The making of mead dates back to 7000 B.C. It was written about by Aristotle, described in ancient Hindu texts, and drunk by the legendary warriors of Beowolf. Like wine and beer, mead is a fact and factor in the development of human civilization.
Paisley Mead is the only “adult beverage” created exclusively with locally-sourced products in Hawaii. Entrepreneurs are now brewing and distilling on every major Hawaiian island. Hawaii brands are being distributed nationally and internationally. Brewpubs seem to be everywhere now. Paisley stands alone as Oahu’s only “meadery”. All of the mead is made on-premises at their King Street location in the Chinatown Arts District.
Without designs on making the world market, founder and owner Brian Paisley is focused on creating a uniquely Hawaii product. Each Paisley batch, whether it be sparkling or straight, light or dark, is made from the honey of apiaries tended here in the islands. Even local brewers and distillers must import yeast and other vital ingredients.
Much of the honey in the mead that Paisley makes comes from Brian’s own hives, located in multiple areas all over Oahu. Some comes from Big Island Bees, a successful and organic apiary operation on Hawaii Island. Thanks to the wide variety of pollinating plants and trees in Hawaii, each batch will have its own distinct flavor and texture characteristics.
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This is reflected in the mead varieties that Paisley offers. The honey that comes from the hives in Leeward Oahu is flavored by the blossoms of the keawe tree (mesquite). Bees from other hives on the island may produce guava, passion fruit, or even mountain apple honey. Some of the honey that comes from Big Island Bees is produced by bees that favor the vivid red blossoms of the ohia tree.
Brian Paisley had an idea when he left the Army in 2005. “Let’s bring something that’s local and high quality,” he says. And he has. You can note mango or Kona coffee in Paisley’s selections. Red Hibiscus, too, each a flavor of Hawaii.
Paisley offers a “Heathered Stout”, an artisanal brandy, as well as a high-octane “Meadshine.” The ingredients at Paisley are carefully curated. So is the food. A ribeye/porterhouse steak entrée shares the menu with linguine. Vietnamese pho also stars, perhaps an homage to the Asian roots of Paisley’s Chinatown home. Vegan and vegetarian options are also on offer.
Paisley has live music on weekend nights and enjoys a brisk “First Friday” crowd of discerning diners and drinkers. Paisley Mead opened on the first Friday of 2018, and after a banner night has forged ahead with new recipes. Reservations are recommended, as the modest floor space and thoughtful seating sees Paisley fill quickly during peak “out-on-the-town” hours.
The making of mead is a curious, ancient and esoteric pursuit. It depends on bees and the pollinating plants and trees that sustain them. Paisley Mead has found a way to bring the esoteric into the Hawaii mainstream.