Auvergne is no stranger to alchemy. Its most famous alchemist — a wizardly friar from Cantal named Jean de Roquetaillade (also known as John of Rupescissa) — died over six hundred years ago, but not before developing a reputation as a formidable prophet. Like his cowled peers across medieval Europe — tinkering away behind lancet windows with their flasks and crucibles — Roquetaillade passionately investigated substances he believed could enhance the body as well as the mind.
In a way, Roquetaillade’s passion lives on in the work of Fabien Kaczmarek — the master brewer behind Hydromel Apis Terrae. Situated inside a Renaissance-era cellar in Marcolès, Cantal — Roquetaillade’s hometown — Hydromel Apis Terrae produces a variety of award-winning hydromel (mead). A former restaurateur, Kaczmarek’s journey as a master brewer began in 2013 when he got his first taste of Madagascan honey. “I bought honey from there and became an addict,” he told me. “After that, I started to make mead for my customers.”
Kaczmarek obtains many of his ingredients from the Chataigneraie area of Cantal, an ecologically diverse region that’s especially famous for its chestnuts. “Cantal is just a beautiful land to work in”, he said. “And of course my best traditional mead is Hydromel Apis Terrae’s ‘Grand Reserve’, which is aged in chestnut barrels.”
Kaczmarek also spoke to me about another concoction — “H20” — a sparkling, low-alcohol mead. “It’s an amazing apéritif, perfect to drink with friends during the summer and at festivals.”