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I’ve said before that Portland, Maine is one of the best towns in the world for a beer lover, at least in terms of local breweries and bars. With Maine Mead Works in town, the city should get some acclaim in the minds of fans of another fermented beverage.
Mead is an interesting alcoholic animal, living in a place somewhere between beer and wine. One of the oldest known fermented beverages, mead is made by using yeast to ferment a mix of water and honey, often with additional grains, spices or fruits added. While I think the body and mouthfeel of mead are close to wine, the ingredients (grain, honey, and fruits and spices) are more similar to beer, as is the fermentation with yeast.
Maine Mead Works, which moved into a space on Anderson Street in November of 2007, has brought this ancient beverage to Portland. Longtime residents Eli Cayer and Ben Alexander are co-founders of the meadery, and have received help from South African mead-maker Garth Cambray. Cambray, who founded the Makana Meadery in 2001, provided design advice and a yeast strain to the fermentation-minded locals. The Anderson Street operation houses a state-of-the-art continuous fermentation system, and has been producing HoneyMaker Dry Mead since late last year. Recently, HoneyMaker Semi Sweet Mead has been added to the available lineup from the brewers. This summer will be the debut of HoneyMaker Blueberry Mead.
Like the growing chorus of drinkers before me, my first bottle of HoneyMaker Mead left me very impressed. The mead is uncarbonated, and poured a beautiful still gold. A strong, pleasant Maine honey smell floated out of the glass, and the flavor was full and sweet. Unlike some other mead I’ve had, the sweetness of the honey was well-balanced, rather than sticky-sweet or cloying. Even without carbonation, the dry mead had a pleasant crispness to it.
HoneyMaker Dry and Semi-Sweet Mead are available at a number of independent shops in the Portland area, as well as the local Whole Foods. If you’re a fan of wine, especially sweeter dessert wines, there is a lot to love about HoneyMaker. Likewise, fans of beer (especially extreme beer and sweeter ales) owe this “honey wine” a taste.