In 2017, Travis Sigler and Tayler Toll walked into a closet with a vat of honey.
The Mead Market on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard had recently shuttered its doors, and with it went Sigler and Toll's supply of mead. The two relied on the fermented nectar to authenticate their medieval-themed barbecues. So naturally, they sought to rectify the loss and put some honey in a wardrobe to ferment in a cool, dark, environment.
Six weeks later, Sigler and Toll emerged with the first bottle of Wyrd mead. In the years following, Sigler and Toll grew their operation beneath the clothes hangers into a meadery in Milwaukie and, now, into a proper drinking hall at Southeast 41st Avenue and Holgate Boulevard. Joined by Doug Wingate, founder of McMinnville's Mac Mead Hall, the three aim to celebrate all things mead and medieval.
At Wyrd Leather and Mead, you can wear your horn and drink from it too—it is both a meadery and artisan marketplace, and gives guilds from all over town a fantastical place to gather. You can listen to Nordic folk group Wardruna's greatest hits, read the runic alphabet, purchase a leather-bound clamp to secure your drinking horn to the table, and warm your hands by one of two fires, all before the water is brought to your table.
The hall's décor blends Norse history and medieval fantasy, and Middle Earth with modern-day environmental pleas. There's a handmade replica of the armor King Theoden wore in The Lord of the Rings standing next to a table full of totes that read "Save the Fucking Bees." It is a space for heathens, cheese-eaters, pirates, LARPers, pagans, metalheads, and anyone else who appreciates a sustainably fermented beverage. As Sigler puts it, "It's kind of a catchall place of everything that we enjoy."
Wyrd ferments its mead on the premises, but you can only taste the namesake elixir if you buy it in a bottle. The semisweet traditional mead ($25 a bottle) is the base of many of Wyrd's flavored varieties. Fermented on Norwegian yeast, it tastes like a plump golden raisin.
It's fitting, if deceptive, that Wyrd's own mead isn't the star of the menu. The owners are intent on highlighting what they call the "mead alliance": a tight, yet growing number of meaderies in the Pacific Northwest. As Wingate points out, "There's a broad spectrum of flavor profiles that we want to be available in Portland." That range runs both dry to sweet and sessionable to boozy. In the future, Wyrd will offer everything from sipping meads to Braggot, a carbonated malted mead that sits at 6% ABV, perfect for a pint-sized goblet.
For now, working through the inaugural menu is simple. First, decide how you'll take your mead. Pick your own flight of four regionally brewed meads, or "cast the runes" and have the bartenders choose for you. Then decide how you'll take your meat. You can have it on a board, alongside cheese, pickles, bread and pepper jelly made by Milwaukie's Half Pints Jelly. You can have it in a $6 sandwich or a beef stew akin to what you'd find at a post-plunder feast in the 800s.
As to why folks should descend into this cavernous hall, Toll cites the drink's positive environmental impact. "Supporting mead makers helps support local beekeepers," he explains.
For Sigler, it's the novelty: "Nothing like us exists in Portland."
Wyrd Leather and Mead, 4515 SE 41st Ave., 503-305-6025, wyrdleatherandmead.com. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday, 5 pm-10 pm Sunday.