The tagline for Moonlight Meadery, “romantic enough to share,” may seem overly saccharine until you spend any time listening to Michael Fairbrother talk about his product.
Just listen to the way Fairbrother dreamily describes the first time he tried mead, or honey wine, way back in 1995 at a monthly meeting of homebrewing enthusiasts.
“I was at one of these meetings and somebody offered me a cyser,” Fairbrother says. “I’d never had a cyser before and was too embarrassed to say that, so I passed my glass over. I said, ‘What’s this?’ He said, ‘Apple mead.’ I said, ‘What’s mead?’ He said, ‘A wine made from honey.’
“I used to be a beekeeper, and I love honey. If you’ve ever seen a little baby try something they love for the first time, their eyes light right up, and that’s what happened.”
In that context, Moonlight Meadery bottles with lovey names like Fling, Entice, Blissful, and Breathless make sense. Fairbrother really loves mead, and he thinks you will, too.
Evidence that humans drank mead in ancient times exists in written form; Aristotle and Pliny the Elder both wrote about the beverage. It is featured in “Beowulf,” and monks who kept up the practice of beekeeping often made mead as well.
The method of fermenting honey with water is so tried and true that updating the drink for modern times wasn’t so much about changing how it’s made as how it’s marketed. The craft beer boom of the late ’90s and early 2000s should have theoretically helped sell mead to modern customers, but Fairbrother says the decision to devote his life to the drink wasn’t an easy one.
“I looked at the marketplace in 2007 and realized there were a lot of breweries, but nobody was making great mead,” says Fairbrother. “The New Hampshire Liquor Commission told me not to ever quit my day job, but they’re one of my biggest customers now.”
Today, Moonlight Meadery is selling the romance from its Londonderry, N.H., tap room. Bottles range from $16 offerings like Wild, made with wild blueberries and presenting like a dry cabernet, to the $250 Utopian X, an orange blossom and wildflower honey blend aged for 10 years in Samuel Adams Utopias beer barrels. Fairbrother said he landed on that price point after seeing similarly priced bottles of Sauternes, a French sweet wine, and realizing he liked his drink better.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve had,” he says of the Utopian X. “I’ve shared a bottle with my father and I’ve shared a bottle with my son. I really do believe in my skills as an artist, with the technology behind it. The slight oxidation adds to the flavor like you might find in a really good Madeira or a port.”
Fairbrother admits his meads aren’t for everyone — I’ve tried several varieties, and beer lovers may find the meads cloying — but he’s found that the people who like mead really like mead. He says he often hears from women in particular telling him they’ve never found anything they’ve liked so much.
Moonlight Meadery’s Londonderry tap room is open seven days a week. The company also ships more than 70 meads to 39 states, including Massachusetts, via moonlightmeadery.com.