Keen-eyed Meadiacs may have noticed the name of the January 2024 Bottle of the Month bears a striking resemblance to a certain Certified Meadiac, Kyle Ducharme.
There's a reason for that: it's Kyle's award-winning recipe!
For those who don't know him, Kyle Ducharme is always hanging out in our Facebook group, Certified Meadiacs, waiting to offer helpful and friendly advice to anyone asking for it. Why? Because Kyle is a master homebrewer who has won countless awards for his unique and delicious brews. And he is also a beloved friend of the Meadery.
And we do mean his meads are unique. Kyle is full of all kinds of fun ideas and loves to share them with the group. A few recent favorites of ours:
No-water meads (only berries, honey, and yeast)
A Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal milk lactomel
A capsicumel with Lapsang souchong, chipotle, and pasilla peppers
A toasted cashew mead
...and that's just a few!
We were so delighted to include Kyle in our Bottle of the Month adventure and so honored to feature his recipe for the January 2024 Bottle of the Month. We sat down with him recently and asked him about his history with homebrewing, his process, his many awards, and more.
Read our interview below - and don't forget to check out our Bottle of the Month subscription. Depending on when you are reading this, it will likely be too late to get Absolutely Ducharmed. But we have all sorts of surprises lined up for Bottle of the Month subscribers in 2024:
Bottle of the Month Subscription - Exclusive Meads for Members - Shipping Included
Each month, our creative meadmakers will brew a one-time-only small batch mead using fresh seasonal, local ingredients. Join here to receive discounted shipments of these special brews monthly! If all bottle club slots are currently full, please sign up below to… read more
(Kyle hanging out at the Vermont Renaissance Faire last year with Marketing Manager Jess, and Meadiacs Em and Birgit!)
1. Hi Kyle! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a scientist with work experience in the food and beverage industries. I use some of that experience in my mead-making, but I started to make mead in 2019 after looking up what to do with cider-making equipment. My first few batches were awful, but after learning more through Ask the Meadmaker, Doin the Most, Got Mead, and Man Made Mead media sources, I was able to level up and make better mead. I also sought out feedback by entering competitions. I have since won a number of Best of Shows and medals from the meads I make. I am also a mead and beer certified judge through the BJCP.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with Absolutely Ducharmed?
I did some foraging in Franklin, VT with a fellow homebrew club member. We found wild plums and I took it as a challenge to utilize these in a mead using Vermont light wildflower honey with acacia notes. I submitted this mead into the Champlain Valley Fair Homebrew Competition held by my homebrew club, the Green Mountain Mashers, and ended up winning the mead category!
(Stirring the bochet honey as it carmelizes. We had to stir the honey for hours as it caramelized. Our mash paddle was made out of sawed material, which meant it simply wasn't strong enough to do the job. So we flame-hardened and sanitized a maple branch, now known as The Stick.)
I was given the opportunity to collaborate with Ricky the Meadmaker and I felt like a mead inspired by my submission would be appropriate, especially since we could pick more wild plums for the mead.
We did a light bochet to the honey and added vanilla beans to replicate some of the flavors from the original honey I used in my version.
All Vermont homebrewers should join the Green Mountain Mashers and enter the Champlain Valley Fair competition!
(L-R: Ricky the Meadmaker and Kyle pouring honey into the cooking pot for caramelization; a bucket of honey; a bucket of foraged wild plums; Kyle)
3. Can you tell us a little bit about your brewing process? How do you come up with a recipe? Particularly your experience with foraging for ingredients?
My process focuses on clean fermentation, sanitation, and cleaning practices. Keeping yeast fed and happy is crucial in making sure to highlight the special ingredients used.
I am a member of the American Mead Maker Association and have ordered many honey varietals through that connection. Playing with different honey, fruit, and yeast is so much fun. I typically make big fruited meads with fruit that I picked from farms and fields all over Vermont during the summer and fall. Talking with farmers who are as passionate about their fruit as I am about mead-making adds another layer to the hobby. I also appreciate the taste of the place.
(Interested in foraging for mead ingredients like Kyle? Check out this fantastic book:)
The Wildcrafting Brewer
From the Publisher, Chelsea GreenFermentation fans and home brewers can rediscover “primitive” drinks and their unique flavors in The Wildcrafting Brewer. Wild-plant expert and forager Pascal Baudar’s first book, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, opened up a whole new world of… read more
I challenge myself to make almost every style of mead and compete with those meads. It’s a fun competitive outlet for me.
