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Every chance they get, newlyweds Todd and Charlene Weaver of Lake Jackson visit Rohan Meadery on a working farm northeast of La Grange. On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, they’re seated side by side at an outdoor table, watching two brown hens scratching in the grass and some short-legged sheep dozing beneath a live oak. They smile when Ford, the farm’s friendly Great Pyrenees dog, lopes up to greet a black sedan. By a blooming rosemary bush laden with honeybees, Jewels the cat meows for attention.
“It’s fun to be here and out in the country,” Charlene says. “We love to visit and talk to the animals.” The couple also comes to savor and stock up on their favorite beverage, Pear Melomel, a pear mead kissed with lavender. The award-winning label ranks high among the 14 meads, five wines and two hard ciders crafted by John and Wendy Rohan at their Blissful Folly Farm, which is served by Fayette Electric Cooperative. Rohan Meadery is the oldest of eight meaderies operating in Texas.
“Mead is mankind’s oldest fermented beverage,” Wendy explains while a visitor sips her first-ever sample in the meadery’s honey-hued tasting room and gift shop. “In simple terms, mead is wine made from fermenting honey. It predates wine by several millennia. The Vikings were especially known for their mead.”
Making mead with a Czech flair runs in John’s family. A portrait of his great-great-grandparents hangs above the tasting room doors. “Frank Rohan emigrated from the Czech Republic of Moravia in the 1800s and settled in Fayette County,” John says. “My grandfather farmed, kept bees and home-brewed. I made my first mead when I was in junior high school.”
In 2008, the Rohans bought 30 acres in Fayette County and moved their family out of Houston. The couple has three children: Malik, 18; Amelia, 13; and Eleanor, 10. “We wanted to start a meadery and raise our children on a farm,” Wendy says.
Using their science backgrounds, the Rohans went into production in 2009. At first, they sold mead at farmers markets and festivals. In 2011, they built the tasting room, which now houses a small bottling machine, a filtering machine and 12 stainless steel fermentation tanks.
Weekdays, Wendy teaches junior high science in La Grange, and John works in Houston’s information technology industry. “We work eight days a week,” John quips.
He’s not exaggerating. After hours and weekends, the family manages a 1-acre vineyard, assorted fruit trees, 30 Nubian goats, two chicken coops, some guinea fowl, two miniature Sicilian donkeys and the aforementioned sheep.
The Rohans also tend 20 beehives, which produce a fraction of the honey needed to make their meads. So they partner with Bee Wilde, a commercial honey producer (and member of Mid-South Synergy) that maintains 2,000 hives in Conroe. “Just one 150-gallon batch of our blackberry mead calls for 400 pounds of honey,” Wendy explains. “We could never make that much here on the farm.”
The Rohans meld Bee Wilde’s wildflower- and huajilla-flavored honeys with Texas-grown fruits.
Family friendly, Rohan Meadery hosts live music most Saturday afternoons beneath a covered pavilion. Kids can drop a quarter into a gumball machine on the tasting room’s porch and buy a small cupful of feed to throw to the chickens.
Behind the counter, Wendy pours a sample of Orange Spice mead for a visitor. “We’re already out of space in our tasting room, which is a great problem to have,” she says. “But we’re not interested in being the biggest meadery in Texas. We just want to sustain what we do on our farm and also [for] the families who work for us.”
Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, a member of Pedernales EC, lives in Blanco.