at the Funk Lab to avoid any cross contamination.
I work really hard to make sure atypical days don’t happen, but an atypical workday would be when the honey isn’t melted and it makes everyone’s lives miserably long.
I have three rescue dogs. Bobo is a Boston Terrier and he is 12 years old. He was Chris’s (my husband) before we got together. Arabella is a Shetland Sheepdog and she is 8 years old. She was my dog before Chris and I got together. Guinness is a mutt we rescued together. We believe him to be American Fox Hound/ Shiba Inu mix, and he is 4 years old.
I have been taking aerial silks classes for almost 3 years now, like what you see at Cirque du Soleil, yeah…I do that stuff. I also have been taking aerial Lyra (hoop), acro (partner yoga), and contortion for a little over 2 years. The newest apparatus that I just started is trapeze. I do not perform professionally…yet. I would love to one day, but there is a lot practice that I need in order to be good enough to be paid for it. I started taking all of these classes because I HATE exercising and going to the gym…gyms are highly boring to me and I detest them, so I found something interesting to do to work out and I love it.
I don’t get the reference…sorry [Troy McClure, Simpsons fans!- Ed.]*. I am a scientist. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Oakland University. I have always loved science- biology specifically- so I have always known that I wanted to study it. When I finally started college, I dived right in to the bio program and I fell further in love with it. I studied a lot of animal sciences because I originally wanted to go into veterinary medicine. The only reason why I didn’t pursue the vet route was the price tag; vet school was just too expensive, especially since I managed to get my undergrad with zero debt. Thank you Mom and Dad. ^_^
I would rather not relive my hardest day of work so far. 🙁
The most important lesson that I have learned so far in meadmaking is that the process is very different than beer. I originally come from the brewing world, so I know how to keep yeast happy in beer. Mead and cider are completely different in their foundation. I thought fermentation is fermentation- yeast eats sugar, pisses alcohol and farts CO2- thought the processes to keeping the yeast while in fermentation would be the same…no. Mead and cider don’t have the same nutrients or components as beer and one needs to learn to compensate for that. That was one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working here- that I have learned a lot of new material. I love learning.
Read. Read anything you find on the subject: books, articles, scientific articles, blogs etc. Also, practice. Make things at home- it is not a terribly expensive hobby, unless you make it an expensive one.
What’s best in life? Two things: First, sitting outside with my husband and puppies and chillin’ with a beverage that I made. Second, putting on good music and flying in silks.