My girlfriend Meg and I took a quick trip to Londonderry, NH to visit Moonlight Meadery. Unfortunately it was the weekend of the Mazer Cup competition so founder Michael Fairbrother was in Boulder CO as both a judge and a competitor.
23 Londonderry Rd, #17
Londonderry, NH, 03053
The meadery is located in located in an unassuming building in a small industrial park. The building is set back from the road and the entrance is easy to miss since the sign gets lost among the other businesses occupying the building. We drove past it initially without realizing. Google maps alerted us about our oversight, and we quickly corrected our couse. Upon entry, We where immediately greeted by a friendly Employee. They let us know that a tour of the facility recently started, but the next would take place in about 15 minutes.
Their entrance puts visitors in their combination retail space and tasting room. We waited there among a broad spectrum of mead on display and for purchase. Along with the Racks of mead, there were mazer cup awards and press clippings proudly displayed. The tasting room is reminiscent of a nice residential basement bar. As the tour ahead of us entered the tasting room from the back, we were brought back to the production area.
Tours are normally led by founder Michael Fairbrother, or other production staff, but in their absence we had the pleasure of being led around by the young and energetic Fran. Fran began with the introduction of how Moonlight started. Fairbrother started out brewing beer with a homebrew club in New Hampshire called “Brew Free or Die.” In 1995 somebody brought mead to share with the club, which was Fairbrother’s first taste of the sweet nectar. That first sip changed Michael from Brewer to Meadmaker.
For several years, Michael was making his mead in evenings while he continued working his day job. This continued until Michael was asked the question that really resonated with him. “How can you do something you love only part time?” In 2010 he moved out of his garage and into the commercial space. The meadery has continued to grow and expand into more space since then under the name moonlight – paying hommage to the time Michael was “moonlighting” as a meadmaker.
Mon – Tues 11 AM – 5 PM
Wed – Sat 11 AM – 7 PM
Sun 11:00 – 5:00 PM
Fran then walked the group through the process of making mead. Moonlight gets their honey from a local apiary in Littleton, NH. Their honey is “true source” – meaning the honey can be tracked back to the original production location. All their 62 mead varieties use the same white wine yeast, except for their Je T’aime, which uses a champagne yeast. That’s right, they have 62 different varieties of mead. Many of which we were able to taste at the end of the tour.
Fran pointed out the six 500 gal fermenting vessels – a big step from the original 5 gal carboys used. They were also in the process of installing two new 1000 gal tanks for increased production. This was great to see both as a sign that Moonlight was growing and that there is a growing demand in the market for mead.
Tucked in the back was a stack of about 14 barrels used for aging some of their more complex meads. They recently got a few barrels from Allagash Brewery out of Portland Maine, which were used to age their delicious “Curieux” belgian tripel. I’m really excited to see how that mead will come out, as I’m a big fan of the Curieux.
The majority of the barrels were acquired from Sam Adams Brewery, formerly housing Sam’s much revered Utopias beer. The Utopias are limited addition, highly sought after beers aged in bourbon barrels. Once the barrels get used for the Utopias, they can’t again be used again for the same – which is great for Moonlight Meadery. They got the barrels with another layer of flavor imparted by the beer, which they use to age their “Utopian” mead. The Utopian is very limited release and identified with bottling date and number of cases available on each bottle, which sells for about $50 a bottle.
Our tasting at the end of the tour started with the Je T’aime, which both Meg and I completely enjoyed. It is made with tupelo honey and Champaign yeast – which gives it a delicate sweetness and light carbonation. I would’ve liked a little more carbonation, but the flavor was great! From their we were given the Utopian. I thought it a bit strange to follow such a subtle mead with the boldness of the Utopian. It was a nice libation, with good flavor profiles – sweet and earthy, with the alcohol from the barrels coming through. The taste was good, but didn’t sell me on a $50/bottle.
We went on to try at least 6 more meads from the wide range they offer. Meg’s favorite was the Seduction. It’s made with Chocolate, Bourbon Vanilla and Sumatra coffee. It’s a great dessert mead. The honey is carefully balanced by the chocolate and coffee bitterness. We ended up purchasing a bottle of that, the Fling (rhubarb and strawberry melomel), as well as one of their biggest sellers, Kurt’s Apple Pie (vanilla, cinnamon cyser).
It was a great experience. The sales and marketing team did great stepping up with a lot of the staff in Colorado. Big thanks to Fran and Heather for their unique insights into the company and products. Plenty of mead to try – many of which we didn’t get to – so we’ll absolutely be back!