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Sedation Vacations

Travel Blog of a Travel Nurse

Skäl Mead Festival, Seattle- A Review

Skäl Beer Hall, located near the Ballard district in Seattle, Washington, is a quaint, Viking-themed taphouse and food hall. Besides beer and food, they seem to have a particular interest in mead, as evidenced by their multiple meads and mead cocktails they tout on their menu, as well as hosting quarterly mead festivals. I had the pleasure of attending their Spring 2024 mead festival, which featured 7 (and a half?) local meaderies from the PNW. First, I'll review the venue and the event itself, and then I'll review each meadery that attended based on the samples of meads they provided.

A wooden, outdoor patio with colorful flags hanging from the wooden roof.  A crowd of people are seen throughout, standing and sitting at tables mingling.  On the left, a wooden table is pictured with a variety of glass mead bottles.

The Venue: Skäl Beer Hall, like I said, is a Viking-themed taphouse and food hall, and I'm sure you can guess the decor and vibes from that description alone, but I digress. Wooden chairs and tables, hardwood floors, and open brick walls are surrounded by animal pelts, Viking helmets, shields, and Norwegian flags. They keep the lights dim to give you that old, medieval feel, while a fireplace, (electric, I'm sure), crackles near your table. Personally, not my vibe, but I know some people love this shit. I'm just sick of the whole mead/Viking paradigm, I think it's way overdone. And look, I love Dungeons & Dragons as much as the next nerd, but mead was brewed and drank by nearly every early culture, not just the Vikings, and I get tired of seeing horn mugs and kilts every time I want to enjoy a glass of honey wine. Rant over. Other than all that, the food was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, there was a smaller menu for the event, so my options were slightly limited. Normally, Skäl has a full Norwegian/American mixed menu, serving Pølse (frankfurters), Smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), and pickled herring right next to hamburgers, mac & cheese, and chicken wings. The mac & cheese and "Loki's Wings" were both mid at best, but I did very much enjoy their Chef's Seasonal Skewers. They offer The Jarl's Platter, which includes a selection of all 6 skewers. On the skewer menu this season was salmon, asparagus, pork belly, duck hearts, venison, and cheese, and although some were better than others, they were all well-seasoned and hit the spot after an afternoon of drinking. IG: @skalbeerhall

An event poster with a graphic beer hop bearing a Viking helmet with the words "Spring Mead Festival" underneath.  On the left of that it states, "28 April 12-5p" and on the right, "Entrance $30".  Below that are the logos and names of 8 meaderies, as well as more event details listed at the bottom.

The Event: Now you're probably thinking that this event occurred inside the Skäl Beer Hall, which I just so graciously described to you, but au contraire, it actually took place right outside of it. A small, wooden, COVID-esque style outdoor patio lay in front of the beer hall on the street, where cars would normally struggle to parallel park. This patio stands maybe 12 feet wide and 40 feet long and is fashioned with a clear plastic "roof" to keep out the Seattle rain, as well as hanging space heaters, that for some reason were not turned on despite the April chill. In this small space they managed to fit all 7 meaderies that were pouring (most shared a table with another meadery), a few empty tables and benches for patrons to sit and snack (yes, you could order food from the limited menu and sit and eat it at the event), and then one long table where you could purchase bottles of the mead or more tokens for tastings. Thankfully, they do try and space out when the attendees arrive to try and control the amount of people inside this space, because it is small. For the Spring Festival that I attended, they had 3 time slots to choose from, starting at 12 and ending at 5. Each time-slotted ticket got you two hours inside the patio for tastings, although I'm not sure they were really kicking anyone out after their time was up. The ticket cost $30 and with it I was given 6 tokens, with each token being good for one mead sample. Thankfully they didn't cut you off at 6 samples and did offer more tokens for purchase (I believe I bought a dozen more for about $28). The meaderies in attendance decorated their corner of their sampling table and displayed their bottles of mead that they were pouring that day. Each of the 8 meaderies offered 2 different meads to showcase at this event, except one, which apparently went out of business recently, so a Skäl host was pouring what was left of their one mead (hence why I said 7 and a half meaderies at the top). So, if you're doing the math along with me here, that's a total of 15 meads available to sample, and why I bought an extra dozen tokens, because of course I had to try them all. Overall, for this "event" section, I'll say the space was small and slightly crowded but not unbearable, the cost was reasonable, and there was a good variety of meads to try. Let's get on to the meads now, in the order I tried them.

