Metro Phoenix's secret meadery is just 700 square feet, open a mere two days a week, and hidden away in an industrial park in Chandler.
Visiting Arizona Mead Company is like being in your homebrewer friend's basement. It’s comfortable. There are games to play. The space only fits some 35 people. And on the walls are paintings of Vikings.
Mead is served chilled from the bottle. Ciders and cysers are dispensed from four rotating taps. (Cyser is mead made with honey and apple juice.)
“I started doing this on the side,” says Cody Brown, the man behind the operation. Brown was introduced to mead by a coworker while working as a mechanical engineer. Now, he’s a full-time mead master, owner, and bartender at Arizona Mead Company.
Most of Brown’s meads start the same way – as honey and water. Honey is the key ingredient, and this tends to mean a final beverage on the sweeter side. Meads blended with fruit often have intense flavors. However, good mead doesn’t have to taste like you put your tongue inside a jam jar.
Arizona Mead Company’s meads tend to be more neutral. Brown works diligently to make mead that has good flavor, flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the palette. Just don’t expect to find the perfect mead that’s savory enough to compliment a burger like a lager or IPA would. It’s made from juice and honey, after all.
Brown lets his mead ferment an average of six months. This is a long fermentation. He has gone even longer, letting some meads ferment for over a year.
How does he know when a mead is ready? It's ready when it tastes good, he says.
Meads typically have high alcohol content because of the amount of sugar in them. Yeasts turn this sugar into alcohol. But Brown’s menu also includes lighter fruit-juice ciders and cysers. To make cyser, he starts with apple juice and adds honey a few days into fermentation.
Every visit to the taproom is taking part in Brown’s experiment with out-there meads. His hits are only in their first or second batch. He has about 2,000 gallons fermenting in his warehouse.
Meads currently fermenting include bourbon-barrel-aged traditional meads (just honey), a guava-berry mead, a strawberry mead, and a raspberry. Brown is prepping ingredients for a second batch of pumpkin-pie mead and coffee-chocolate mead, both of which will be ready this fall.
All of the honey Brown uses comes from Arizona vendors. He goes through nearly 1,000 pounds of honey a month. Currently, his bulk honey comes from Crockett Honey (Tempe) and Mountain Top (Flagstaff).
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Most of Brown’s mead is sold from his taproom. Occasionally, you can find Arizona Mead Company products at Bottle Shop 48 and King’s Beer and Wine. Additionally, a few bars have featured his meads, including Jesters Billiards (Mesa), The Brass Tap, and the Whining Pig.
As of now, Brown doesn’t have plans to open a new location or make changes to distribution. He’s happy with his under-radar-status and serving enthusiasts out of an industrial park because, given the way things are now, he can focus on making good mead.
The meadery shares a parking lot with a plumbing service and a pest control business. If you want to visit and try some boozy honey beverages, look for window decals showing a bee wearing a Viking hat – that’s how you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.
Arizona Mead Company. 6503 West Frye Road, #12, Chandler.
Friday 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 3 to 9 p.m.