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February 17, 2013

Moonlight Honey

Romance comes by the glass in Londonderry, where the ancient craft of making mead is alive and thriving

Driving up to the Moonlight Meadery, which is housed in an industrial complex just off I-93, your mind is far from sprawling vineyards and ancient traditions. As soon as you walk through the door, however, you are transported to such places.

“High guys,” chimes a staff member. “Welcome.”

As the staff finishes a tasting, new visitors are encouraged to look around the showroom, which is stacked high with small bottles with names like “Desire” and “Mischief.” The smell of honey, with a touch of alcohol, permeates the room.

The Moonlight Meadery got its start in 2010 in the garage of founder and mead-maker Michael Fairbrother. Despite the fact that most people are not quite sure what mead is, the operation quickly outgrew the garage. Fairbrother moved into one, then two blocks in this industrial complex.

Now, “We’re ready to outgrow the facility again,” he says. “I want to build a bigger facility, with more draw for the tour, and maybe a bistro. I want people to make a trip out of it.”

Thousands of visitors already are making the trip to Moonlight Meadery to learn about mead, an alcohol made from honey. For fermentation to occur, yeast need to feed on sugar. For beers, this sugar comes from cereals; for wine, it comes from grapes; for mead, it comes from honey.

The purest meads are made with just honey and water, although the Moonlight Meadery crafts recipes that include everything from chocolate to spicy chilies.

Although it is not well known today, mead is the oldest type of alcohol. Ancient hunter-gatherers collected honey and covered it with water to keep bees away. With time, this mixture fermented and became mead. The drink is depicted in ancient cave paintings and mentioned in classic texts, such as “Beowulf.”

Today, many home brew experts and wine drinkers are rediscovering mead.

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