Three glass bottles with the words "Odin's Alchemy Brewing" on top.  The bottle in the foreground has black and white artwork of a forest with "Sleeping Giant" written underneath.  Inside the bottle is a reddish mead.  In the background, the bottle on the right has a yellow-gold mead.

Odin's Alchemy Brewing: Odin's Alchemy offered up Aine's Dawn, a pineapple peach strawberry mango honey wine and Sleeping Giant, a blueberry lemon lime mint honey wine. Starting strong with more Viking themes (sigh), but not so strong on the mead. I will say, in both meads, you could taste 3 of the 4 flavors listed, which I guess is impressive, although having a full 4 additives in each mead seems excessive and gave me the vibe they were trying to hide something. Personally, the blueberry one (Sleeping Giant) came off medicinal to me with a strong alcohol smell and flavor, but the pineapple one (Aine's Dawn) wasn't too bad, and you could tell they used real pineapple, so I did appreciate that. I'll give them 3/5 stars. IG @odinsalchemybrewing

Two glass bottles are arranged on a table with an animal pelt laid beneath it.  Also on the table is a large, antique looking drinking vessel and some stickers with "Oppegaard Meadery" on them.  The bottle on the left has artwork of a Women Viking Warrier with red hair and inside the bottle is a yellow gold mead.  On the right, the bottle has artwork of a shield with a reddish colored mead inside.  You can read "Oppegaard Meadery" on the bottle.

Oppegaard Meadery: Yep, more Viking. Oppegaard Meadery, from Tukwila, WA, had a blackberry mead (not named) and a peach ginger mead called Tinge of the Ginge. I tried the Tinge of the Ginge first and was disappointed to find that the peach flavor nearly completed masked any ginger notes, although the mead itself was very good. I then tried the blackberry mead and was delightfully surprised to find that it tasted pretty much like juice. No alcohol taste at all, good acidity, and slightly dangerous at 14% alc. Overall, 4.5/5 stars, I would try this mead again. IG @oppegaard_meadery

Two different wine bottles are shown.  On the left is bottle with daisies on the label.  On the top it reads, "Limited Edition" and on the bottom, "Sky River" with "Chamomile" under that.  The mead inside that bottle is a very light red-pink color.  The bottle on the right has a pink rose on the label.  On top of the label it reads, "La Fleur Dimmortelle" and on the bottom it reads, "Sky River" with "Rose Honey Wine" below that.  Inside the bottle, the mead is a golden color.

Sky River: Next up is Sky River, pouring their limited-edition chamomile metheglin (fancy name for herbed/spiced mead) and their La Fleur Dimmortelle, a rose petal rhodomel (mead with rose). These both sounded delicious to me as I'm a big fan of tea, so I tried their rhodomel first. It was... not great. I've had other rhodomels before and they're very hard to perfect I'm sure, since rose petals don't give off tons of flavor. But this one seemed extra high in acidity and tannins, with a strong alcohol taste and smell, although I did get some floral notes on the nose, but just barely. Next up was their chamomile mead, and I can't say it was any better. I understand it's tea, but it was so high in tannins it threw off the mouthfeel for me and coated my tongue. I will say this one was better on the nose though, with nice floral notes and less acidity smell than the La Fleur Dimmortelle. I do think this meadery has potential though and I appreciate the unique blends they were trying. 3/5 stars, I'd try them again in the future. IG @skyrivermeadandwine

Four glass wine bottles are shown, two of each kind.  The bottles are decorated in white horizontal strips and line work, with a crescent moon at the top and a forest at the bottom.  The two bottles to the left are a deep shade of red and has a design of a plant on it.  The label reads, "Salal Mead".  The two bottles on the right are a dark gold color, with a design of a tree on it and it reads, "Drylands, Juniper-pine Mead".  Both bottles state "Melchemy Craft Mead" at the bottom of the bottle.

