by Mandi LeCompte
Continuing our deep-dive into the beautiful world of mead, today Jeremy Kyncl of Hierophant Meadery gives us a look into his world: how a ‘joke’ turned into a thriving business, and how his roots studying botanical medicine gave him a unique perspective on brewing.
Hierophant products are available at Capitol Cider. Their products feature local, raw honey produced by apiarists who use sustainable beekeeping practices. Try one of their off-dry meads, such as the Rose Cardamom Mead, Gilead Poplar Vanilla Mead or Lemon Balm Mead. Or try a session mead, raw kambucha, or one of their apothecary products including honey and elderflower syrup.
When did you first start making mead?
I first started making mead as a home brewer in college. It’s basically the same starting point as extract beer brewing only without the boil- super simple for the first timer to get started. The first two batches were a pear-ginger mead and an orange-galangal mead. They suffered from the sluggish ferments mead is famous for which are the result of lack of nutrients for the yeast. I’ve always been a student of traditional brewing herbs and methods as a result of studying botanical medicine for my undergrad degree at Bastyr University. From our study of the ecology of plants all the way down to how they alter the expression of genes on a cellular level- and the plants that surround us play a co-creative role in how we run our meadery. They’re the source of not only nectar but also raw materials for our meads.
How would your friends describe you?
I think my friends would be likely to point to my nerdy passion for what we do, and a deep drive to continue to learn about the elements of the world around me that drive traditional material culture. I love solutions to problems that rely on the forces of nature combined with the human wit- think wooden bows, trompes and aqueducts. There is a warmth and comfort with our friends, and a polite, courteous aspect to my public face. I certainly am a very introverted extrovert.
If you could only drink one drink for the rest of you life, what would it be?
Only one drink sounds rough. I’d probably, shockingly, choose mead simply because with over 300 varietal honeys in the US alone, I could dive deep into the terroir of individual hives for the rest of my life and never get bored. If it were literally one, singular drink it’d have to be a Sazerac. I love the depth and interplay of the whiskey and absinthe.
When you’re not making brewing up something tasty, what are you doing?
When we’re not brewing you’ll find us spending time with our sons; caring for animals at our on-site animal rescue, Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary, founded and run by my mother-in-law Cheri Scandalis, and my wife, Michelle; reading a good book; or venturing out in the woods coppicing our hawthorn orchard and pulling in materials for my newfound interest in roundwood timber framing.
What goes into making the perfect mead?
With mead, we always view it as a point of balance. What is great for one mead is all wrong for another. What one honey will make sing will muddy up another. So you can see stunning examples of pure buckwheat honey, which is an extremely powerful honey, with big spice blends, and you can also see things like our Rose Cardamom mead which relies on a much lighter honey, like a Channeled Scablands wildflower or Alfalfa, to present the layers of floral and spice characteristics in nuanced balance with the delicate flavors of the honey. I appreciate meads that present on the dry side, which can be a semi-sweet melomel or a dry metheglin, and I really love to taste local honey in the products. Many producers love orange blossom honey, and I can see why, but I don’t like it for the same reason I wouldn’t like every single winery making a Chardonnay as their lone white varietal- there is such a wide world of flavors to experience why limit the palate to one? I love the challenge of creating mead that showcases the honey that our region produces. Especially with the wild-crafted herbs we use it gives a deep expression of our region and how each year is different here. I treasure it and love bringing it to people’s palates.
What sets Hierophant apart from other meaderies?
We’re the only meadery I’ve come across that has dedicated itself to plants and which expresses an herbalist’s sensibilities in blending. With our knowledge, we have a steadier, more confident hand in our meads that allows us to push the flavors of the herbs and create products which express the entirety of the plant’s essence in the bottle. Our understanding of the individual constituents that make up each plant we use allows us to extract them with a preference for certain flavors and the deep organoleptic library of herbs we’ve stored over the past decade helps us to blend novel wines that challenge and excite the palate of mead lovers.
What prompted you to start brewing?
Hierophant Meadery started as a joke when Michelle brought me out to meet her family. She took me up to an area farming community here in Spokane called Green Bluff, where we now have the deep pleasure of living. It’s located outside the town of Mead, and I joked we should start a meadery in Mead. Eventually, my wife got sick of me talking about brewing for a living and submitted the paperwork and I got to work on our formulas for the wines. We poured the foundations for our production facility and tasting room the following year. That moment was my transition from apprehension about whether I could do this or not into a determination to get it done. These past few years have proven immensely challenging with most importantly, the surpassing reward of success. We are thrilled to be building this brand while simultaneously contributing to the growth of the mead industry, and supporting sustainable apiculture.