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Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Nevada County Mead Co. thriving in Penn Valley

Mead is having a moment, at least on the East Coast, and for the first time in a long time, Nevada County is ahead of the trend curve with our very own Nevada County Mead Co. in Penn Valley. Started by husband and wife team Aaron and Joy Davis, along with partner Michael DeSena, Nevada County Mead Co. produces several delicious varieties of mead and cider, both of which are gluten-free, in their brewery and tasting room.

“I got into brewing 15 years ago as a hobby at home and loved it; it was something my wife and I did together. So when I retired and was looking for something to do next, a friend suggested I do what I enjoyed doing, which was brewing beer, but I liked brewing mead better,” Aaron explained. “I love Grass Valley Brewing Co. and knew that beer was already being done well in Nevada County, but I wanted people to learn about mead and cider, and Michael had also been a home brewer, so the three of us loved the idea. Mead is a very quickly growing industry, particularly on the east coast, and there’s not a cider place in Nevada County. We have distilled spirits, great breweries from Three Forks to Grass Valley Brewing to Bullmastiff, and now we have mead and cider.”

As the only retired person of the three, Aaron spends his days brewing delicious varietals of sparkling mead such as blackberry, white peach, and butterbrew, inspired by his daughter who requested he create something similar to the butter beer from their beloved series (which shall not be named) that they read together when she was a child. They also brew flat mead (no bubbles) and unique ciders such as pear habenero, black currant, and two versions of apple with one dry and the other “off dry”. Joy, who is the Special Education Director at Twin River School District in Sacramento, and Mike, who owns a construction company locally, come to help out in the tasting room and serve on the weekends.

The tasting room, while simple, is a welcoming place that is kid and dog friendly. It has become a popular hangout for Penn Valley residents and travelers who find them online. With a bee-themed décor, picnic tables, darts, and games scattered throughout, it is a casual and friendly place to meet up with friends or make new ones while sipping delicious brews that cannot be found anywhere else in the area. “We have a lot of families with little ones that come in. We have games and books for the kids. They look forward to coming and hanging out with their parents,” Aaron said. “Our regulars are big fans.”

Quality is important to the three owners, as is conservation. They procure their honey by the barrel from a company in Madera that has 4,500 hives around California. To brew the mead takes several thousand pounds of honey a month, so Aaron, Joy, and Mike did a lot of searching for an apiary that took good care of the bees and were good stewards of the environment, and the company they contracted with is a great family that makes sure their honey is used appropriately.

The Davises really know their stuff, too. Aaron and Joy are both BJCP Mead judges (Beer Judge Certification Program), which means any time there is a contest involving alcohol, there has to be a certified judge to properly evaluate the mead. Joy is also a certified honey evaluator, a credential she earned through UC Davis, so she can taste and evaluate honey to tell whether it is what it claims to be.

For the fruit that goes into the meads and ciders, they source as much as they can in California, depending on availability. Black Currants are not local to California, so they procure those from Oregon. However, the blood oranges come from the Central Valley, and the apple juice for ciders comes from local favorite destination Apple Hill. Since their apple source is so close, the fruit goes from press to fermenting in 12 hours, so it is very fresh.

Mike’s brother Chris is a partner at Grass Valley Brewing Co., and they have been very helpful in getting Nevada County Mead Co. up and running. “Mike Sutherland, the brewer at GVBC, was a cider maker and his guidance has been very useful. As a 20 year professional, he has been very helpful and gives pointers,” Aaron said. “Everyone we have worked with has been supportive; I love that about Nevada County.”

The tasting room was supposed to open in April 2020, but got delayed until May 1, 2021, due to the Covid lockdown. “We just opened the door and didn’t tell anyone,” Aaron recalled. “We knew enough people that the word got out, had people waiting when we opened the doors for the first time, and have been growing ever since. We have lots of customers from Lake Wildwood and retired and active duty people from Beale Air Force Base. Some are here playing darts every week, and they love the community.”

You can find products from Nevada County Mead Co. on tap at several locations locally, such as Gary’s Place, Wild Eye Pub, Jernigan’s, Grass Valley Brewing Co., and the Dew Drop Inn, and also in Chico and Davis.

The tasting room is located at 10175 Commercial Ave. in Penn Valley and is open from noon-6 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays, and noon-8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They don’t serve food, but people can bring their own or go to Players Pizza or Twelve 28 Kitchen, which are neighboring restaurants.

To learn more about Nevada County Mead Co., visit their website at ncmeadco.com or call (530) 420-MEAD (6323).





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