From Spotlight to Moonlight

The Half Past crew (along with our friend and photographer for the day, Vicky Salch) drove up to NH to visit a modern meadery that’s bringing a vintage beverage back into fashion.

We discovered Moonlight Meadery at the annual Harvest Fest in Salem, MA. Their company produces Mead (wine made from honey, not grapes) and hard ciders. Their mead line-up at the festival was impressive, but we were shocked to see how many different flavors and kinds of mead they produce when we visited their tasting room and production facility in Londonderry.

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Who is Moonlight Meadery?

Michael Fairbrother noticed his male friends enjoyed his home brews, but his female friends didn’t seem to feel the excitement. Soon after he happened upon a Cyzer (mead made with apple cider) and his life changed forever. Fairbrother finally found a drink that would unite all of his friends.

In 2010, he launched the Moonlight Meadery LLC after winning Meadmaker of the Year at the New England Regional Home Brewers Competition. Now, Moonlight Meadery beverages can be found in 30 states and internationally in Australia and Japan.

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How does Moonlight make their brand of mead? 

The production facility receives honey in 3200 lb boxes that are then heated to 80°F so that the liquid honey can be pumped into fermentation tanks. The large quantity of honey is then mixed with water and yeast. Moonlight specifically uses White Wine Yeast to start the process. The fermentation is heavily regulated in large metal tanks because the chemical reaction naturally produces sulfites and heat. If the temperature gets too high, it ferments into toxic alcohol.

The fermented mixture is then transferred to giant plastic tanks to age for 1 to 3 months. In these tanks,  the meadery adds aromatics like cinnamon, vanilla, peppers, etc.  Barrel aged meads are transferred to old beer or whiskey oak barrels instead of plastic to age. These meads can age 10+ years like their Utopian mead, which is aged for 5 years in former Samuel Adams beer casks.

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Next, the mead is filtered to remove dead yeast and sediment. On our tour, we discovered the meadery’s new filtering machine costs $90,000 and filters 400 gallons of mead an hour.

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Moonlight Meadery produces 45+ different kinds of mead, including two new apple ciders. The tasting room has 29 meads currently on the menu which are divided into 7 categories that range from dry to sweet in style.

We did the Tour & Tasting option, which allowed us to taste one mead from each category after the tour.  We cheated a bit and shared our samples, so we got to try 21 meads and their ‘Them Little Apples’ cider. For tasting and tour prices check out their website.

21 is obviously a lot of mead, so which ones stood out the most? Get ready for the Half-Past inside scoop!

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Moondance

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Moondance is a pyment style mead (mead made with honey and grapes) aged in oak casks for 2 years. They decided to use Riesling grapes for this dry style mead. It was crisp, floral, nutty, and light and a perfect starter mead to buy that will introduce you slowly to this wine style. Its the wine lovers mead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meadowfoam

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Nothing beats the classics!

Meadowfoam is a traditional style mead and is the perfect representation of this ancient beverage. If you have never tried mead before or maybe never even heard of if before this post, we recommend that you try this bottle. Its made from 100% orange blossom honey, moderately sweet, and won the silver medal in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Kurt’s Apple Pie

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Holy yum, this is their gold medal winner cyzer style mead that literally tastes like classy liquid apple pie. It’s produced with local apple cider, Madagascar-bourbon vanilla, and Vietnamese cinnamon. Why bake a pie when you can drink it?

 

 

 

 

Wild

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It’s a match made in heaven: blueberries and honey. This mead is made with unprocessed wildflower honey and wild grown mountain NH blueberries. Technically it’s a dry style mead but we would say that its juicy, fruity, fresh, and coats your mouth in berry flavor.

 

 

 

 

Mojo

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Get saucy with this Latin inspired mead. It has lime and mint flavors that pair surprisingly well with honey. We know how hard wine pairing is with spicy food, but luckily Moonlight has already figured it out.

 

 

 

 

 

So, we tasted all we could and gave you some recommendations. But you’re probably wondering which mead stole the show………drum roll please…..

