Ken Carter is getting ready to bring mead to Hyattsville.
The founder of Maryland Meadworks has launched a Kickstarter to raise the last $10,000 he needs to open the meadery along Route 1. (As of Sunday night, he’d raised roughly half the money, with 20 days to go.)
The Hyattsville Wire caught up with Carter recently to learn more about mead-making, his plans for the new business and what he thinks about Hyattsville.
When did you first try mead?
I first tried mead about 11 years ago when one of my best friends began making it. He made some incredibly strong, tasty mead that took more than a year to age. The first commercial mead I tried was Chaucer’s, followed by Linganore Winery’s Midlevel Meade at the Renaissance Festival a few years ago. There are more and more commercial meads available these days and I would encourage your readers to try a few — the range in flavors is amazing.
How did you get into making mead?
My then-girlfriend-now-wife Rumi bought me a home-brewing kit for Christmas back in the ’80s and I started brewing beer. The friend I mentioned taught me how to become a better brewer. I was hooked on homebrewing and the amount of beer, and equipment to make and serve beer, grew exponentially. Then my friend then started making mead and I thought it was great. So he taught me the process and we shared recipes, techniques and a lot of mead. I’ve been making mead at home ever since. To better hone my skills, I’ve also taken two advanced mead making courses at U.C. Davis in their new mead program at the Mondavi Wine Institute. I also love where the mead industry is now — it’s a lot like the craft beer industry was 20 years ago with tons of experimentation and creativity happening all over the country.
How is it different from brewing beer?
Mead making is kind of a cross between beer brewing and wine making. In fact, Maryland Meadworks is technically a winery under its federal classification. Like wine, mead is rather viscous and it traps CO2 in solution, so you have to “degas” the mead to release the CO2, which can be toxic to yeast. Mead making is unique in that honey, as healthy as it is naturally, doesn’t have all of the nutrients yeast need to make a rapid fermentation. Recently, a couple of researchers at Cornell developed a nutrient feeding process that speeds up mead fermentation. This is what actually makes it a viable business proposition for me as, rather than having to age mead for more than a year, I can make even better mead in less than two months.
Why did you decide to open in Hyattsville? What do you think of the local craft brewing scene?
The top reasons are that I love Hyattsville, I live in Hyattsville, and I appreciate the growing craft beverage scene here started by Mike Franklin. I’m excited that Pizzeria Paradiso is open; they have an outstanding beer selection. And I will do everything I can to support the guys working to open Streetcar 82 Brewing. I look forward to being a part of Hyattsville’s craft “Handmade in Hyattsville” scene.
How will the meadworks work? Will you have regular hours? Tastings? Or is it just a place to make the mead you sell elsewhere?
Maryland Meadworks is technically a winery so, besides the production area, we will have a small tasting room with a bar and seating for around 30 people, as well as a small stage for entertainment. By the way, a lot of the furniture was handmade by Tanglewood Works! We will do tastings, serve full glasses, and sell growlers and bottles to go. We will also have snack foods, including some secret recipe pretzel sticks prepared by Shortcake Bakery next door.
Where can people buy your mead? Which local places on Route 1?
At first, people can purchase our mead onsite in the tasting room. We expect to have several local retail accounts and will be on draft at some local bars and restaurants. I won’t know which ones yet until we are open and have begun distribution.