Tuesday, September 28, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 30

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Based in Goleta, High Seas Mead offers sparkling libations made from organic, gluten-free ingredients


If you like “Meadacoladas” (and gettin’ caught in the rain), put those personal ads to rest; High Seas Mead is the escape you’ve been looking for. The Meadacolada (pineapple and coconut mead) is just one of the brand’s four core flavors, alongside the Cosmic Bandito (blackberry and pineapple), Cheap Thrills (raspberry and coconut), and Mystic Vibration (watermelon and lemon).

The need for mead
To find out more about High Seas Mead, visit highseasmead.com. The brand is available locally at Los Olivos Grocery (2621 Highway 154, Santa Ynez), Rio Market Wine and Spirits (1051 Edison St., Santa Ynez), and R-Country Market (2948 Grand Ave., Los Olivos).

Based at a facility in Old Town Goleta, High Seas Mead produces about 25 barrels of organic, gluten-free mead a month, using fresh-pressed fruits and single-origin honey and without adding any sugars or preservatives. Beyond markets in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria, the brand is available at three locations in the Santa Ynez Valley: Rio Market Wine and Spirits, R-Country Market, and Los Olivos Grocery. 

High Seas founder Austin Corrigan hopes to expand distribution to markets in Los Alamos and even farther north to San Luis Obispo in the near future, he told the Sun

“Most mead makers produce mead that is quite sweet and higher alcohol, and I wanted to stray away from that.” Corrigan said. “I decided to craft all of our session sparkling meads at 6.9 percent ABV, fermented dry with all fruit pressed by hand in-house.

High Seas Mead, founded by Santa Barbara local Austin Corrigan, produces about 25 barrels of organic, gluten-free mead a month, using fresh-pressed fruits and single-origin honey and without adding sugars or preservatives.

“My idea was to take a modern approach to an ancient method and make mead more appealing and desirable for younger generations,” added Corrigan, whose process of dry fermentation was inspired by centuries-old traditions. 

This process leaves the meads with “a light, natural sweetness,” derived from the fresh-pressed fruits used. Using only organic and gluten-free ingredients, Corrigan described the final product just as healthy as it is delicious. 

“Uncompromised commitment to quality and taste is at the forefront of all we do,” Corrigan said. “Unlike other brands, we’ll tell you exactly what’s in our mead. Spoiler alert: It’s just organic, real ingredients.”

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Corrigan worked as a chef, consultant, and in other capacities for various restaurants before starting High Seas Mead near the end of 2018. The brand began as an experiment in Corrigan’s garage, while he was recovering from a shattered patella, a punctured femur, and other injuries.

The four core concoctions offered from High Seas Mead are the Meadacolada (pineapple and coconut), the Cosmic Bandito (blackberry and pineapple), Cheap Thrills (raspberry and coconut), and Mystic Vibration (watermelon and lemon).

“In November of 2018, I came home to Santa Barbara to visit the family for Thanksgiving and my birthday,” explained Corrigan, who was living in Wyoming at the time. “Just a day after arriving home, I was struck by a big truck head-on, which ultimately led to five days in the hospital.” 

Once an avid surfer, snowboarder, and overall adventurer in general, Corrigan’s former lifestyle “was toast,” he said.

“I was totally lost and had no idea what was to come next,” Corrigan said. “During my recovery, I had a close friend and trainer who had mentioned making mead, and since I had nothing else going on besides crutching around, I took him up on the idea and we started fermenting mead in my garage.”

As he dipped his toes into mead making for the first time, he learned that mastering the process was far from immediate, and Corrigan’s first attempts were hardly satisfactory, he admitted.

“Let’s just say the first batch needed work. But we kept trying and eventually made some pretty tasty meads,” said Corrigan, who spent most of 2019 honing his craft, despite a few challenging circumstances. “Working in my garage during summer with varying temps proved difficult to conquer recipes, but I still managed to make some good product.”

All the while, Corrigan was enjoying the experimentation process and contemplating whether or not to promote his newfound passion project into a potential business venture.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Austin Corrigan (pictured) worked as a chef, consultant, and in other capacities for various restaurants before jumping ship to High Seas Mead. The brand began as a passion project in Corrigan’s garage.

“I started doing research and saw a future market in mead. Seeing how hard kombucha and hard ciders were taking over the marketplace, I decided to keep experimenting with new methods of mead making,” he said. “After almost a year of mead making in my garage, I decided to fully commit and take the risk of starting my own business.

“I decided to put all of my savings into making a dream a reality, and found a facility in Old Town Goleta, which is where we are located now,” Corrigan said.

In another unexpected turn of events, Corrigan’s investment and big move from his garage to the new facility just happened to span the first few months of 2020. While the emerging crisis didn’t put his plans to a halt, alterations to Corrigan’s initial business model felt necessary.

“This transition was at the beginning of COVID-19, but I decided to keep pushing through and tilt to a distribution model due to the uncertain future for retail during the pandemic,” he explained. “In my head, it was seemingly a good idea because even though restaurants and the economy crashed, people were still buying beers, wines, ciders, and more.”

His hunch paid off as the High Seas Mead label continues to expand its reach of distribution along the Central Coast. Corrigan also confirmed there are some new flavors in the works.

“I am also working on a few new, seasonal flavors that I am over the moon with and can’t wait to share with the larger community,” Corrigan said. “They will be rockstars in our lineup and pair perfectly with summer weather.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wants to know your favorite sparkling beverage. Send comments to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.

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