If Homerites have been missing honey with their alcohol, they’re in luck — mead is back in town.
Sweetgale Meadworks and Cider House opened in early October under owner and operator Jason Davis. Located in the barn behind the former Timeless Toys building on Main Street, the tasting room boasts five berry meads and three hard ciders on tap.
Davis, whose background is in making natural wines in Malta and Sicily, already owned the former Timeless Toys building and the building behind it. After originally putting them on the market, he ventured back into his wine-making days once more.
Mead is made by fermenting honey with water. Berry wines with honey as the fermentable sugar source are considered meads, and end up with a drier finish. Berry meads are the feature of the new meadery.
“In the mead making world there’s a long tradition of combining berries and herbs with honey water,” Davis said.
He said berries help feed the yeast, which in turn can help the mead end up drier, as opposed to sweet.
“The end product is much more like wine than it is like mead, but it’s also a traditional way of making meads,” Davis said.
In order to call his products wine, Davis would have to use only cane sugar. As soon as honey is introduced as the sugar component, the end product is required to be labeled mead.
Davis’ preference leans toward dry meads, which will likely continue to feature in the tasting room, he said. To make them and his ciders, he’s sourcing local fruit from the area, from rhubarb to apples.
Right now, Davis said his weekly batches are 125 bottles. He’s trying to expand relationships with producers to keep up that pace.
Having a winery license, Davis was also able to make ciders and decided to give it a try, he said. Davis said he worried that the dry cider might be an acquired taste, but that it’s proven popular so far.
Davis, who had always thought he would end up making wine in his retirement, had begun to think that wouldn’t happen after his family tried out California for a few years. It didn’t take, and they moved back to Alaska, where Davis, a beekeeper, said he realized he could combine that resource with local fruits to make natural wines the way he had previously. That’s where the business grew from.
“I guess for me it’s a way to showcase our local fruits and berries and honey,” he said.
Davis doesn’t plan to have a huge operation, especially since he plans to continue using local products, which tend to be more expensive.
Right now, the Sweetgale Meadworks and Cider House has on-site tasting available, as well as the ability to fill a bottle to go, like a smaller version of a growler.
Sweetgale Meadworks and Cider House is open from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and from 1-7 p.m. on Saturday at 3657 Main Street. For more information, visit the business website at sweetgalewines.com.