Making Mead in the Willamette Valley

February 24, 2016 (Updated March 9, 2016)
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Sometimes serendipity leads you back home. Brothers Nick and Phillip Lorenz, founders of Nectar Creek Meadery, trace the inspiration for their craft back to Oregon roots.

The duo always harbored an interest in pursuing a venture together, and after summers spent working on local farms in the Willamette Valley, they set sights on creating a livelihood connected to value-added agriculture.

Chasing this early-seeded passion, they honed their expertise during their college years on the east coast. But a love for the dramatic landscape and craft culture called them back to Oregon. “After my brother spent seven years as a foreman at a commercial bee farm, our interest in bees and honey triggered our interest in mead,” says Nick.

On the side, they tinkered in home brewing, and tuned into the flourishing craft beverage scene in the state. And in September of 2012, they launched Nectar Creek in their hometown of Corvallis. The meadery specializes in barrel-aged meads and “session meads,” which are dry or off-dry, with an alcohol level that’s below 10 percent. (Standard strength mead usually hovers around 10-14 percent in alcohol.) “Our focus is making mead in a style that’s approachable and easy drinking — similar in nature to a craft beer or cider,” says Nick.

For those new to the beverage, Nick explains that mead, an ancient ancestor of all fermented drinks, is actually its own category of alcohol — made by fermenting the sugar out of honey. The spectrum found in the mead world is vast, and depending on how the mead is made, can range in style and complexity from a dessert wine or a port to a white or sparkling wine.

“Making mead is simple in one sense, but making good mead is complicated because it’s a delicate beverage,” says Nick. That’s one reason why the purity of the ingredients is so important. At Nectar Creek, the process begins with raw unfiltered honey that the brothers buy directly from sustainable beekeepers using holistic practices. “We get to see our product all the way from farm to field to bottle,” says Nick.

First, the honey is heated to a viscous form, but no warmer than the naturally occurring temperature in a beehive to preserve the integrity of the flavors and aroma. Next, water and yeast is added and the fermentation begins. At specific points during the fermentation process, accents such as fruit or herbs are added to boost the character of the mead. Two to three weeks later, the mead is run through a filter, carbonated in a stainless steel tank, then bottled or kegged by hand.

When you taste their inventive meads, you’ll understand why Nectar Creek has quickly emerged as a national leader in this fast-growing beverage category. At the 2015 Mazer Cup International Mead Competition, Nectar Creek swept the “Dry Session Mead” category, and won a gold medal in the “Specialty Dry” category.

Wine and beer enthusiasts alike taste their product and road trip to the Corvallis tasting room — curious to learn more and thirsty for something new. “It’s a product that stems from bees collecting nectar from flowers to create this magical super food that we all know as honey, then we turn it into this light, delicate beverage,” says Nick Lorenz. “It really is a romantic concept.”

Nectar Creek’s tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m., Thursday-Saturday year round.

About The
Author

Kerry Newberry
Kerry Newberry is a Portland-based writer who covers food, wine, farms and travel for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Fodor’s Travel, Edible Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) and more.

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