Portland, ME by Devorah Paltiel, KT Feature Editor – As with all Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), is steeped in edible traditions. There is the round challah bread, symbolic of the cyclical nature of time; fish head, symbolizing the holiday as the ‘head of the year’; pomegranate, which allegedly contain 613 seeds to represent each of the 613 mitzvot (commandments); and, of course, the most famous tradition of all: apple dipped in honey for a sweet, new year.
When one thinks of honey, one thinks of bees and beekeepers. But wine made from honey? Of course! Honey wine, or mead as it is known, is made from fermented wine and honey, and is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages around. It has recently become popular with millennials and wine geeks looking for non-traditional wines as an alternative to grape. With that in mind and inspiration drawn from his father-in-law’s memories of honey wine from the old country, Ben Alexander set about creating a modern-day mead by blending ancient traditions and modern science. The result? Maine Mead Works in Portland, Maine. Founded in 2007, Maine Mead Works boasts two different brands of mead. The company’s HoneyMaker brand is certified kosher under the Star-K. “My wife is Jewish,” said Mr. Alexander. “Therefore it was important to us to have our wines certified kosher. Thankfully the certification process is much simpler than grape wine, so it wasn’t too difficult.”
Honeymaker mead varieties start with a base recipe of wildflower honey and water, and are fermented from a wild strain of South African yeast. They are incredibly versatile, as they can be used in cooking, cocktails, or for glass pours. Classic varieties include blueberry, lavender, dry, semi-sweet; and strawberry, cranberry and apple are offered seasonally. “We’ve had a great response from the kosher market! We’ve even had Rabbis ordering large quantities for their congregations,” Alexander explains. “For the Jewish New Year we are coming out with an Apply Cyser, which is an apple honey wine, made from all natural, high quality ingredients.”
Maine Mead Works wines can be ordered through their website www.mainemeadworks.com, and are stocked in stores throughout New England, and in the Maryland and D.C. area. “Our wines are a great alternative to grape wine, so should we receive interest from any kosher communities or stores outside of our current distribution areas we should be happy to work on increasing our distribution.”