Smolder

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We are resisting making a Tangled reference here, but this mead is spicy, sweet, fruity, rich, and smooth. We personally took home bottles after our tasting.  This is a controlled, sweet heat that may not be as intimidating as you think. A sip greets you with sweet, fruity flavors, but the spice increases on the palate the longer you hold the it on your tongue. Once you swallow the heat releases, leaving no spice on the tongue as the raspberry flavor returns. It’s fun, warm, and definitely worth a try.

 

 

After the tasting was over, we got an behind the scenes look at the company’s current ideas for their rebrand. They hope to do away with old full moon logo to welcome a more modern and sleek design. Here’s a comparison shot to give you the idea.

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Even though the mead bottles are only 375ml (half the size of a standard wine bottle), you can expect to pay anywhere between $15 and $22 per bottle.  Each bottle will last 2 weeks at room temperature or 1 month in the refrigerator after opening. We highly recommend that you visit their tasting room or attend an event where Moonlight Meadery is in attendance before you buy. Even ‘dry’ style mead may still seem sweet to your average wine drinker.

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We hope you enjoyed our review of Moonlight Meadery. If you stop by let us know what you think! We’ll see you soon!

Stay Thirsty!

 

 

 

 

What Exactly is Honey Wine?

If I said mead, you probably say: what? Or immediately think of the Canterbury Tales. Either way, mead isn’t a common or familiar word in our day in age. But modern wine and beer experts are bringing it back because, at it’s core, mead is honey wine. 

Mead consists of three simple ingredients: yeast, honey, and water.

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If you think the concept of drinking boozy honey is weird, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that mead predates wine. And by a lot. Mead dates back as far as 20,000 years ago with ties to 7000 BC China.

Mead is so old, we don’t even know its origin story. Historians guess that it was accidentally concocted as a result of ancient honey-storing techniques. It’s theorized that honey was kept in pots with a layer of water on top to keep away lazy bees (why pollinate when the honey’s sitting right there in a bucket?) It’s likely that the water naturally attracted wild yeasts that then fermented the honey water. 

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Mead was the original wingman

The term”honeymoon” is actually derived from the tradition of providing newlyweds with enough mead to last an entire month or to the next full moon. Honey wine for a month = honeymoon.

The hope was that the bride and groom were more likely to produce offspring with the help of a mead-induced buzz. Not exactly romantic, but probably practical in the days of planned marriages, especially those specifically arranged to create heirs.

But let’s get back to the drink in hand

Mead is around 75% water and 25% honey. It’s fruity brother, Cyzer, swaps water for apple cider.

There are three common types of mead:

Hydromil = This mead is usually carbonated with 10-15% honey by volume (hbv), which ferments into 3-7% alcohol

Standard = This is usually a still mead with 15-20% hbv, which makes 7 – 14% abv.

Sack = This is a syrupy dessert mead with  50% hbv and 14% abv. Unfortunately, the extra alcohol also comes with additional tax, so sacks are a bit more rare at independent meaderies. 

Want mead? SAVE THE BEES!

Good meaderies respect the bees and use certified honey. This means only 15% of the total hive honey is extracted for commercial use. If more than 15% of the honey is extracted, it can cause hive collapse; this is when bees abandon their home. Overuse of honey  directly affects the survival of honeybees. 

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80% of honey in the US is produced in North and South Dakota. Bees are loaded with their hives into giant semi-trucks and brought around the country to pollinate crops. Not all honey is pure however, China and Thailand have been caught producing fake honey (made from high fructose corn syrup) in response to the bee and honey crisis, so mead-makers have to be careful  to avoid fake honey. 

What else do I need to know about mead?

Just like wine, mead can be mixed with other flavors to create unique tastes! Common flavors include apple, cinnamon, vanilla, and fruits (blueberry, raspberry, etc).

Stay tuned for an article on Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, NH, for an exclusive on local mead culture and flavors!

CC Attribution: “Honey Bee” by John (cygnus921 @flickr)