4. What are you working on next for the mead world?
I am going through the freezer full of fruit I picked over the warmer months and am planning on pairing them with some fun African honey varietals.
I also have some acerglyn trialing in the near future, but my fermenters are always full. I am working on some recipes that will be featured at the Southern Vermont Homebrew Festival.
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Psychopomp is a sleeper hit. I usually am a chad normal honey mead enjoyer without adding a lot of stuff to it, but Psychopomp is definitely pretty good even for someone like me.
Lookers: Cool looking ruby red color with carbonation bubbles clinging to my Glencairn glass. Smellers: Strong tart sour cherry smell, but not overpowering or potent, just a nice cherry tickle in my schnozzle. Tasters: Smooth tart sour cherry in a nice balanced manner. The cherry smoothly slides up in your DM's and is like nah bro no strong alcohol nail polish taste with me, here have so of this sour tart cherry now with some carbonation tickles. Then we will end this dance with some extra sour on the finish. I couldn't really taste honey, but I could feel its essence.
I wish there was a bit more of a honey flavor but others have mentioned tasting the honey, it also might be the fact I drink everything cold. Overall, it is pretty good and that is from someone who does not really care for cherry, or flavored meads for that matter. If you like tart sour cherry then you will definitely like it.
Using my Valkyrie's Voice to review this Valkyrie's Choice
Intro - Valkyrie's Choice was probably the first of Groennfell's craft mead lineup I tried many years ago from the variety case. It was immediately one of my favorites for the price, with Old Wayfarer taking first place. However, I do not know if the formula changed over time if my tastes changed, or if I am remembering wrong because it's not quite the same now as it was back then. With that said even though it's different it does taste cleaner, probably due to them no longer using sulfates and the like.
Lookers - Valkyrie's Choice has a very pretty golden wheat appearance that is much lighter than Old Wayfarer, it reminds me of a Moscato wine appearance. It is a little bit misty yet you can almost look through it, and a slight amount of carbonation bubbles cling to the side of my glass.
Sniffers - The aroma is hard to pick up on, especially with the liquid being cold, as well as my air leaving my nose dry and sad, making it even harder to pick up any smell. It has a very subtle honey smell (who would have guessed) and not much else, I could not even smell any alcohol which is good.
Tasters - Smooth and crisp honey flavor with a slight fizzle in the mouth like it's giving a little hello how are you to me. The honey flavor is very light especially if you are used to "full" bottled mead's, but still nice and honey in my tummy feeling. There is a strange other cereal grainy flavor in there somewhere, but still enjoyable. It is very smooth as I barely pick up any alcohol taste. A faint but obvious fizzy taste tickles my tongue like it is giving me a goochy goochy goo. The aftertaste is a stronger honey flavor and the other mentioned flavor is gone.
Conclusion - If you are like me and you enjoy pure honey flavor mead more than wacky mead flavors like blueberry mead (if mead was supposed to be blueberry flavored then Bee's would be blue :p) then you will like Valkyrie's Choice by Groennfell Meadery. Just keep in mind if you are new to these types of craft mead's that they are much lighter than "full" mead's you would find in a bottle, so do not expect a honey elemental to pop out and slap you across the face.
With that said I do wish it had a stronger honey flavor as it is pretty mild, so you might prefer something with a bit more honey flavor along with a bit extra flavor such as Old Wayfarer or Hop Swarm both of which are in my opinion stronger honey flavors with other additional flavors but don't tilt to the dark side of cherry/blueberry mead. It is still pretty good and worth a try though, the old Barrel Aged Valkyrie's choice was a better version but the new iteration which is Shieldmaiden was much worse (the original release), however I have not tried the new Shieldmaiden formula so take that opinion with a grain of salt.
The perfect mead to ride our current epic California storms. This Crisp, refreshing mead has helped me ward off cabin fever and focus on better weather ahead. I'm saving the majority of my order for springtime frolicking in fields of green grass.
I love Nordic Farmhouse so much I would marry it! My favorite flavor profiles are sour and sweet, and this festive mead is very refreshingly tart! I especially love to drink it and serve it to my guests at the cranberry holidays (ie. Thanksgiving and Solstice/Christmas)!