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The Hive Taproom

East Troy, Wisconsin


Crusin’ Rating:  A

Booze Rating:  B-


Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- The Hive Taproom
Photo Credit: The Hive Taproom Facebook Page

This week, we are taking the Thirsty Troll and Barlow out for some mead tasting!  You know the Thirsty Troll is a big fan of mead, dabbling a little in his own creations, if you’ve followed along with our past trip to Mead King Mead Hall.  You also know that Hannah isn’t the biggest fan of mead, but certain spots, like Mixed Meadia in Door County can win her over!  Today, we are checking out a spot closer to my hometown, The Hive Taproom in East Troy, WI.  The Hive Taproom opened in 2018 and has been on my radar to review since it opened.  After learning that it was a dog-friendly spot, it was a must stop during a recent trip back home, and I wouldn’t leave home without our resident mead expert, the Thirsty Troll.

An easy 20 minute drive from where we were and a little over an hour from Madison, The Hive is a welcome addition to the southeast Wisconsin imbibement scene that is dominated by breweries with a handful of wineries and a (cidery or two) mixed in.  Located on 10 acres of organic land that buts up to Honey Creek and next door to the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.   The Hive is a low-slung metal and brick building that looks like so many other business park buildings of a bygone decade except for the fact that if you look closer, there’s plenty of flower beds and an intentionally rusty sign denoting you are, in fact in the correct spot.  While there in January, we couldn’t get too much from exploring outside but it was clear to us that there’s a small patio out front, picnic tables, and maybe even bags boards set up for summer activities as well as a secondary enclosed patio out back.  Always nice to see some outdoor space - too bad the weather kept us from enjoying the great outdoors.  Barlow gets a little chilly after all!

Walking into the Hive on a Sunday afternoon you are instantly greeted with the recognizable scent of honey clinging to the air.  When we started our review there was a single other patron with a fairly vocal German Shephard chatting up our mead-tender who was hometown friendly throughout our entire time there.  The interior was “cute” as Hannah oft says of well appointed, on-trend, and Joanna Gaines-ish.  The space was well decorated, homey, and offered a mixture of low tables, a couple of cushioned corner couches, and up to 10 at the bar.  Hanging above the honey-combed tile backsplash (of course) and all of the mead taps (complete with honey dipper pulls) was a chalkboard detailing the mead offerings.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- The Hive Taproom

Off the bat, and before I forget.  I love the idea of a tapped keg of water coming out of the wall here.  A little more elegant than a water jug on a cart - it was a nice design choice.  Next, the mead board had an added number that denotes its sweetness level.  Again, fantastic choice for those unfamiliar with mead.  I really liked those choices as not everyone is out here tasting mead multiple times a year from varying sources.  

The one gripe I did have, slightly related to the mead board - is pre-set flights.  I like to pick my flights - we’ve been doing this long enough that it’s just sort of expected at places so it threw us off a little bit.  I can certainly understand that there may be reasons to pre-set them - but, if it’s at all doable - I would love to suggest that they allow you to pick your flights going forward if your pallet leans dry, sweet, in between, or a little out there.  I will say though, our mead-tender was kind enough to offer us samples of anything we wanted to try for free.  Now, it’s an internal rule that we try to not ever take advantage of samples that are free when doing reviews.  We like to pay and support the small businesses that we review - even if we end up not enjoying what we tasted all the way.  The only other (1st world problem) we really had of the space was lack of wifi - which I know sounds like a teenage complaint - but we often use it to reference websites when reviewing and often fact check on our locations website as well.  Not only the wifi, but the building did seem to be a black hole of cell service on the whole.  Adventurers be warned!

We picked a table not far from the small stage near the door where we could keep an eye on a particular Frenchie who tends to morph into a full-fledged a societal menace when we are attempting reviews.  It really made for a great, quiet Sunday afternoon.  There was food available, some flatbreads, or you could choose to carry in your own food.  We opted to snag some barbecue from a nearby spot and chowed down as we sampled our mead.   With 14 meads to choose from, we all got a separate flight of 4, but opted to narrow our review down to 6.  For those not wild about mead, there was N/A beer, Kombucha, home made soda, and sparkling water available.  

