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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Mead me downtown

Photo by Robert O’Brien

The Lone Star Meadery opened its doors in Downtown Bryan on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

Wine bars and breweries have been a part of the Brazos Valley for decades, but for many years, the community was without one of the oldest forms of alcohol: mead. 

As of Friday, Aug. 5, Downtown Bryan is now home to the Lone Star Meadery. Often associated with medieval taverns and Vikings, mead is made of three ingredients: yeast, water and honey, to create a sweet, “honey wine” alcoholic beverage.

Lone Star Meadery owner Brandon Ross first tried his hand at mead-making five years ago and said after some trial and error, the resulting beverage became popular among his friends.

“After a YouTube video and a very awful first batch, I bought books and watched videos and started learning how to make mead,” Ross said. “A couple friends told me they really liked it and they’d buy it from me. I said ‘Awesome, how much would you pay for it?’ and then I started looking into it [as a business].”

Two of Ross’ friends and now Lone Star Meadery co-founders Matthew Stepherson and Thomas Ayars got involved making mead with Ross several years ago. Stepherson said Ross invited him to help start the business.

“I was at Duddley’s Draw playing a game of [Texas] 42 with some friends and [Ross] walks up and goes ‘Hey Matt, want to start a meadery?’… I said, ‘Yeah I guess I’m in,’” Stepherson said. “I knew he had been making mead and I had helped through a little bit of that process, and I kind of thought it was a joke until we leased this building.”

After over a year of saving money, filling out forms and making sure the meadery had an interior energy of a tavern, the founders can now focus on their passion — the sticky process of making the honey wine.

“It’s being sticky, and constantly washing your hands,” Ross said. “We use three pounds of honey [per] gallon, so we use 150 to 160 pounds of honey per barrel. Everything is locally sourced, like the honey and the filtered, very filtered, Bryan water.” 

Not all honey is created equal, Ross said, as there is a lot of variation between types, depending on the source and season. 

“Each batch will taste slightly different because it could be clover honey, wildflower honey or cotton honey — it’s cool that you have different varieties,” Ross said. “It’s a fun part about learning to make mead too, finding out what variety of honey goes with what flavors.”

Lone Star Meadery’s current flavors include traditional mead, sweet pomegranate and a strawberry jalepeño, in addition to a rotating roster of seasonal flavors, all of which are made with the same process. 

A less sweet part of the process, and what the founders cited as the most difficult part was ensuring the business was funded, filed and had a good location. Ross said it was a long process, especially as a first-time business owner.

“There’s a lot of learning the steps and learning that you missed a step, and going back and redoing the step you missed,” Ross said. “I’ve never been a business owner, so it was a lot of doing this or that paperwork, and bless Ms. Karen Lahde [of] the City of Bryan, she does all the planning and development for the commercial side, she was very helpful.” 

As the three founders went all-in on the meadery, Stepherson said they did not want to worry about business loans.

“We decided early on that we didn’t want to take out loans because we didn’t want to be stressed about paying those back, so we got on board with being broke until we opened,” Stepherson said. “That and plumbing [were the hardest parts].”

During its First Friday opening, the storefront found success as families, couples and mead-inclined individuals came in and out of the meadery, stopping to ask questions or settling in to play board games and sample a true local option.

While the storefront in Downtown Bryan was a major step forward, the owners have their sights set on the future and hope to expand into new locations and begin wider distribution. Stepherson and Ross said their focus will always remain local, but this next step will help grow the already existing mead market.

“We want to get into bars, restaurants, liquor stores, but always have a place where people can enjoy it locally, and maybe eventually get into a bigger place,” Stepherson said. 

As the meadery grows, Ross said it’s important to remember the long legacy of the drink, as they put their own flavors out into the world.

“It’s a product that’s more than 7,000 years old, but no one knows about it unless you’re a nerd. One of the first written accounts of mead is from India from 7,000 years ago,” Ross said. “We want to get into distribution and new flavors, play around with new things.”

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