If asked to define the word brotherhood, one might think of a relationship with a sibling, or a fellowship like a fraternity. To the men and women who have signed the dotted line to join our nation’s armed forces, the term brotherhood has an unspoken, unbreakable bond evoking strength and loyalty.
One local business is built on the values of brotherhood and community, through the sharing of mead. Four "brothers"; Dan Luck, Chris Schulte, Bryan Becker, and Joe Luck, are the owners of Four Brothers Mead located in Festus. Two are brothers by blood, one by marriage, and all four brothers in arms. Dan served in the Air Force in 2003, and brother Joe enlisted to the Army in 2007. During his service as military police, Joe met Chris and Bryan, both enlisted Army. All the brothers have completed their obligation, with Chris returning home in February from his last tour of duty oversees.
Where does mead play into all of this? Upon Dan’s return home, he picked up brewing mead as a hobby. The passion and drive to perfect his recipe continued, and with each bottle produced, word of mouth spread. When he had reached a point where he'd reached his limits of home production, a choice had to be made. It was at that point, the four "brothers" decided to take it to the next level and start a mead house. Each "brother" representing a background of Celtic, Norse, Germanic and Saxon heritage that shaped the foundation of the business. Their partnership built a business with a mission statement to use mead to bring people together from all backgrounds to share in the values of friendship and community as channeled through Old Norse tradition. They keep active with community give backs to organizations like Back stoppers, Mission 22 and the Valhalla Ride Project, charities supporting veterans and first responders who are in need to help due to combat PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other veteran-related issues.
Mead has always been cited as a common drink for the wounded and wondering soldiers in mythical tales, while also evoking spirited sharing of battle tales. The Norse god Odin even had a goat, Heidrun, that endlessly provided mead to the Valkyries. The four “brothers” pay homage to these Norse legends with mead names like Aesir Moon, Odins Hrafn, and Drengrs Fortune to name a few. They also host a bi-annual Viking Festival in April and October, drawing crowds into downtown Festus dressed in traditional Viking costumes. A throne room adorns their mead house for immortals to sit upon and drink the nectar of the gods.
While mead is portrayed as a heavenly drink, it is something that can be found naturally in a beehive that has taken in water, and is consider among one of the first alcoholic beverages, dating back 8,000 years. Despite all of the barbaric features surrounding this drink, it is technically classified as a honey wine. Making a modern day mead simply requires yeast, honey, water and time. The mead produced at Four Brothers use locally sourced honey, allowing the flavors of native flowers, grains and fruits to create the profile within the mead. Not a drink for the faint of heart, mead has a high 16% abv, which makes their sample flight of 2 oz. pours an all day affair, featuring traditional flavors, summer berry options like blackberry or strawberry, and even an autumn apple pie flavored mead. They also have two mead collaborations with other veteran-owned business, a coffee mead partnered with Got your 6* Coffee roasted out of Springfield, Missouri, and a maple mead using Summit Maples Farm’s maple syrup from Vermont.
Aside from the mead, the four "brothers" aim to help serve other Veterans by acting as a voice for veteran-owned businesses. Recently, they attended a congressional round table in Washington D.C to share their story, their product, and give voice to the opportunities and ways to support veteran-owned businesses. Of the roughly 35,000, Veteran owned business nationally, only 14 were selected to participate in this opportunity.
The military world and civilian world are often two different places to live. But in a tiny mead house off the Main Street of Festus, that feeling of brotherhood embraces you, one mead drink at a time.