Nectar Creek Honeywine, a new Corvallis meadery, placed third in the KLCC Microbrew Festival’s People’s Choice Award this month. The awarded brew was their Ginger Session Mead, a refreshing honeywine with a bit of kick.
Mead tends to conjure thoughts of sweet, thick wine. But a sip of Nectar Creek didn’t transport me to the renaissance faire or make me hanker for turkey legs. It’s fragrant and drinkable and could easily get in rotation next to cider as a satisfying alternative to beer. And like cider, it’s gluten free.
Willamette Valley wildflower honey from Queen Bee Honey Company, water, and yeast are the only ingredients in Nectar Creek’s Wildflower Session Mead.
“The source of our honey is important to us,” said Phillip Lorenz, co-founder of Nectar Creek. “Mead is a simple thing. It’s water and honey so it’s important to us to buy fresh, local, high quality honey.”
The meadery’s other two current offerings, Raspberry and Ginger Session Meads, include local white clover honey, raspberries, and organic ginger.
The brewing process is as straightforward as the ingredients. It starts with warming the honey to make it more viscous—but never above 100 degrees.
“We never want to heat it above the temperature in the beehive,” Phillip said. “There are a lot of volatile components in honey but if you heat the honey you cook them off.”
Cooking off volatile components would mean losing subtle aromas and flavors. After the honey is heated, it’s mixed with filtered well water and fermented for a few weeks. Then it’s filtered into a bright or conditioning tank and carbonated. Finally, it’s bottled or kegged: a process done almost entirely by hand. Both Phillip and his brother, Nectar Creek Honeywine co-founder Nick Lorenz, are personally involved in every step.
And despite being made entirely of honey, their mead is not overly sweet.
“There’s about half as much residual sugar in our mead as a pale ale,” said Phillip. “It’s perceived as a lot sweeter because there are no hops…I don’t want to drink something that’s sweet. The American palette likes dry wine.”
But the brothers didn’t get into mead-making looking for the next big thing to tease the American palette. Phillip said that he and his brother always had a dream to run a business together.
“We wanted it to be a farm. We’ve always been interested in creating a product that people can consume year-round,” Phillip said. “We wanted to have our own bees but it’s not really possible to run two businesses at once when you’re as young as we are and have limited resources.”
Phillip is 26 and Nick is 22. Phillip added, “We’re working towards having a farm and growing some percentage of our ingredients.”
Both brothers have been brewing for years and Phillip was a beekeeper until last fall, when they started brewing and selling their mead. Phillip said that since they started brewing in September half the battle has been explaining to people what mead is. Tell anyone about the new meadery in town and they’re likely to ask you, “What kind of meat?”
“There’s a growing trend in craft beverages, but we’re all still 30 years behind the craft beer industry,” said Phillip.
As of now, there’s only one meadery in Eugene, one in Bend, and one slated to open in Portland.
“It’s such a small percentage of the market, I wouldn’t even call the mead market a niche market,” added Phillip. “We’re working to create a niche market.”
Nectar Creek will open their tasting room on March 2nd at 33848 SE Eastgate Circle off Highway 34 (where 2 Towns used to live). It will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from noon to 6 pm. In the meantime, find Nectar Creek Honeywine in stores and bars throughout town including both First Alternative Co-ops, Bi-Mart on 9th, University Market, Market of Choice, 2 Towns Tap Room, Downtown American Dream, Les Caves, Downward Dog, and Bombs Away Cafe. Find them online at http://nectarcreekhoneywine.com/.
by Lana Jones