Charm City Meadworks Breaks Mead Barriers

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Before becoming an avid reader of A Song of Ice and Fire (better known as the “Game of Thrones” series), I had a vague idea of what mead was, let alone what it tasted like. While GRRM doesn’t get into the details of the Kings’ drink like he would with a Dornish sour red or a gold from the Arbor, his reference to mead sparked interest to not only myself, but many readers [and/or viewers]. The honey wine isn’t yet widely available, but if you look hard enough it’s there on the shelves, as it likely had been for quite sometime.

As the popularity, or rather, curiosity, of mead steadily rises, as do mead producers and varieties. It is no longer just a once-a-year drink to be had at your local Renaissance Faire.

Zach and I have tried several different mead products in varieties ranging from sweet and thick bodied to dry and effervescent. We have our proclaimed favorites, but are willing to taste them all. So, when perusing our local farmer’s market, I was ecstatic to see the banner of a local meadery with samples ready.

Founded in 2014, Charm City Meadworks, with its edgy branding and medicine bottle packaging, seeks to establish a new idea of mead. In an industrial area on the edge of Brooklyn Park in Baltimore, Charm City Meadworks brews and bottles their product. There, we met with co-founder Andrew Geffken to learn about their mead, vision, and plan to make it an everyday drink.

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Were you a mead drinker before you were approached by James (CCMW co-founder) and his product? No. I tried James’ meads before he intended to make it commercial. My initial thoughts were that it was different and okay, but not great. He has done a ton of work since then and kept meticulous notes to keep improving, so it’s very different and much better than what it was initially.

What experience(s) did you have that set your mind on first becoming a mazer, and then leaving your career in engineering to pursue the mead business full-time? Charm City Meadworks was the result of many little experiences. The most formative was a couple years ago during the research phase when we collected a bunch of commercial meads from around the country. They were generally expensive and sweeter than what is now Charm City mead. Those kinds are a more lucrative market. We tried very few types of mead in the style we expected to be making (dry and some carbonated/lower ABV). This is changing as there are many more dry meads and session meads out there today than a couple years ago.

As you said, CCMW meads are dry and slightly carbonated. Versus thick-bodied and sweet meads, how does it compare to the traditional medieval drink? Not well. Traditional meads tended to be sweeter and higher ABV. The higher ABV helped to prevent spoilage. Traditional meads were usually fermented with wild yeast or bacteria, which would produce varied results and different levels of fermentation.

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Someone’s first mead experience is likely the sweet variety served at a Renaissance Fair. Has CCMW considered superseding that type with its own? We don’t want to replace that mead, because it is good. We just want people to know mead isn’t only like that, and for them to see the variety possible with mead. We are doing that by bringing the mead to more mainstream events and festivals throughout the state and DC.

What experimental flavors were absolute busts? Moreover, which ones were surprisingly successful? Raisin was pretty terrible, while Rosemary was surprisingly successful. The herbal flavor with honey of mead gives it this great borderline medicinal flavor and it’s good in cocktails. Fortunately, we found that out early on and it’s been a core product from the beginning.

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“Our ultimate vision is for mead to be a regular drink, like wine and beer — something that you would drink with dinner or while hanging out at the bar.”

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Charm City Meadworks offers a variety of flavored meads including Elderberry, Cinnamon, and (my favorite) Strawberry Ginger. You can find their products in many local bars on draft, or for sale in bottles in select stores and at the Baltimore, Fells Point, and Crofton Farmer’s Market. The CCMW Tasting Room is open Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons at 3511 8th Ave Baltimore.

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{ All photos are courtesy of the CA Photography }

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