(WGHP) — North Carolina has a rich history when it comes to alcohol.
With more than 380 breweries and brewpubs, the Tar Heel State is home to the largest number of craft breweries in the South, according to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild. And VisitNC says there are about 200 wineries across North Carolina.
But when it comes to meaderies, the North Carolina Mead Alliance only has 15 to name in the state.
Mead is a fermented alcoholic drink made with fermented honey and water and can include additional fruit or spices. It occupies a space between wine and beer, sometimes leaning more toward one side or the other. You may associate mead with renaissance faires, and that’s because it’s one of the oldest alcoholic beverages we have, even older than both wine and beer, dating back to 3,000 BCE, according to Delish. While it’s often associated with vikings, it’s believed that mead got its start in China’s Henan province.
The alliance says, across the United States, there are just over 400 commercial meaderies, and there are an additional 50 U.S. wineries that produce mead in addition to their wines.
Despite its relative rarity, mead is a growing industry. NCMA reports that the number of commercial mead producers in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last decade.
And it was a decade ago that North Carolinian David Raymond first set out on his “mead adventure.”
After lackluster experiences with wine, Raymond decided to give mead a try. He says he was “pleasantly surprised” to discover that it was not as sweet as he expected.
“Actually, it’s the opposite of what you would expect,” he said. “The meads are considered ‘dry’ or ‘semi-sweet.’ I know that sounds counter-intuitive to what your brain expects but trust me when I say if it’s your first time trying it, you’ll be in for a shock.”
Now, with the mead market quickly growing, Raymond set out to visit every meadery in North Carolina. In November 2021, he assembled a list of all the meaderies he could find in the state, and, in 2022, he paid a visit to as many as he could.
There were a few he had to, unfortunately, leave off of his journey. “Fox Hill,” for example, is a homebrew meadery and doesn’t have a tasting room. And “The Honey Suckle” was closed to the public. In all, he was able to visit nine locations.
Here are his reviews.
105 Hood Street #6
Durham, N.C. 27701
I absolutely enjoyed this place. All of the meads were full of flavor and very enjoyable. They currently have meads aged in a bourbon barrel also. They have about 18 meads to be able to try, so you’ll definitely find something you’ll like if you like mead.
I met the owner and brewmaster while there. She was actually the one working at the time and, like everywhere I went on this list, I had her explain to me what mead is. She was very informative, and, if this is your first experience with mead, you will enjoy the knowledge.
The traditional meads were exactly what I was expecting. It wasn’t until I tried their other meads that I was truly blown away. I tried two barrel-aged bourbon meads, a few of the fruit-flavored meads and a seasonal pumpkin spice. The pumpkin spice was a perfect blend and not overpowering on flavor. The barrel-aged ones used different bourbons to achieve the flavor profile they were looking for and were absolutely delicious. The fruit ones I tried were strawberry, strawberry cranberry and blueberry. Let’s just say my taste buds exploded with happiness with every one of these. I slowed down and enjoyed every sip of these as I didn’t want it to end.
The only thing I would like to see different, honestly, is a bigger storefront. Being really close to Duke University and near the business district during busy times, a larger storefront would be nice. That being said, don’t let the size of the place make you think it’s not good. There is a reason it’s number one on my list.
While you are there, be sure to visit “Bull City Burger and Brewery.” It’s about a 15-minute walk away and one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time
1048 Copperfield Blvd NE, Suite 101
Concord, N.C. 28025
I have wanted to visit this place for a long time, and I’m glad I finally got to. This is a restaurant-style place, so you grab a bite to eat and enjoy some mead. They are very family-friendly and have stuff like “Music Bingo.” Just a very fun experience for a night out with the family. If this is your first time ever trying mead, they are very informative and will give a good explanation.
They have about 18 different meads that they rotate through, only four available at a time. I’ve actually been here three times since my first visit and tried a new flavor every week I’ve gone. They have a plethora of craft beers on tap, some of which pair very well with their meads. You will not be guaranteed to try the traditional meads when you go here, but I still highly recommend getting a flight and trying everything. The meads are full of flavor and very tasty. I haven’t found one I don’t like yet. If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of the mixes they have with beer.
This place will not disappoint. I will definitely be going to this place more than I probably should.
Meads I tried
Mango Madness: So, for those of you that know me, I am not a fan of mango, so me saying this is good is high praise. Just the right amount of sweetness with the bite of mango. If you like mangos, you will love this
Liyle the Viking: A bit sweet for me but still very good. I was told to mix with the mango, which, to no surprise, is really delicious. If you like sweet, this is for you. Also tried to mix this with “Fade to Black,” an imperial stout. Let’s just say it’s dangerous, and I highly recommend Uber if you plan on drinking this.
Berserker Berry: Perfect combination of dry and sweet. Strong blackberry with hints of blueberry. Highly recommend.
175 W. Henderson St.
Marion, N.C. 28752
This is a very nice place, lots of open room and tables to be able to enjoy yourself even when busy. They currently don’t serve food, but I was told they might in the future. The guy was very helpful and very informative on what mead is and even explained some of the processes used for the different types of meads. If you’re looking for a good education, go here.
The meads were all very tasty, and I highly recommend getting a flight.
Meads I tried
Apple of my Eye: Exactly what it sounds like, an Apple Mead. Very yummy and perfect for a nice fall day.
Sensesation: This lives up to its name. It’s an onslaught to your senses and will trick your senses into thinking it’s something else. I first thought it was apple and honeydew, but it is actually apple and cranberry. Definitely worth giving it a try to trick your taste buds. I will end up ordering this online in the future.