Melchemy Craft Mead: Melchemy Craft was the only meadery at the festival pouring up sack meads, which in my experience are rare to find in the industry, so it was a nice treat. Sack meads are meads with higher alcohol content, usually around 14-20% alc. This is usually achieved by adding more honey (so sweeter taste in the end) and/or by fortifying them, kind of like a port or sherry. Melchemy craft uses lots of honey with champagne yeast, and then age their mead for at least 9 months in oak barrels. The two meads they had to offer were their Salal Berry and their Drylands, a juniper-pine mead. The Salal Berry mead used buckwheat and wildflower honey and was aged in bourbon barrels and came in at 15.5% alc. I took one sip and had to put it down- to me, it just tasted overwhelmingly like bourbon. I can appreciate what they were trying to do, and my less liquor-aversive friend loved it, but I could not partake. On the other hand, their Drylands mead had a much softer "liquor" kick, so I could actually appreciate the flavors. Made with wildflower honey, juniper berry, and ponderosa pine needles and aged in oak barrels, Drylands had great notes of pine with earthy tones, rounded off nicely with some back-end flavors of vanilla from the oak barrels. Melchemy craft is really churning out some interesting sack meads, all the while using only locally sourced products they pick by hand. Even though I only liked one of their meads, I'm giving them a 4.8/5, and I'm going to seek out this meadery to try some more of their stuff. IG @melchemycraftmead

Pine branches lay on a table in the foreground, with two posters standing up on a table.  The posters each have a photo of a bottle of mead. The mead is light yellow in color and the label on the bottle has mountains of it.  At the top of each poster it says, "Thunderland Mead".  The poster on the left says, "Sunburst" under that, and below that is a description of the mead.  It is too small to read.  The poster on the right says, "Vanilla", and has a long description of the mead under that, which is also too small to read.

Thunderland Mead: This local start-up meadery offered one pretty average/normal type mead and one that may have been made by serial killer. I'll explain. The first is called Sunburst, a smooth 12% mead made with snowberry honey and California blood oranges. It had a pretty smooth taste, and the blood orange flavor came through just the right amount. It was aged for 6 months on its lees, which helped to round out its flavor, although I still got a bit of alcohol taste on the back end. It was pretty good, but I personally wouldn't drink a full glass. Next came their Vanilla. It is aptly named, as this 15% dry mead was made with whole Madagascar vanilla beans and then aged for 12 months in its lees. When I say this tasted like vanilla, I mean it was like taking a shot of pure vanilla extract, while also snorting pure crushed up vanilla bean. It was a true vanilla assault. They suggest mixing it with other drinks to make a cocktail, and I could see it being useful in that way, but Jesus, to just give me a taster of that with no warning... Wild. Mad respect though, honestly, I'm sure that was a difficult and expensive mead to make. 3/5 stars, no thanks. IG @thunderlandmead

Two bottles of mead are arranged on a table on the left.  To the right of the mead bottles is a bucket, which states "tickets" on it and below the bucket are a pile of stickers with a steam-punk style bee designed on it with the words, "Contrivance" on it.  Both mead bottles have the same steam-punk style bee on the label with "Contrivance" at the top of the label.  The bottle on the left is yellow-gold in color and has, "Lady Grey" stated on the label.  The bottle on the right is a bright red in color and sparkling with some glitter, with "Raspberry Velvet" stated on the bottom of the label.

