Red Currant Mead | Tree Hive
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Mead has had a resurgence over the last five or so years. With Schramm’s leading the way, new meaderies pop up with a fair amount of regularity. Chicago has a handful of meaderies, including Second City and Wild Blossom. But now meaderies seem to be coming to more rural areas. While the Champaign-Urbana area has three breweries, there hasn’t been a meadery until now. Tree Hive recently started releasing their meads in the area from their Rantoul, Illinois home, including the Red Currant mead.
Tree Hive was started in 2019 by Corey Mason. His meads have won awards at various events, including Best In Show Runner-Up at the 2019 Mazer Cup International (Home Meadmaker). They source their honey from all over but try to use Central Illinois honey whenever they can. The Red Currant mead here won third place in the 2021 Indiana Brewers Cup in the Fruit Mead category. I did not know this as it wasn’t on the bottle when purchasing!
While I’ve had a fair amount of mead, a majority of what I’ve had has come from Schramm’s Mead and Pips Meadery. We’ve only had one (maybe two) meads on this podcast, so I haven’t had much on-air experience there. So yeah, two of the best and highest rated meaderies represent my baseline.
Red Currant pours a dark red with some pink highlights. It’s dark enough that you can’t see through it at all. Similar to some barrel-aged barleywines, it emits a crimson glow when hitting the light just right. Red Currant also comes out a bit waterys, as I’ve had meads that pour really slow and thick out of the bottle. (Those meads typically hit about 15% ABV, while Red Currant clocks in at 12.5%).
My first whiff brought me back to church. It really reminded me of communion wine, which means grapes and booze. And that booze really tickles the nose. A fruit – which I’m hoping and thinking is red currants – then comes through along with a honey sweetness. Some prunes and raisins also show up, but they’re definitely behind and beneath everything else. Honestly it was not as sweet on the nose as I was expecting.
And that follows on to the palate. Red Currant does not come off as too sweet at all. The sweetness hits on the front of the tongue. Then the red currants swoop in and make this mead more tart than anything else. This tartness cuts the sweetness quite a bit, so if sweet meads aren’t your thing, look here.
The red currants present themselves as either strawberries or raspberries on the tongue. It honestly almost makes it like a red Sour Patch Kid with a certain amount of acidity showing up. Compared to the thick and viscous honey sweet meads I’ve had before, this one is downright sessionable. Only the tart red currants remain on the tongue when finished, offering an alternative to having a sweet and heavy mead on the palate.
So this one boils down to your personal mead preferences. If you like a thick and viscous sweet mead you won’t like this at all. If you’re okay with a lighter, more tart mead, then proceed. The red currant really cuts down on that sweetness, making this a very sessionable mead that you can drink more than you think of (at 12.5%, though, you really shouldn’t). But if you take one thing away from this review – red Sour Patch Kid. I’m really excited to see what else Tree Hive will be releasing with regards to mead. I love going to Champaign-Urbana every so often, so it’s awesome to have some meads coming out that complement my usual Triptych and Riggs stops.
Tree Hive is based out of Rantoul, Illinois and (as far as I can tell) does not have a taproom or tasting room. Tree Hive seems to be available at some Champaign-Urbana beer stores, including Binny’s (where I purchase mine).