I do want to note that all of the meads served at the hive are session meads.  The official term is Hydromel (water + honey in latin).  A Hydromel (session) mead is going to be a mead that the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) is cut back by mixing in water.  Much like a session beer, that should fall between 3-5%, which is roughly half of a standard beer ABV, mead is going to fall around 3-7% ABV, about half the standard ABV.  As far as I can tell, there aren’t standard guidelines for session meads outside of the original gravity and ABV - the process isn’t sort of at an industry standard or defined.  I will note that Sessions are going to be cheaper to produce because they use less honey.  I am not sure, from my research, if they have to be carbonated, but all of those we tasted were.  

My 2 Cents (6.8% ABV) - This mead was a pale gold with brilliant clarity that smelled of lime, apricot, and slightly grassy.  With a slightly creamy, and grassy taste up front, we got notes of herbal tea, minerality, and a bitter aftertaste that was almost hop-like but really reminded us of munching fresh herbs rather than boiled hop cones.

Pomelo Sour (6.7% ABV) - Definitely the first sour mead we’ve seen, this mead as a slightly cloudy pale yellow with an aroma of dandelion, citrus, and apple.  Tasting notes of Pomelo, blood orange, and citrus rind - this was slightly sour but I think Hannah was expecting it to be at the sour level of that style of beer.

Ron Bergamot (6.6% ABV) - This was the group's favorite.  Lager gold with a seemingly lower amount of carbonation, this smelled of candied bergamot and earl gray tea.  That bergamot came through strongly when tasting along with notes of sasparilla, vanilla, and root beer. I liked this one enough to snag a pint after the review was over and the Thirsty Troll liked it enough to muse on how to make his own in the future.

Cherry Love (6.7% ABV) - This blush pink mead with brilliant clarity smelled of cherry pie filling and vanilla.  Tasting faintly of tart cherries with brief notes of vanilla and minerality present, we were all hoping for stronger flavors from this one.

Vote 4 Pedro (6.8% ABV) - Unfortunately, our least favorite of the bunch.  What sounded enticing of cocoa, almond and lemon zest (out of sheer curiosity) did not end up working out well in practice.  This warm gold, slightly cloudy mead had that aroma of cacao husks and coffee but had notes of bitter-slightly weak coffee and had notes of lemongrass mixed in which really did not work for me together at all.  Hannah was not into it and the Thirsty Troll also agreed that it was one that was not playing well on his taste buds.  

Forest Green (6.9% ABV) - Got this one because one of the ingredients is sourced in Burlington!  This mead was a light pale gold and had low notes of apple flesh and faint fir trees on the nose.  This mead tasted slightly woody, with some slightly tart apple skin and low notes of earthiness.  

Now, we may be a little biased.  On the whole, the Thirsty Troll and I are always going to lean toward robust, full-bodied meads.  I can definitely see though, a low ABV mead that’s chilled going down smoothly on a summer's day as often mead can get a little heavy to have in the heat of summer.  Hannah will drink either, as long as the flavor is there.  I think though, that with less honey, it’s probably going to be a little more difficult to have strong flavors in a session mead and there’s probably a danger of them coming off a little underwhelming in that department.  Again though, the flip side of that coin is that it’s an amazing introduction to mead as a newcomer can kind of ease themselves into the world of fermented honey goodness and I am all for that.  Anything that gets more people to like mead is a win in my book, even if I prefer my mead strong.

Another thing I will say, and I learned this on my own research at the time of writing is that the Hive, like Mixed Meadia and the Mead King is hyper local.  The honey is harvested from the 50 hives on the property.  The ingredients to flavor the mead come from Rishi Tea in Milwaukee, the WI Hop Exchange, Distilleries in Wisconsin, and various places throughout the state.  I know we often get hung up on reviewing beer and its easy for Hannah and I to not always delve into the ingredient sources of the places we review - it can often be tricky to nail down when it comes to breweries.  

The hive is both wildly and purposefully - Wisconsin.

And for that, they have our appreciation and admiration and I want the beer scene and wine scene to follow suit whenever possible (the distilleries do alright).  We are a Wisconsin blog and you know we love supporting everything that is Wisconsin and the Hive is doing everything it can to keep true to that.  I think more places need to follow in their footsteps.  To me, that is a win.  If you’re in the Milwaukee area, this is going to be a solid spot to try some intro meads for the first time, and if you’ve never had a session mead, well, it’s the only place in the state I know of to try one that’s made locally so give the Hive a try!  We’ve got plenty of other places for you to make a day of if you’re coming from Madison, just check out our past articles!

Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’!

To learn more about The Hive Taproom, please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @TheHiveTaproom or on Instagram: @TheHiveTaproom

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