Bliss point. It’s a phrase that technically refers to optimizing taste in food products. But it could apply to almost any experience or product.
Like, say, mead.
Jeff Venuti said his wife Tara heard about the concept on a radio program. “I want to find people’s beverage bliss point, particularly with mead and fermented honey products,” he explained.
A couple of weeks ago, Venuti launched Blisspoint Meadery (blisspointmeadery.com) in his garage on Fox Run Road. “We opened the doors for sales a week and a half ago. We are building our base right now,” he said, focusing on online sales, which can be shipped or picked up.
“I have 14 products available and another 20 waiting to be labeled,” he said. Some might not work, he acknowledged; he hopes others will become popular (Venuti will arrange for tasting by appointment.) He visualizes eventual retail outlets; mead on the menu likely will require “an education process.”
Venuti explained that mead in its simplest form” is an alcoholic beverage made from honey.” He said he ferments with various fruits and adds spices. “You are converting all these sugars into alcohol, leaving the essence of those natural products.”
The results range wide. “Just because it’s made with honey doesn’t mean it’s sweet,” Venuti commented. “You can build it however you want—like a carbonated cider, or like wine; a very diverse product.” Does mead have across-the-board basic qualities? “I don’t like to pigeonhole—I don’t want to influence expectations.”
Venuti, an electrical engineer who grew up in Tewksbury, related that a friend home-brewed mead 20 years ago, and “everybody thought it was terrible.” Fast forward five years—someone found a bottle of the stuff squirreled away, and of course, Venuti had to try it. “It was fantastic,” he said. “It had aged wonderfully. It was a beautiful experience.”
Venuti said he eventually figured out how to bypass the five-year wait “for something that good. I researched high-quality fermentation without having to work out the imperfections.” As his technique improved, “about four years ago it occurred to me that it could be a business.”
Any fermentation process comprises sugar and water and yeast, Venuti explained. “The yeast ferments the sugars and turns them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Other components residual to give it a particular flavor.”
He explained that he combines water, honey, and yeast in a vessel, at an ideal fermentation temperature of 62 for the yeast he uses. Once fermentation is active, except for periodic nutrient additions, “you just wait for the machine you put in motion to stop.” Then he seeks to enhance his product with various ingredients.
Mead is “the oldest alcoholic drink known to man,” Venuti noted. But he explained that the drink was bypassed because of new technologies in agriculture. “When domesticated crops became available, grapes and barley” became accessible sources of sugar. “Honey doesn’t have an agricultural equivalent, and honey as a fermentable source fell by the wayside.”
He realizes that “a lot of people’s familiarity with mead is through its association with Medieval culture, or with Vikings. That’s not what mead is today—The product speaks for itself.”
Venuti is weighing the challenges of marketing that product. He cited “people’s blossoming interest in locally-produced craft products, including beer and cider. So mead is well-positioned. People love things made with natural products by artisans; they feel a connection.”
The connection with bees is also an attraction, he said. “Bees are necessary for agriculture,” he pointed out. Indeed, he maintains a few hives, generating sufficient honey for what he hopes will be a hyperlocal mead variation. Venuti acquires most of the honey he needs from nearby Merrimack Valley Apiaries on Dudley Road in Billerica, as well as from sources throughout the world. Venuti’s two kids, in John Glenn Middle School and Job Lane School, serve as honey tasters.
“People have many different taste preferences—different bliss points for different circumstances,” Venuti observed, and they are influenced by many variables, from personal circumstances to the weather. “A particular product might not be for all occasions,” he explained. One mead variation might be appropriate around a campfire; another as an aperitif or after dinner.
Some examples: OB Solo, produced using honey from orange blossoms, with a flavor reflecting “the essence of the nectar from that flower.” Symbee is described as “a carbonated mead created through the symbiotic fermentation of honey, green tea, probiotics, and yeast; and a refreshing blend of tart, fruit, and funk flavors on a honey canvas, yielding citrus and tropical notes layered with sweetgrass and wheat.” Symbee ferments like a kombucha. Another variation known as a cyser is apple mead.
Blisspoint complies with federal, state, and local permitting requirements. Venuti points out that he is licensed as a winery.
Venuti’s product has won recognition, including a first-place award in a category of the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition. “That helped convince me that I had a decent product,” he said. Venuti also has served as a mead contest judge, which helps “refine my palate. Tasting others helps me be a better craftsperson.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763