The Master of Mead

Bill Ristow’s home brewing has led him to an ancient drink

By Ryan Gooding

“It’s really just a storage unit,” begins Bill Ristow.

He walks down a narrow, brightly lit, but sparsely decorated hallway beneath the Haverford Gable Apartments, just across the train tracks from Haverford College, the school he currently attends.  His stride is long, relaxed, almost bouncy – just what you’d expect from the lanky collegiate cross country and track runner – yet he moves forward with an authoritative presence.

Dangling precariously from his right hand, swaying back and forth as he walks, is a wine tasting glass.

ill Ristow samples some of his mead

Bill Ristow samples some of his mead.

At the far end of the hallway, Ristow pauses in front of a stark-white door, save for a black number “7” neatly painted at eye level.  He asks me to hold the tasting glass as he rifles through his pockets, presumably looking for the key.

“This is part of what I like so much about home brewing,” Ristow continues, finally producing the key from his back pocket.  “At least when it comes to wines and mead, you don’t need crazy infrastructure.”

He pauses again, this time as he struggles to force the key into the lock.  “I mean, you can do it in a kitchen, or a living room, or in our case, a tiny storage unit,” he concludes.

The deadbolt clicks back and the door swings open, revealing a drab, sparsely cluttered storage space that can’t measure much more than five feet across by 12 feet deep.  The right half of the unit is almost completely unoccupied, save for the half-dozen jugs and bottles containing his most recent experiments.  Dominating most of the left half is a stack of white boxes.

“Sorry it’s not visually stunning.”

Ristow steps inside and gestures silently to the boxes.  He approaches the stack; reaches into a box labeled “Orange Clove Mead” in beautiful, handwritten cursive; and from it, produces an unlabeled wine bottle. For a moment he stands motionless, staring proudly down at the bottle in his hands.  Several long seconds pass before Ristow looks up again, smiling.

“Want to try some?”

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