Mead Me in Round Top
Even between antique fests, this charming town is well worth a visit
To many, Round Top is synonymous with its twice-yearly antique festivals—bacchanalias of bargain hunting, when pitched tents litter local pastures like a church revival on steroids and quiet country lanes transform into I-10 at rush hour. But once the throngs of antique shoppers pack up their pull carts and go home, this tiny hamlet of 90 residents takes on its appealing small-town rhythm that can be a balm for harried urbanites—and a destination well worth the drive from Houston no matter the time of year.
One destination in and of itself is Rohan Meadery, located a few miles outside town. John and Wendy Rohan have been brewing mankind’s oldest libation on their 30-acre farm since 2009. Mead is wine fermented from honey, and can be crafted in innumerable variations depending on the ingredients. The Rohans started operations slowly, producing four varieties of their honey-based wine. As their reputation grew, so too did their offerings. Today, they produce 14 varieties. Several, including the Blackberry Melomel, Cranberry Honeywine, Apple Cyser and Peachy Keen, have won medals at wine competitions.
Wendy, a former high-school science teacher, credits their success to the local food movement and the resurgence of craft beers. “If people weren’t caring about where things come from, or what’s the story behind what they’re putting into their bodies—whether that’s food or drink—we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’re doing,” she said. The Rohans’ meads are fermented in 11 shiny stainless steel tanks, on view in the meadery’s tasting room.
Because it takes 400 to 600 pounds of honey to make 150 to 200 gallons of mead, the couple augments their own honey supply, produced from 28 hives scattered throughout the farm, with honey harvested from hives maintained by local beekeepers. We’d need 500 to 800 hives to produce the meads we’re producing,” says John, an IT professional who still works one day a week in Houston. “Raising bees is all we would be doing.” Fermentation takes four to six months depending on the variety, with the popular cranberry mead being the fastest.
The Rohans have made a visit to their meadery a destination and an education. During visits, guests can learn about the history of meads, raising bees and the role each bee plays in a hive. First-time guests often start with the sample of five meads for $5. With each sampling, John, Wendy or General Manager Ashley Gaas explains the nuances of the mead’s mixture and making.
Guests can also order meads by the glass and spend time on the patio enjoying the company of Rohan’s gregarious flocks of chickens and guinea fowl. They may also be greeted by the family’s Pyrenees/ Anatolian dogs named Ford and Edsel. The furry duo guard the couple’s dairy goats and sheep. The Rohans offer cheese plates and on many weekends La Grange–based restaurant Broken Drum Provisions serves fare from their food truck. Live music is also featured on the patio with regularity.