A couple of days before my birthday last week, one of the folks over at Maine Mead Works came by the bakery where my husband works, and mentioned that they did mead tastings at their new store front on Washington Avenue. When Andrew told me about his conversation, I added the mead tasting to the things I wanted to do on my birthday.
Their storefront and tasting area welcomed us with a line up of mead. Everyone who worked there was super friendly and helpful, and showed passion about what they were working with. The gentleman behind the counter lined up the mead for us, and let us linger over a sip of each variety.
I admit: after my first mead tasting experience, I thought that the meads that weren't dry were going to be overly sweet and leave me with a funny taste in my mouth. I was in for a surprise -- each wine was gentle in flavor, tasting both bright and sweet in a balanced way. I could tell that each bottle had been created as a labor of love, because each variety tasted intentional, there was no masking of taste with overpowering sweetness, but yet a deliberate balance of flavors was evident in every sip.
Of the six meads that we tried, the ones that intrigued me the most were the lavender mead and the elderberry mead. Lavender is known for its relaxing properties, and sounded like it would make the perfect night cap. Elderberry is a pretty little purple fruit that helps to keep your immune system strong and functional, especially in the winter.
When I took my first sip of the lavender mead, I was struck by how smooth it tasted. Warm, fresh, with hints of sweet fruit, this mead uses lavender that is grown locally. As I guessed, it was lovely and refreshing to drink. I've had lavender tea before, and it left a bitter taste in my mouth, but only good things lingered on my tongue after I sampled this mead.
The elderberry mead was more dry and full-flavored, and also was made from local elderberries. It reminded me of a nice red wine: sophisticated, earthy, and warming with a hint of spice. I felt like it would hold up nicely alongside some hearty lentil or quinoa dishes, maybe ones garnished with dried cranberries or currants.
Maine Mead Works is located on 51 Washington Avenue in Portland, Maine, and is open for tastings from 11am to 6pm and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm, or by appointment. You can also find their mead for sale online here, where they ship to 16 states.