A new trend based on an ancient drink
Enjoy tasty bites along with mead at Sap House Meadery's pub in Center Ossipee. Photo by Jenn Bakos
What do you think of when you hear about mead, or see it on a drink menu? Perhaps the words sweet, fruity or ancient come to mind? Mead has been around for an estimated 9,000 years, with evidence dating back to the Greeks, Egyptians and Vikings. In its simplest form, it’s a fermented beverage made with honey, yeast and water, but many mead masters play with different fruits and ingredients to create more unique flavors and nuances. It can be classified in terms of alcohol level, sweetness, color and more. And, contrary to what its base ingredient — honey — may imply, mead is not at all overly sweet.
The mead industry has been rapidly growing, and now stands strong alongside brewers and winemakers. Those already passionate about brewing and fermenting have taken an interest in producing this drink. Maybe mead has become more popular to seasoned craft brewers and wine enthusiasts because it’s a different medium to experiment with, or simply from the love of discovering something that is old and making it new again. The growth may also be the result of brewers — a gregarious band by nature — sharing their knowledge with more and more people as they learn the process. According to the American Mead Makers Association, in 2017 a new meadery opened every three days, and the demand has grown immensely in recent years.
Want to expand your palate and see what the Granite State has to offer? Check out these three meaderies.
Ancient Fire Mead & Cider — Manchester
At Ancient Fire Mead & Cider in Manchester, you can order pints, tasters or a flight of four if you just can't decide. Photo by Jenn Bakos
Though Ancient Fire just opened its doors, Jason and Margot Phelps are already creating a buzz around town. Located in Manchester, they have spent about two years gearing up for this endeavor, and are excited to finally share their mead. After Jason was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 (and beat it), his wife asked him a life-changing question — what is it that you truly enjoy doing? The answer was making his own beer. This quickly turned into a true passion, and soon he was experimenting with cider and mead as well.
The couple learned quickly, thanks to having such a strong community of brewers and winemakers in the area who were always quick to help in any way. Jason believes the community that surrounds the mead, wine and beer scene is part of what makes it so special and fun to be a part of.
When you enter the tasting room, expect to feel right at home. It’s a comfortable place to sit and chat with others while you try the different flavors and snack on light food. Since their meads are made at a lower alcohol level, you can order a flight and try a variety or grab a pint of your favorite. Jason and Margot are always experimenting with new types of mead and love getting feedback on what they are working on.
If you haven’t tried mead before, Ancient Fire has a traditional mead on tap as well as Cruising Elm, which is made with Concord grapes, so it may be more familiar to the wine drinkers out there. If you want to get a little more bold with your tasting, try the Station 7 (named after the fire station in Manchester), which has a hot chili kick to it, or the Leaping Off the Ledge, made with lemon and hops (smells like an IPA but tastes floral and fresh).
Sap House Meadery — Center Ossipee
The new Jam Sesh canned mead by Sap House Meadery. Photo by Jenn Bakos
Nestled in the center of Ossipee and a short drive from the lakes and mountains sits a little historic building that the Sap House Meadery calls home. Cousins Matt Trahan and Ash Fischbein started the business back in 2009 after they saw the location was for sale. Fischbein had been making mead since the late ’90s and was hopeful to find a business partner to help him take it to the next level. After renovating, getting their wine manufacturers license and brewing up some mead, they opened in February of 2011. They operate on what they call a triple bottom line: to revitalize their town and community, make a consumable product that brings awareness to honeybees, farming and agriculture and, of course, remain profitable. Sap House meads are now distributed to eight states, and almost all of their meads have won international awards. Immerse yourself in the Sap House’s cozy and rustic environment while you grab a flight and choose from the signature, seasonal, barrel-aged or experimental flavors. The Club Mead is a fun and popular program to try. You get quarterly shipments of four bottles of mead. It also includes discounts at the shop and tasting room, as well as access to one-of-a-kind meads only available in the tasting room. Don’t forget to try their new canned Jam Sesh meads flavored with blueberry, apple and raspberry. If you stop in for a tasting or tour, they just launched their food menu to enjoy while drinking.
Moonlight Meadery — Londonderry
In addition to Moonlight Meadery's popular flavored meads, they are now producing hard cider as well. Stop in at the Londonderry tasting room for samples or a tour. Photo by Jenn Bakos
One of the larger meaderies in New Hampshire, Moonlight Meadery has produced more than 100 flavors of mead in the last seven years. Back in 1995, founder Michael Fairbrother tried mead for the first time and quickly became passionate about all things mead. He already had experience in home brewing beer, but sought the seemingly untapped market that mead had to offer. Fairbrother had a full-time software engineering business when he started the meadery in his garage, but as demand grew, he knew he would have to make a choice. He chose to jump in and go full-time as a brewer. When one of his meads won best in show at a regional home brew competition, things really started to gain traction.
With new opportunities and lots of room for growth, the business has remained a success ever since, with several of his meads winning awards year after year and a loyal and growing fan base. Now you can come in for group tours, private tours and even book your small event with the meadery. Try their popular Kurt’s Apple Pie mead, made with local apple cider and wildflower honey.