PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County now has a new place to enjoy fermented beverages as The Mead Werks meadery in Port Townsend offers a preview of what’s been brewing.
For now the mazery, located at Wilderbee Farm at 223 Cook Ave. Ext., has limited hours and serves only from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, but its owners Eric and Casey Reeter are preparing for a grander opening this spring.
“It’s kind of a soft opening,” Eric said while standing in the newly-finished tasting room. “It keeps things mellower and gives us the opportunity to warm up into things and see how the space works with people coming and going.”
This Saturday will be the fourth weekend the meadery has been open.
The tasting room was finished in early January and some finishing touches are still needed on the production side of the building.
Casey, who developed the business plan, said the goal is to expand hours this spring. Wilderbee Farm opens in May, she said, so it would likely happen around then.
Mead, similar to wine, is a fermented beverage made using honey. The mead that is now available at The Mead Werks has been in production for about 1.5 years, Eric said.
Currently the meadery is offering traditional dry, sweet and semi-sweet meads, as well as bourbon-barrel-aged sweet and semi-sweet meads. A cyser — a kind of apple cider mead — and an orange blossom mead infused with vanilla bean will be available in about a month.
Through windows in the tasting room, guests can see the 2,000-liter fermentation tanks the Reeters use to make their mead before the beverage is put into barrels for aging.
Instead of filtered honey, they use strained honey, which Eric said adds to the flavor of the mead.
“In doing so, you get a lot more of the hive in your honey,” he said. “You’re getting a little bit of the pollen and things that would be filtered out.
Those contribute flavor compounds to your mead and you can really taste that.”
Currently they have about 4,000 liters of mead brewing, but until recently they had been brewing out of the pantry in their home.
The Reeters are both bee keepers and their fascination with mead began as they were looking for another product they could make from their honey.
They both recalled tasting their first concoction in November of 2014, saying it was not what they expected. They were hoping for something wonderful, but they did learn that patience is key when making mead.
“As with many fermented beverages, they need time,” Eric said. “That particular batch, we aged it for two years and it ended up winning a gold medal at the Mazer Cup in Colorado.”
That award confirmed what they thought they knew: their mead was good.
At that point they expanded from using 5-gallon carboys to 20-gallon fermenters. As their pantry continued to fill with batches of mead, the Reeters began to think about going bigger.
“The plan started to hatch, that maybe we should do this on a commercial scale,” Eric said. “We put the thought into action and here we are.”
Casey said there was a steep learning curve as they moved from 5- and 20-gallon fermenters to 2,000-liter batches.
They attended a mead-making course with University of California Davis to learn about commercial level mead making.
“It was amazing,” she said. “We were able to bring our design plans to see how does work flow happen, what should be changed and what should be considered when we scale up.”
Eric’s mead education didn’t stop there. He said he’s about halfway through Washington State University’s vitaculture enology post-graduate program.
He said he just finished organic chemistry and is preparing for micro-biology.
“I’m getting the hard science behind wine production and mead making,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, things that will make our mead even better.”
He said they have made changes to recipes because of the courses.
Eventually The Mead Werks will grow to allow for smaller outdoor events, she said, adding there could be acoustic music.
“We’ll have intimate events and people can enjoy the mead while looking at the wildlife and the blueberries,” she said. “It will feel very integrated with the farm.”
She said that right now at The Mead Werks that, while capacity at the tasting room is 99 people, they hope to host no more than about 50 people at a time.
The Mead Werks is now working on a cyser — a cross between a mead and a cider — using locally-sourced apples.
“We only use apples pressed from our orchard and this year we grabbed some from John across the street — so it’s all very local,” Eric said. “We press them and that tells us how big our batch is going to be.”
This year they will have a 16-gallon batch of cyser, made with Akane, Liberty and some heirloom apple varieties from their neighbor’s orchard.
“Most of them are sweet eating apples,” he said.
They both said they are thankful for all the help they’ve had from the community and local businesses as they’ve worked toward opening their meadery.
For more information, visit wilderbeefarm.com/the-mead-werks.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].