Razzberry: You will love this if you like raspberries. Full of flavor, and highly recommend.
Autumn: Mead mixed with autumn spices. Perfect mead for serving with friends around a fireplace.
Anann-te: A pineapple mead. This is one of their more popular meads, so try it for yourself, but as pineapple is a take-it-or-leave-it for me, I wasn’t a fan of this one.
Blackberry: One word to describe this: “Yummmmmmm.” This is aged in a bourbon barrel and not overpowering. I actually got a bottle of this as they only had a few bottles left, and it’ll be at least a year before they get it again. If they have it, I highly recommend trying it if you like bourbon and blackberries.
110 Church Street Northwest,
Lenoir, N.C. 28645
The place has a large parking lot across the street from it, so parking won’t be an issue. They have 50+ different types of mead to choose from (only about a dozen available at a time). The lady was very informative in what mead is, and you could tell she enjoys it herself as it wasn’t just a job for her. This is a small shop but a very cozy place to hang out. It’s in a small town so I wouldn’t expect it to be much larger.
The meads I did get to try were all very yummy. I ended up trying a few that I wasn’t certain about, but, like with anything, you don’t know if you’ll like it unless you try it.
The fact that they have over 50 different meads, I’ll definitly be coming back and trying more in the future. This was a tough choice between making them 3rd or 4th, but I had to put one above the other.
Meads I tried
Ravens Blood: If you like currents, you’ll like this, I’m not a big fan of currents so this wasn’t my favorite.
Dark horse: This was super delicious, and I highly recommend trying it. There is a reason this won a gold medal.
Bjornebaer: Take a traditional semi-sweet and add blackberries to it, and this is what you get. Good drink to sip on in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night.
Litha: Do you like black cherries and lavender? If so, this is your mead. This was a very smooth drink, and if you don’t realize it’s a mead and has alcohol, you’re in for a surprise when you stand up. Gather around a fireplace outside and enjoy.
Limonadi: This is supposed to be a semi-sweet, but it was pretty sweet but overall not too sweet. I was expecting the ginger to be overpowering but you could still taste the lemon in this.
Freya’s Roses: This was a hail mary for me as I don’t like pomegranates, and, to no surprise, the pomegranate was overpowering to me, but I’d still recommend trying anyways.
130 Lorax Lane
Pittsboro, N.C. 27312
When you think of mead like you see in shows like “Vikings,” this is the place you want to go to.
They are very informative in explaining what mead is and will help you pick out some for your flight. I have been going here for years.
By far my favorite mead is called the “Nordic” which is what I like to describe as “the drink of the vikings,” as all the spices were readily available to them. They also have some really good seasonal meads which I highly recommend trying.
I started this journey thinking I would compare everyone to them, and although they are still in my top 5, I’m surprised they dropped to here. I will still be coming back here and can’t give a full honest review as I’ve been going for years but would still recommend trying it out.
The others (in no particular order)
120 South Main Street
Warrenton, N.C. 27589
This is in a nice quiet town, so if you’re looking to just get out and explore N.C., this would make a great spot. You will leave knowing about what mead is and have a good overall experience. The place is pretty big. Would be perfect for hosting an event.
I only had one that wasn’t part of the traditional called “Jord,” and it was super delicious. I wanted to get a bottle of it but they didn’t have enough to make a bottle.
I’m looking forward to visiting this place in the future as they are only about a year old. I suspect they will only get more and more flavors of mead that are a great choice. Will definitely be back in the future.
104 Eastside Drive #307
Black Mountain, N.C. 28711
I tried four of their meads and liked three of them. I would keep me coming back if I was local. This was a place that made me feel at home. They had a firepit going outside, and everyone was super nice.
The one that surprised me was one that I didn’t find at any other place: a pistachio mead. It was an interesting taste. I initially wasn’t a fan of it but couldn’t stop sipping on it. Definitely one that grows on you.
The Cidery (Taproom and Production)
356 New Leicester Hwy
Asheville, N.C. 28806
Noble Downtown (Taproom)
49 Rankin Ave
Asheville, N.C. 28801
This is in the downtown district of Asheville so parking can be a little hard. Overall the place was very nice, and the guy that served me was very knowledgeable on what mead is and even went into some history of mead. They are pretty new to mead-making, and for being new, I’m highly looking forward to what they will do in the future.
I absolutely loved one they had there called “Mesquite” which tasted exactly like you think it should. I was a little disappointed they didn’t have a bottle I could take home. The strawberry cyser — a kid of mead made with apples or apple juice and honey — was a bit heavy on the apple taste for me; I would have liked to have more strawberry flavor but still very good.
Next time you’re in Asheville, stop in for a good way to break up the day.
Point Lookout Vineyards (Worlds End Meadery)
408 Appleola Rd.
Hendersonville, N.C. 28792
Although this is a very beautiful place to see the mountains, I did not enjoy my experience there.
I got there and, although they were busy with people sitting down, I was the only one in line when I got to the register. They immediately assumed I was there to try wine, and when I told them I wanted to try mead, they handed me a piece of paper and told me the options of wine and mead tasting, and that was it. They didn’t seem interested in explaining what mead was, and I didn’t ask as my experience already wasn’t a pleasant one.
I picked my meads and gave them my paper. I was expecting more than a 0.25 oz pour per mead for $17. Even the traditional meads, I wasn’t a fan of. I did end up buying one bottle called “Beguile” which was a raspberry mead and great as a dessert mead. I tried one called “Sting” which the menu said was a must-try: too many flavors and not enjoyable. I will not be going back.