Photo © Celestial Meads
By Jason Brick
It was probably inevitable. The Northwest led the trend of microbrewing, then of boutique wineries, and recently moved on to craft spirits and ciders. With the rest of the country catching up once again, some Northwesterners have turned their eye toward mead. Tiny craft meaderies are now popping up throughout the region like… well, like bee hives popping up in a field of wildflowers.
Mead is made by fermenting honey with water, and mead makers often add fruits, spices, grains and/or hops to change the taste, nose and mouth feel. Archaeological chemists are reasonably sure that mead was the first fermented beverage made by man.
The Northwest’s meadery population isn’t on par with our brewery count or even our craft spirits roster, but it has become robust enough that you can find one in most cities and even in rural hubs. Here are four with strong reputations.
Mace Mead Works, Dayton, Washington
Owner Reggie Mace considers himself a purist; he conditions his meads in stainless steel so there is little aging to the profile. Though he delivers some special releases to “club members” he’s mostly about traditional style dry meads. You can find Mace meads in bottle shops like Beer Junction in Seattle and Portland’s Mead Market, and on draft in Seattle area pubs. macemeadworks.com
Nectar Creek, Corvallis, Oregon
Before opening Nectar Creek, Phillip Lorenz spent eight years as a commercial beekeeper. His meadery produces session meads: crisper beverages with lower alcohol content and a little bit of carbonation, intended for drinking more like beer or cider. He distributes throughout Oregon and Washington to upscale groceries like New Seasons and Whole Foods. nectarcreekhoneywine.com
Celestial Meads, Anchorage, Alaska
Despite the challenges of sourcing honey in the far north, Michael Kiker’s outfit produces a wide variety of meads from dry to sweet, aged in everything from stainless steel to bourbon barrels, and tends to give them quirky names like “Afterglow” and “Cyser Does Matter.” Celestial was the first mead to be carried by Shelton Brothers Importing, and ships internationally. celestialmeads.com
Camas Prairie Winery, Moscow, Idaho
Jeremy Ritter doesn’t think “dry” when he sees honey or fruit, so his meads tend to be sweet, but not overpoweringly so. His winery produces regular, fruit and spiced meads, with the Huckleberry Mead outselling all his other wines. They distribute throughout Idaho and into Southeast Washington. camasprairiewinery.com