Discovering Ancient Libations
Sample the drink of Vikings on the NC Mead TrailBy Jodi Helmer
Beekeeper Aron Wehr gives credit to the busy bees that transform nectar into the thick, sweet honey he uses to make mead at Wehrloom Honey.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the bees,” he says.
Mead is believed to be the oldest alcoholic libation, the drink of Vikings and medieval knights. It’s often referred to as honey wine, and it does share similarities to grape wine, including multiple sweetness levels from sweet to dry, but it can also be fermented with ingredients like hops and grains that are commonly associated with beer. Regardless of the brewing style, honey is always the base ingredient.
There are more than 450 mead producers in the United States, up from just 30 in 2003, according to the American Mead Makers Association. The number of mead makers in North Carolina is increasing, too.
The North Carolina Mead Alliance created the NC Mead Trail (ncmead.org), a self-guided tour of local meaderies across the state. Visiting the taprooms offers a chance to learn about mead — it can take up to three pounds of honey to produce a single gallon of mead — and sample the ancient beverage.
“There is a misconception that mead is thick, syrupy and sweet,” Aron says. “The mead we make is much more like beer or cider.”
There are 10 stops on the NC Mead Trail:
In Asheville, Wehrloom Honey uses honey from its 150 beehives (plus honey from local beekeepers) to make mead that ranges from dry to fruity. The Dry County Dry, a traditional mead made with water, yeast, oak cubes and honey, is among the most popular. Order a mead flight to taste multiple varieties.
Honeysuckle Meadery in Carrboro incorporates local ingredients such as honey, roasted peanuts, raspberries and paw paws to create its farm-to-bottle meads while the herb-infused meads at Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro incorporate fresh lemon balm, lavender and chamomile.
Orange blossom, clover and wildflower are among the most popular honey varieties used in the meads made by Good Road Ciderworks in Charlotte. The mead makers even import honey from Zambia to make their T’Ej mead — a blend of honey, hops, Earl Grey tea and black pepper.
The bourbon barrel-aged wildflower mead at Honeygirl Meadery in Durham is an off-dry, small batch beverage that is aged in bourbon barrels for months. The meadery also makes Maplewood mead with local wildflower honey and maple syrup aged in oak barrels.
The mountain region boasts the biggest concentration of meaderies on the NC Mead Trail. Spend the day tasting mead at Noble Taproom and Cidery in Asheville, Point Lookout Vineyards in Hendersonville, and Black Mountain Ciderworks in Black Mountain. Keeper’s Cut Meadery in Marion has a Mead hall for hosting special events. And at Fox Hill Meadery in Marshall, mead maker
Jason Russ’ spiced mead combines allspice, cinnamon, orange zest, cloves and, of course, honey. The award-winning beverage is meant to be warmed up and sipped like hot cider.
Even North Carolina wineries are making mead. Point Lookout Vineyards in Hendersonville produces traditional meads and cyser, mead made from a blend of honey and apples.
Black Mountain Ciderworks & Meadery
104 Eastside Dr. #307
Black Moutain, NC 28711
Fox Hill Meadery
33 Selby Ct,
Marshall NC 28753
105 Hood St #6
Durham NC 27701
601-W Main St
Carrboro, NC 27510
Keeper’s Cut Meadery
175 W Henderson St.
Marion, NC 28752
130 Lorax Ln
Pittsboro, NC 27312
257 Willie Colvin Rd,
Robbinsville NC 28771
117 Southside Dr
Charlotte, NC 28217
Noble Taproom and Cidery
356 New Leicester Hwy
Asheville, NC 28806
Point Lookout Vineyards
408 Appleola Rd
Hendersonville NC 28792
About the AuthorJodi Helmer writes about food and farming in North Carolina and beyond.
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