Monday, February 13, 2012

B. Nektar Meadery - Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser

Today's choice of review is appropriate for two reasons:  1.  Last night was the mid-season premier of "The Walking Dead" on AMC which the wife and I enjoy quite a bit.  2.  An article last week in the NY Times about the Renaissance of Meade.  (Click here for article)

For those not yet acquainted with mead, it is a wine made with honey in lieu of grapes.  Just as grapes can be early or late season (especially in Gewurztraminer varieties), so can flowers and thus even something as incalculable as the seasons can result in some major differences in mead.  Not to mention the different types of flowers (orange blossoms, wildflowers, etc).  Talk about the potential for nuance!  Also this is labeled as a "Cherry Cyser" which I found out is a mead (honey) with apple juice added.  Cysers are also a likely precursor to ciders/hard ciders.

The first time I tasted mead from B. Nektar was at 2011's Midwest Brew Fest in Plainfield.  They made a great showing and were one of the celebrities brewers of the day.  I bought a Zombie Killer t-shirt that day because of the great label art, even though B. Nektar did not have any Zombie Killer with them.  Today is my first taste of this mead and I've been more than patient.  Let's pour!

Big hand to Kelly for picking up this bottle in one of her not-so-recent forays into Michigan!!

Aroma 10/12
This is difficult for me to judge as it's mead and not my usual "comfort zone" of beer.  I have a feeling that will be a recurring theme here.  The bottle smelled of cherries upon opening, but with a 2-3 oz pour in my tulip the smell is mostly wine-like tannins.  They are slightly acidic and smell similar to a sweet white wine.  I am serving this chilled as I saw them doing at the Fest so I hope it is appropriate to do so for this particular style.  It has a lovely floral character that becomes more exposed as the bottle warms a bit.  The added cherry juice begins to show as well, but still lies well behind the "tannins" and the floral esters.  The more this glass warms, the better it smells.  I clearly didn't let this bottle sit out enough.  Make sure this is served LIGHTLY chilled if you have it.  Anything more will do this mead a disservice. (Even if the bottle does say to "Serve cold... zombies hate the cold...")

Upon finally achieving what I felt was an optimum temperature, the mead is an excellent combination of the sweet white wine, apples, and cherry juice with the floral note hanging way back.  Each sniff seems to allow the primary aromas to alternate in the spotlight!  The cherry note does smell like a juice and not that of cherries off the tree or cherry pie, etc, but it is fairly rich.  I'm not smelling any honey directly, but I assume that fermenting greatly alters honey's characteristics.

Here's a question for mead drinkers:  Is the aroma growing stronger because the mead it warming, because like wine it also needs to "breathe" and oxygenate, or a combination of the two?

Appearance 3/3
Since mead is not carbonated, there is no head to judge.  It is crystal clear and has a color a bit lighter than that of a blush wine.  The cherry juice and natural pigments of the honey create a light coral or salmon shade.  Not a lot of hue changes throughout the glass either, just one big cup of cyser-looking goodness.  I really wish I knew if this were good or not.  I can say that it also has some fair legs when given even a small swirl.

Flavor 18/20
This is phenomenal.  Immediately the tongue is bathed in a sugary honey sweetness and a tart cherry wave.  It's not sour the same way that Brett is, but in a sour we're more accustomed to in fruits.  Holding the mead in the mouth reveals a backbone that showcases all this mead's flavors in a wonderfully complex harmony.  The cherries are sweet, but ring sour on the sides of the tongue.  Its tart cherries are the star of the show and we find out now that they are quite understated in the aroma.  Honey lends its smooth, coating nature and blends its sweetness flawlessly with the cherry.  It's a delicious pairing that I'm surprised doesn't exist more in other flavored goods.  The finish shows the darker, more authentic, almost bitter cherry flavor that throws the salivary glands into overdrive.  The aftertaste isn't much, but is a faint haunting of the sour recently swallowed.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Smooth!  Smooth!  Smooth!  I can only assume that honey's naturally viscous quality help make this mead so wonderfully silky.  The body is light as expected, but I don't believe it to be any different than a wine.  Oddly, lightly swishing the mead in the mouth allows what feels like an extremely light carbonation to appear.  I know that most will think that its just from the swishing, but I'm not swishing this like mouthwash!  I don't believe what I'm doing is enough to cause bubbles in the mead.  Is carbonation possible?

Overall Impression 9/10
This is good stuff.  It's not in my wheelhouse of expertise, but I really enjoy this flavor.  It is, of course, very sweet like a cider, and has many characteristics of a wine with out all the acidity.  I would say it's more akin to drinking a juice, but I would not degrade this mead like that.  Juice is too simple and easy.  The blending of flavors in this mead took a lot of work and brewing prowess.  The body is one of the best attributes and if all meads exhibit a similar characteristic due to the honey in the brewing process, then you can expect me to incorporate many more meads into my regular imbibing.

Total 45/50
Why aren't more things flavored Cherry + Honey?  With what a great combination it is, I'm rather surprised that we don't see it in bubble gums, lollipops, sodas, and various other sweets.  Besides utilizing a great flavor combo, B. Nektar has really blended them superbly to allow the best of each ingredient to be recognized.  Can I again comment on the smooth mouthfeel!  Wow!  Even in oak barrels, I don't believe I've ever drank something so smooth.  They have a pretty good distribution in the eastern U.S., so if you find them, buy them. It's a great experiment into the world of mead.  I end with the quote from their bottle.

"Dedicated to the freaks and the geeks!  what started as a top-secret experiment with Michigan honey, cherries, and apple cider became a viral epidemic.  It won't be easy to survive, so grab your weapons and don't forget this bottle for backup!  Serve cold... zombies hate the cold...

B. Ware


  1. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it.

  2. Congrats on your foray into the world of mead. My first sample of mead was the first one I ever made. Talk about not knowing what to expect.

    They make some great stuff over at B.Nectar. They are just on the other side of the state from me and the shops over here tend to get some interesting meads from them. The last one I had was their margarita mead (agave, and lime).

    On a side note, I tend to like my mead at roughly cellar temperature (mid 60s in my house).

    1. I'm jealous of your proximity, sir. A margarita mead sounds very intriguing! I love the experimental nature in craft beer so I can certainly appreciate it in mead. I heard their Vanilla/Cinnamon mead is out of control!

      I'm glad to hear I wasn't out of place for enjoying it closer to room temp. :)

  3. If I were Looking for this, would it be in the beer or wine section? I had it once at a restaurant and it was my favorite drink ever! I can't seem to find it anywhere in liquor stores.

    1. I have only found meads of any kind in the small section of the "wine" portion of the store. This section carries a lot of "near wines" like port, mead, premade sangria, and other friggin' delicious beverages. I never understood why that section isn't bigger.

  4. Hippo, not sure where you're located, but in the South we have Crown liquor stores available, which is where Zombie Killer was first recommended to me. I've discovered most Crowns will special order items for you upon request. After haunting my local for months in periodic search of Magnum pear cider, they finally took pity on me and offered to order it, and for ages it was the only place I could find it. They've since turned me on to ZK, as well as a fruity Belgian cider I've grown fond of, Kopparberg.

    -Liz in FL

  5. Great, insightful post!
    Thanks for coming over to the sweeter side of drinking (mead).
    I recently wrote a B Nektar Zombie Killer Review as well. I would love to know what you think of the post and blog in general:

    Keep up the good work!