As of late, the growth of craft ciders has been inundating the libation market. It’s easily the fastest rising craft beer alternative, and one you can find at almost any bar. Cider, however, is not the only beer alternative that is on the rise. Craft meads have been slowly making a name for themselves; and despite the difficulty of selling them in Pennsylvania, meads are starting to find themselves behind the bar at an ever-growing list of pubs and breweries.
Considering the drink’s history, it’s surprising how long it’s taking mead to hit the public eye. The history of mead is traced back to the ancient times of Europe, Africa and Asia, but it’s not until recently that people have once again started to take notice. A simple beverage at its core, mead is just a fermented mixture of honey and water, though a mixture of fruits, spices, grains and hops is usually added to the honey. The alcohol percentage is typically in the teens but can range anywhere from 8% into the 20s.
If it weren’t for the fact that mead is considered a wine and has to be distributed through Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shops (in the same means as ciders above 5.5% ABV), you would probably see a lot more mead when you’re out. Despite this, there are still a surprising amount of meaderies opening, one of which is Allentown’s The Colony Meadery.
Started by Greg Heller-LaBelle and Michael Manning, Colony opened its doors in October of 2013, as just the third meadery operation in Pennsylvania. The goal was to provide a new, innovative take on mead, using flavors not typical to the honey-based wine. With this desire for bold innovation in mind, Colony’s core family of meads includes WOOFIEDOG, a dry mead hopped with Cascade and other American hops; and Mo-Me-Doh, a semi-sweet mead made with mint and lime. Their seasonal offerings are limited to just one at the moment, Beso Exotico, a luchador inspired mead consisting of chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne.
A visit to their tasting room in Allentown will showcase a variety of test batches as they work on future releases. At the moment, the tasting room is also the only place where you can purchase bottles for home consumption. However, it is starting to show up at more and more bars, with Round Guys Brewery in Lansdale, PA and the Hulmeville Inn, in Hulmeville, PA being two local accounts regularly offering these meads by the glass.
Though open for less than a year, Colony is already leading the way for another local meadery to open its doors: Haymaker Meadery in Montgomeryville, PA. Between these and Stonekeep in Birdsboro, PA, which opened in 2008, the presence of mead in the market is certain to continue to rise, and it’s only a matter of time before we see a mead tap lined up next to that cider tap.