Mead in Ohio
Local flavors and creators take the stage at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar
Tessa Berg Photos
If you want to understand Brothers Drake in a single sip, order a glass of Collaborate. Made from Wild Ohio mead aged in Oyo whiskey barrels, it’s a true marriage of two Columbus spirits and a pretty neat trick: It smells like bourbon and tastes like a dry, oaky white wine.
But most important, Collaborate is the result of relationships built among local creators, which is the driving philosophy of Brothers Drake owners Oron Benary and Sarah Jones.
“When you drink something that was made around you, there’s a connection there,” says Benary, who sources his wildflower honey from Marysville. “Our mead tastes like Ohio.”
The local focus is found throughout Brothers Drake’s Short North bar, a cool, industrial-chic hangout reclaimed from an old garage. The space grew organically in the last two years from what started as the meadery’s tasting room, with the neighborhood patrons that Benary and Jones count as friends adding their own touches along the way: There’s local art on the walls. Local bands on stage every night. And the drink list includes only Ohio-made beer and Columbus liquor (Middle West Spirits is their next-door neighbor).
Then there’s the mead. The wine-style drink, crafted on-site from fermented honey and other local ingredients, is available in cocktails, by the glass or in bottles.
A great introduction is the mead flight ($15), generous tasting portions of five varieties that will quickly dispel assumptions that a drink made from honey must be sweet or syrupy (a common rookie mistake). Brothers Drake’s meads are dry and nuanced, from the woody notes of the Honey Oak to the IPA-like Hopped Traditional. Even the raspberry-flavored Est. 1812, which smells fruity, is almost bitter on the tongue.
Mead is a unique mixer as well, adding complex flavors to Brothers Drake’s extensive cocktail list.
The Mazzerac ($10) is a tart mix of Oyo Whiskey, mead, peach bitters and saffron syrup with a lemon kick. The New Fashioned ($9) turns the Old Fashioned on its ear, with Watershed Bourbon Barrel Gin instead of whiskey and Honey Oak mead instead of sugar, with a hint of citrus from orange and hopped grapefruit bitters.
Use Your Noodles
Brothers Drake found a clever solution to the bar’s lack of a kitchen: They parked it outside. Tokyo Go-Go food truck is run by Brothers Drake GM Eric Allen and his wife, chef Miki Ashino. Her Japanese street eats, like crisp and gooey potato and cheese balls (Korokke, $4), go great with mead. And you don’t even need to visit the parking lot—you can order and enjoy from the comfort of your bar stool.