I am a sucker for local businesses–especially when it comes to food–and have been so lucky to use Eastern Market as my grocery store and have so many farm-to-table restaurants nearby.
A few months ago, I began hearing buzz (see what I did there) about Charm City Meadworks, a local meadery based in Baltimore. My friend Andrew and his friend James (who has been meadmaking for 6 years!) run the whole operation…which is pretty impressive considering Andrew has still been doing his full time job here in DC.
I had never actually had mead before, only heard stories of how good it was from my mom upon her return from Scotland a few years ago (and I’m surprised she isn’t still raving about it/trying to make it in tupperware in her closet). Mead was also the drink of choice in the medieval computer game I used to play (#nerd) and according to Wikipedia is often seen as the ancestor of all fermented drinks (so all my favorites–beer, wine, champagne…).
In my last few weeks of Washington living, I pestered Katie (co-owner of Biker Barre & Andrew’s fiancée) and Andrew endlessly to get a taste of the mead before I left. After a sketchy trade of mead for M&Ms in Stanton Park, I was equipped with the original dry and rosemary flavors in their super cute bottles (I love the logo).
Though mead is a honey wine, it can sometimes include hops and other flavors, like rosemary. CCMW makes theirs with honey from a few of their own beehives (they have six on the Eastern Shore) as well as from Dutch Gold in Pennsylvania. The beauty of this mead is its simplicity, using just honey, yeast, water, and sometimes additional flavors–Andrew told me they experimented with everything from aloe to vanilla flavors, and should have an elderberry one soon (which maybe will be available in France? maybe?).
After the honey ferments with the yeast and water, the mead is put into oak barrels where it is aged for several months, losing some of the taste of the alcohol and gaining the earthy oak flavor from the barrels. Before landing on the perfect recipe to bottle, Andrew said they went through two rounds of testing with 20 different five gallon batches. That, my friends, is a lot of mead.
As a mead n00b, I didn’t really know what to expect (and was definitely not expecting the 12% ABV). At first it tasted like wine with an aftertaste that reminded me of beer, which kind of makes sense based on how it is made (I think the beer taste was from the fermentation). I was expecting it to be more syrupy than it was (thus why I am not a mead maker) and it was definitely a lot less sweet than I was anticipating. There is just the right amount of honey flavor to complement the dryness–it is a really light drink, which I liked, especially when it is so hot and humid outside! I really liked the rosemary flavor (maybe more than the original), which I was a little surprised by because usually rosemary flavored/scented things remind me of roasted chicken (right, though?!). The rosemary itself blends really well with the honey.
Plus, the bottles make for pretty good models 😉
Where to find Charm City Meadworks*:
Baltimore friends, you are in luck! You can buy (and taste) the mead at the Fells Point Farmers Market on Saturdays, or get it at The Wine Source, Canton Crossing Wine and Spirits, and Rocket to Venus.
If you are local in DC, you can get it by the glass at Sona on Capitol Hill (also get their mac and cheese, delish), City Tap House, Glen’s Garden Market, Each Peach Market, Boundary Road, Red Hen, and Batch 13.
*this is an evolving list!
Disclaimer: I traded M&Ms for the two bottles of mead I received, but I’d buy it, too 😉