Minnesota has a million breweries (that's a ballpark figure), and a number of distilleries and other spirit-makers. These days, the state even has close to 100 wineries—if this map can be believed—but only a handful of meaderies.
You've got a few big ones: Cambridge's J. Bird Wines, which provides mead for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival; White Bear Meadery, which just opened the state's first "mead hall" in Maplewood; and Winehaven in Chisago City.
"And then there's us," says Noah Stein, co-founder of Bumbling Fools Mead. "And that's really about it."
On April 1, Stein and his mead-making partner Skot Rieffer opened the doors to their Minneapolis tasting room in the 2010 East Hennepin building (at 2010 E. Hennepin Ave., naturally). The cozy space, with its perfectly mismatched chairs and hexagonal, honeycomb-shaped bar, is a place to sample or take home fermented beverages including their traditional honey mead, along with clever flavors like the almond and vanilla Bienenstich (named for the German "bee sting cake") or their more experimental Queen's Kiss Clove Mead.
While Bumbling Fools is pretty new to Minnesota's sparse mead scene, Stein and Reiffer aren't new to mead. Their company's origin story begins about eight years ago, when its cofounders separately but concurrently tried to learn mead-making on the cheap at home. They gave it another go a few years later, on a slightly bigger scale, making 20-gallon batches of a few mead varietals in Rieffer's kitchen, which they report was located precariously close to carpeted floors in an adjacent room.
From there, the pair got really into it, experimenting with broader mead styles and different ingredients. "Yes, mead is very easy to do: Put honey, water, and yeast in the right ratios, and ignore it for several months," Stein says. But like beer and wine, there's lots to learn beyond the basics. "And I'm a huge nerd, so I did."
Things took off a few months into 2020, during lockdown, when the buddies were out of work and spending a lot of time on their fermentation project. They decided to enter a few flavors in the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire's mead competition, where it could be judged by proper experts who really know their stuff.
The Bumbling Fools team thought, if anything, they'd get some meaningful tips that they could apply to future batches. "We didn't enter hoping to win, it wasn't even an option or a possibility—we just wanted some professional feedback," Stein says. But they won anyway! Their traditional mead took home best in show, while their Bee Sting won third overall and best experimental mead.
That was the moment Stein and Rieffer looked at each other and thought... maybe we should do this for real? Over the next several months, they found the space on Hennepin Avenue, got their manufacturing license, and starting making mead in earnest.
As mead-makers, Stein and Rieffer prefer to keep it a little nerdy, and a little silly—the name is Bumbling Fools, ya know? Mead is often associated with viking culture, but "we don't want to do, like, 'The Bloody Berserker Cherry Mead,'" Stein laughs. Instead, they have some fun with it. Their Featherweight mead, with ginger and hibiscus, recalls an Egyptian drink called Karkadeh made with those same ingredients; in ancient Egyptian religion, it was said that Anubis, the god of the dead, weighed souls against the weight of a feather.
As for the living, you can find Bumbling Fools Mead at liquor stores including Dabbler Depot and Ombibulous, and it's on taps at Can Can Wonderland and ROK Eatery + Bar. They have a subscription service, with a monthly four-pack of new brews and classic formulas, or you can order any amount of mead you like via their webstore.
And then of course, there's the new taproom, which has been open on Saturday afternoons for the last few weeks. The best way to keep in touch is on Facebook, where they'll post tasting room hours and other updates.
The early weeks have been a hit, likely in part because there's really no other mead-maker like this in Minneapolis. If business keeps going well, the co-owners say they'll consider moving upstairs—right now, the tasting room is tucked away in the building, down a few hallways, and a set of slightly spooky steps. ("Hey, it's a reclaimed industrial space, it's minorly spooky," Stein chuckles.) When you're getting close, you'll see twinkling party lights.
Don't worry, Stein won't let you get lost: "On the front door, there's a sign that tells ya which direction to go, and to follow the bees."
Bumbling Fools Tasting Room
2010 East Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Saturdays from 2-8 p.m.