A few years ago, Frank Golbeck came home from his eighth 16-hour workday in a row and collapsed from exhaustion on his living room floor. His wife, Theresa, came up to him and said; “Frank, you’re not happy. Look at you, just lying on the floor there miserable after work. If you had all the time, money and energy in the world, what would you do?”
Golbeck had never stopped to ask himself if he enjoyed what he was doing with his life. Prompted by his wife’s question, his mind drifted back to his early years growing up in Orange County. He often visited his grandfather’s apple farm in San Bernardino and has fond memories of watching him share his honey wine (mead), hard cider and fruit wine with customers.
During his college years studying economic development at UC Berkeley, Golbeck and some friends worked at the student organic garden and made mead to share with their friends. Those were some of his favorite moments – breaking open a bottle of home-brewed mead to kick off a dance-until-the-sunrise kind of night.
Inspired by his wife’s encouragement and the joy of recollecting such happy times in his life, Golbeck called up his college friend and fellow mead maker, Joe Colangelo (now Golden Coast Mead Director of Sales and Marketing). They brainstormed about how to turn their love of mead into a viable business plan. Quickly recognizing a need for someone to manage their finances, they reached out to Praveen Ramineni (now Golden Coast Mead CFO), and working together, developed the concept for Golden Coast Mead (of which Golbeck is now CEO).
In 2010, after sending inquiries to more than 50 local breweries and wineries, the Broomell family (of Triple B Ranches and Vesper Vineyards) was the only respondent willing to share their capacity and expertise. With Triple B’s support, the Golden Coast Mead team sold their first batch of mead in 2011.
Today, almost five years later, Golden Coast Mead is fermenting mead in their own fully licensed facility with 4,370 gallons of fermentation capacity, and they distribute their ferments to nearly 100 accounts throughout San Diego County. They also serve select locations in Orange County, Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey.
So what makes Golden Coast Mead special?
Golbeck calls their process and product “magic.”
“We are capturing sunshine and turning it into something you can pour for your friends and drink together,” gushes Golbeck. “Modern mead-making is a journey of discovery and craftsmanship. Using a combination of innovation, science and educated guesswork, we unlock layers and styles of mead that no one has ever tasted. There is a whole spectrum of mead for us to create that runs wider and deeper than that of beer and wine, and we are proud to do it in a natural, refreshing, and balanced way with no sulfites, filtration, or forced carbonation.”
Golden Coast Mead’s signature San Diego-style mead is a result of this commitment to innovation.
“By adjusting ingredient ratios, we are able to change the body and flavor profile to make it really well suited to our San Diego climate,” says Golbeck. “By using ale yeast and less honey, we are making meads that are crisp and light instead of thick and syrupy.”
An all natural product? Check. Unique flavor profiles? Check. But what about the impact Golden Coast Mead is having on the bigger ecological system in the San Diego region and beyond?
“The bees enable and inspire this whole thing,” says Golbeck. “With colony collapse disorder, we have an opportunity to right an imbalance caused by monoculture, which is harmful to bees’ fragile immune systems. We are trying to promote organic agriculture business models by helping to build the market for local, organic honey on a large scale.”
So what’s the takeaway?
Golbeck hopes Golden Coast Mead will inspire people to do what they love and share it. In turn, perhaps this will create more sustainable food systems for us all.
You can taste Golden Coast Mead’s latest brews at their tasting rooms in Oceanside and Julian, look for them at a local beer and wine store near you, or try their mead at Slow Food Urban San Diego’s “Sweet Sips” Networking Event and Screening of “More than Honey” on July 23.
Photo credits @Taylor Abeel of www.sojournimagery.com