Meadery Visit: Larsen Meadworks
Yesterday we took a break from beer and met up with some friends at Larsen Meadworks in downtown Mechanicsburg, PA. The meadery is located at 35 West Main Street and includes a small, but cozy tasting room which doubles as their retail space. Owner, Nate Larsen, has only been making honey wine for four years, but you would never know that after sampling his unique creations which feature ingredients such as hibiscus, vanilla beans, elder flowers, ginger juice, jalapeno peppers and one we are very partial to – hops!
Mead is the smallest but fastest growing segment of the American alcohol industry. It is also considered to be the oldest known alcoholic drink.
Nate has an interesting history which includes working as a police officer prior to making the jump to handcrafting honey wines. The story inside their menu explains how Nate was taking a break during one of his shifts as a police officer and pondered the question “I wonder if I can ferment maple syrup?” Not long after that, Nate was at his local Costco buying a mountain of bottles of maple syrup which would become the subject of his fermentation experiment. The rest, as they say, is history! Nate has rapidly fine tuned his craft and has been making waves in the honey wine segment ever since. As you might imagine, the menu at Larsen Meadworks features several variations of fermented maple syrup wines such as ‘Scarlet,’ ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold.’
The retail space offers sample flights, wine by the glass, and bottles for sale to-go. They also offer an artisanal cheese plate which can come in handy as you enjoy these higher alcohol beverages. We opted to go with the flight option which we assumed would allow us to sample four or five of the wines available on the menu. Little did we know that we were about to embark on a two-hour flavor journey which included samples of many of the wines available on the menu.
Nate was very informative and provided details about each wine which included the ingredients used (in addition to honey of course), any unique processes used, and even historical information related to mead making. Nate was also very attentive to our conversations about what we like and don’t like about certain wines and beers and he recommended which wines to sample based on that. We always enjoy visiting breweries (or in this case a meadery) where you can chat with the owner or brewer and get a first hand look into how passionate they are about their craft. It makes for a very enjoyable and memorable experience.
The front of the Larsen Meadworks’ tasting room features floor to ceiling windows which overlook Main Street. The walls are tastefully decorated with local artists creations some of whom are from the bartender, Jennifer Becker. She’s a Texas transplant who is quite the artist and is very knowledgeable about the meads being served. She was a joy to talk to along with owner, Nate.
Mead (aka Honey Wine)
The wines produced by Nate Larsen are generally very dry which is something you may not expect considering they are made with honey and maple syrup. Nate utilizes traditional techniques when fermenting his wines. However, there is nothing traditional about the myriad of flavor combinations you can find in his creations. There really is something for everyone at Larsen Meadworks whether you like grape wines, cocktails or even beer.
Some of the standouts for us were:
- Ginger Hop – A well-balanced sparkling wine made from a base of honey, with a house-made raw ginger juice using a low speed/low heat masticating juicer, raw cascade hops, and the subtle addition of whole organic orange (zest, rind, and juice).
- Aura – A sparkling wine made from honey, strawberry, and rhubarb. Reminiscent of a brut rosé. This off-dry wine has a firm mineral backbone from the honey. The elegantly layered fruit is quite forward and vibrant, with a creamy mouthfeel.
- Cello-Sol – a.k.a. “Liquid Happy”, honey, mango, fresh vanilla bean, and whole organic lemon. Soft and approachable but vibrant and still surprisingly layered.
Where to Find Larsen Meadworks Outside the Taproom
In addition to purchasing bottles at the meadery, there are now four Larsen Meadworks varieties available at the Weis Markets store at 5140 Simpson Ferry Road in Lower Allen Township. You can also enjoy their meads at Zeroday Brewing Co. (Harrisburg, PA) and Market Cross Pub & Brewery (Carlisle, PA).