On the heels of the recent activity at Mt. St. Augustine, Rachel and Laurence Livingston are poised to open the town’s first mead brewery. It’s name? The Ring of Fire Meadery.
Head mead fermenter and known brewer Laurence has been heating things up for months in preparation to open in the near future.
The Livingstons chose a steaming view of the Augustine Volcano for their label months ago — their choice and timing couldn’t be more poignant.
To start off, they plan to produce and release 16 different flavors of meads over time, all of which will be for sale at their store on Bunnell Avenue across from The Studio. Meads are made through a process of fermenting a mixture of honey and water.
Laurence has a long, successful history with brewing and fermenting.
“Well, I did my first chemistry experiment with alcohol when I was 16 — but I didn’t drink it,” he said, digging up the past.
Professionally, Livingston is known among local brewers as a seasoned pioneer. He has a proven track-record commercially as well. He opened Cusack’s Brew Pub in Anchorage, Great Bear Brew Pub in Wasilla and started the Q and Q Homebrew Club in Homer.
The mead project is a hobby that he’s taking to the next level and is something he and his wife see as cutting edge. And since Rachel doesn’t drink beer, Laurence created wines and meads for her. Soon, Homer can have a taste of the fruits of Laurence’s labor. Ring of Fire Meadery will be the first meadery in Alaska.
“People are always looking for something different,” Rachel said. “He’s just taking a hobby and going with it.”
The Livingstons hope to unleash local flavors in the meads.
“We’ve got lots of options. There’s tons of rhubarb here, and what do you do with it? It’s here for us to use,” he said. “The potential is there to make everything completely local. Berries and honeys do very well here.”
As a result, Ring of Fire meads will be quite natural.
“It’s just honey, water and yeast. We won’t add any sugars beyond the honey,” Laurence said.
“We’ll also be using as much local fruit and honey as we can. We are hoping to support local farmers and growers, because we’ll buy in bulk,” he said. “There are a lot of people planting apple trees in the area, so we’ll make a draft cider, too.”
Laurence said his meads are special because they won’t have preservatives or sulfites, which are commonly used as sanitizers.
New and old mead drinkers can look forward to Livingston’s blueberry, rhubarb, melomels, and apple cyser — which is a carbonated British-style cider, among others.
“I’d been making mead since 1990, and this was just a progression of brewpubs and two micro-breweries. It’s actually something I’ve been doing as a mead and wine maker for a long time,” Laurence said.
Though people usually think of mead as a very sweet drink from days of yore, it sure doesn’t have to be, the brewer said.
“We’ve got something for everyone,” Rachel said.
That range will also cover the affordable, up to the signature meads made from rare berries.
But what is a known-beer-brewer doing meddling with meads?
“I have a lot of friends who are five-star chefs, and know people brewing beers and wines — this brings it all together as a new way to express quality innovation. It’s a neat way to use ingredients,” Laurence said.
To those who will be missing his homebrewed beers, Laurence says, “Sorry.”
“I’d also tell them to come in and try the products, because meads are not just a syrupy thing you put over desserts,” he said.
The Livingstons recommend people experiment with all the different meads when the shop opens up in the coming months — as they hope to finalize licensing in February and have their first flavors available for the Shorebird Festival. Rachel said they’ll also try to release flavors with coming First Friday events.
“That makes sense because it really is an art in itself,” Rachel said.
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