Contrivance: This was one of two meaderies at the festival I have had the pleasure of trying before. Contrivance mead throws Viking helmets to the wayside and instead sports top hats fashioned with gears- a steam-punk themed meadery, and a breath of fresh air as far as decor goes. At the festival, they were serving up their new raspberry velvet mead, made with raspberries and chocolate, it is bright red in color and swirling in edible glitter. This mead would go great with some red velvet cake on Valentine's Day. Both the raspberry and chocolate flavors came through equally and it had a well-rounded taste. The glitter kind of threw me off and gave me flashbacks to drinking Viniq back in college, but to each their own. Their next mead was called Lady Grey, made with earl grey tea, orange peel, and lemon peel. Earl grey tea is very dry and tannic to me, and not in a good way, and unfortunately, I don't think the citrus peels really added anything to the flavor. It may have helped round out the mouthfeel a bit by adding some acidity, but this mead was just not for me. Like I said, I have visited this meadery before at their location in Auburn and tried a variety of their meads, so I can confidently give them 3.7/5. They make enough decent meads that I would visit them again. IG @drinkcontrivance

Hierophant Meadery: Hierophant mead is the other meadery I was familiar with at the festival. Although I haven't been to their actual location since it's inconveniently located on an island, I have been to their booth at Pike Place Market in Seattle where they frequently serve and sell their meads. Here I sampled their Apotheke, a mead mixed with botanicals and PNW mushrooms. Coming in at only 6.5% alc, this easy drinker would be considered a session mead, aka a lower alcohol mead, usually between 6-8.5% ABV. This mead has won two Gold Medals- at the Washington Wine Awards in 2023 and at the Seattle Wine Awards in 2018. I can see why, as it has an absolutely delightful taste. A little citrusy, notes of raspberry, a little herby, some hibiscus... all the flavors work very well together, and none come out too strong. Plus, it has turkey tail mushroom in it, so you can pretend it's healthy while you're drinking it. Next up was the only canned mead at the festival, also a session, coming in at 8.7% alc and called Hopped Meadjito. This mead won Double Gold twice in 2023, for Best in Class at the Washington Wine Awards and at the Seattle Intl. Cider Awards. I have to say, this was my favorite mead at the festival. Bringing my love of hops together with mead, you really can't get better than this. The hops are of course sourced from Washington State, with house made mint syrup, lime, and citrus added to give you mojito vibes. This was such a refreshing mix of flavors and will absolutely be a go-to for me this summer. 5/5 stars for Hierophant, I can't wait to check out their location on South Whidbey Island this summer. IG @hierophantmeadery

A close up of a bottle label is shown on a table.  In the middle of the label is a design of a hawk in flight with it's legs outstretched.  The hawk is different shades of brown with yellow feet and beak.  Above the hawk, the label says, "Artivem Mead Co" and below that hawk it says, "Rough Legged Hawk".  Below that, "blueberry peanut butter".

Artivem Mead Co: This is the meadery that apparently went out of business recently, and only had one mead available to try. The mead was being poured by one of Skäl's workers hosting the event, so I was unable to get any details about the mead or meadery itself, so this will be short. The name of the mead was Rough Legged Hawk, and it was blueberry peanut butter mead. The taste was very unique and rich, almost like I was eating a PB&J. Although I really enjoyed the creativity of it, I cannot imagine drinking more than the tiny cup I was provided. 2.5/5 stars, but I guess it doesn't really matter since they already went out of business. @artivemmead

There you have it. Hierophant Meadery definitely stole the show for me personally, with Melchemy Craft Mead coming in second. The event was pretty fun in general, and I would come back for a similar event, especially if different meaderies attended next time. I think it was priced fairly, and my only real complaint is that the space was very small. I think having the event outside on the patio is nice for the summertime, but their dining room is so much bigger and could allow for the meaderies to spread out a bit and for the patrons to have more room to sit and actually enjoy the samples.

If you ever want to see photos of the alcohol I'm drinking, you're welcome to follow my beerstagram, @suckerforsaisons. Cheers!

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