Fermenting honey: Benton Harbor meadery begins selling to retailers

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — It’s known as the nectar of the Gods, and Paul Peterson has spent years perfecting its recipe.

The Royalton Township resident, who is also known as Pete Wylde in the renaissance fair crowd, began making mead a decade ago and sold his first bottles in Berrien County last Saturday.

In his early days of fermentation, Peterson made beer as he served in the military after being stationed in Germany. When he left in 1988, Peterson realized he had to learn how to make some of the beer he might never taste again.

That experience overseas birthed a beer with a light aftertaste that Peterson dubbed “Dragon’s Breath.” Years later, the name stuck as he began to make and sell mead.

As Peterson describes it, mead is a form of wine that is made from honey instead of grapes. And as any other aficionado of alcohol, Peterson has an abundance of knowledge when it comes to mead.

“Mead used to be the drink of weddings, and in medieval times part of the dowry was 28 days worth of mead to the couple,” Peterson said. “Since mead is known as a fertility aid, the term ‘honeymoon’ comes from mead culture. However, mead never came to the new world because when sugar was developed, it was cheaper than honey.”

With honey, water, yeast and other ingredients, Peterson’s mead has received recognition.

He started making it in 2005 when he worked at a renaissance fair, and by 2009 he was winning awards.

The blueberry mead he perfected won gold twice last year – once at the Michigan Mead Cup and once at International Amateur Wine Competition. His black cherry mead won bronze two years in a row at Winemaker Magazine in 2014 and 2015. Peterson’s blackberry mead won bronze at Winemaker magazine in 2014.

Peterson said while they do not have a storefront yet, the Black Dragon Meadery is now a production and distribution company that uses other stores to sell its product.

His plans are to develop a tasting room sometime next year in time for the Senior PGA event.

“We don’t have a public area yet,” he said. “We are distributing to retailers and restaurants in the meantime. I do have a microbrewer’s license waiting in the wings, but by then, we will be open to the public.”

For more information on Black Dragon Meadery, or to find out what retailers sell Peterson’s mead, visit the meadery’s website at www.blackdragonmeadery.com.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 26, 2015)

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