Meet Hawaii’s Only Mead Maker
The isolation of the Unconquered Island encourages us to support each other and our economy, and a good way to do that is to buy local products. And here’s a unique one: Nani Moon Mead.
“We are the only alcohol producer in Hawaii that’s sourcing 100 percent of its ingredients from local farmers and beekeepers,” says Stephanie Krieger, president and creative life force behind Nani Moon Mead.
Mead, a wine made by fermenting honey and water, has been traced to 7,000 B.C. in Northern China, and its consumption may mark a culinary evolution when, according to French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, we moved “from nature to culture.”
“There are a lot of misconceptions about mead, and the first one is that they are always sweet,” says Krieger the day after a late-night taping of Drinking Made Easy for HD Net.
“I’m not a fan of sweet beverages and I don’t think they work in this climate,” she adds, as her son Hunter asks for the air-conditioning to be turned on. “Mine are refreshing, crisp and dry.”
Located in the back of Yasuda Center in Kapa’a, Krieger handcrafts small batches of mead with fruit grown exclusively on the island.
“This collection has been designed to complement our climate and our cuisine,” she says of her line that took eight years to develop.
A batch of Winter Sun is processing in a stainless steel tank, and a Hawaiian chili pepper prototype ferments in a 5-gallon glass jug.
“I encourage local people to come in and try it out,” says Krieger, who offers daily tastings.
If you’re making a trip, call first because, as the sign on the door states, “hours are subject to change, especially on bright, sunny days.”
There are five meads in the collection ranging from mild to robust, and it includes one sweet. Krieger begins the tasting with her mildest mead, Laka’s Nectar ($22). I’m intrigued by the light and delicate flavor derived from Kaua’i wild-flower honey and ‘ohi’a ‘ai, mountain apples.
“It’s better than organic because it’s as close to the source as possible. Once the fruit is delivered, it gets processed, so it’s super-fresh,” says Krieger, adding that Kaua’i farmers should give her a call because she is expanding production.
Using guava purée from a North Shore source, Krieger’s Pineapple Guava Sunset ($20) has a smooth pineapple taste with mild guava undertones. Fearing the meads would be sweet and acidic, as a red-wine lover I am impressed that they go down easily.
Starfruit and lilikoi (passionfruit) make the robust Winter Sun ($20) – my favorite.
“It’s a nice alternative to a red because it goes well with some of the heavier foods like barbecue, teriyaki, pork and steak,” Krieger points out.
Ginger Spice ($22) offers pure ginger flavor without the heat; layers of cinnamon and clove add complexity. It isn’t a sweet coffeehouse drink, and I can see it being a hit around the holidays.
“When you drink a bottle of this you are enjoying a bottle of the Islands, and it’s helping to support our local economy,” she notes. “This is a little bit more pricey, but you are getting a product that is very high in quality and integrity.”
Made with macadamia nut blossom honey from the Big Island, Kaua’i cacao beans and vanilla, Cacao Moon ($22) is designed for those with a sweet tooth. The effervescent mead is nicknamed the “panty dropper” by the locals.
The mead-tasting is a heady experience, and as I try to decide which bottle to take home, Krieger says, “My ingredients are pure honey, fruit and water. Because of the purity level, you can drink it and feel great. You’re not left with fatigue or a hangover.”
Alcohol levels are about 11 percent.
Thanks to Krieger and her Nani Moon Mead line, I have a new respect for fine, handcrafted mead made right here on Kaua’i. I am further convinced when she exclaims, “When those barges stop coming in, we’re going to have alcohol!”
Nani Moon Mead 4-939 D Kuhio Hwy., Kapa’a
823-0486 Tastings: Tuesday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m.
Return clean bottles for $1 off next purchase. nanimoonmead.com
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