On a bright summer afternoon at All-Wise Meadery, in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, actor-turned-brewer Dylan Sprouse chats with a young woman who seems to have come, primarily, to catch a glimpse of him. Pouring a sample of his signature mead, he notes the lore behind the label’s design—eight dots surrounded by a large circle, which represent the nine realms of Norse cosmology. In the noonday sun, it’s hard to miss his glittering accessories: a ring emblazoned with a wolf’s head and a pendant in the shape of Thor’s hammer. In this corner of Brooklyn, Vikings are back, and so is mead, their drink of choice.
Sprouse, 26, wants to honor that lineage in an authentic way; he quickly acknowledges mead’s kitschy place in the “Renaissance fair scene” and avers that it’s “something I want to move away from—big time.” A precocious home brewer, Sprouse first made mead—a cousin of beer, produced from fermented honey—a decade ago, at age 16. (He and his twin brother, Cole, were starring in The Suite Life on Deck, a spin-off of their hit Disney Channel series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.) By then, he’d already begun to research heathenry, a modern religious movement based on pre-Christian spiritual practices from Northern Europe and the genesis of his interest in mead, an important element in many a heathen ceremony. “I was interested in having a faith,” he says, leaning forward in sincerity.
All-Wise, which opened its doors this spring, offers two meads, both made with honey from Tremblay Apiaries, near New York’s Finger Lakes. Sprouse dismisses artificially sweetened meads as a misguided late-20th-century effort to distinguish the beverage, which is sometimes referred to as honey wine. “It should taste distinctly like honey if the yeast has eaten through all of the sugar content,” Sprouse explains. “I like it to sit comfortably between a beer and a wine.”
Sprouse’s standard offering, All-Wise Show Mead, is pleasantly floral, while the Oolong Mead is the product of a stranger alchemy, like a boozy iced tea straight from Asgard. Both are dry and light, like sake. All-Wise has plans to eventually serve them at a bar beneath its Brooklyn location; in the meantime, both are available online and at the meadery, where Sprouse himself may lead you through a tasting. “I could have continued home-brewing for the rest of my life,” he says. But the mead was too good not to share. “In truth, I have a lot of booze at my house.”
Born and raised in the District of Columbia, Molly McArdle now lives in New York City. She has written about Star Trek conventions, Yoruban separatist communities, climate change on the Outer Banks, and the American book world in all its complexity, among many other subjects, for GQ, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic, Atlas Obscura, Oxford American, Bookforum, Popular Science, and more.