Corvallis, Ore. — Brothers Nick and Phillip Lorenz make mead, a beverage with lots of history behind it.
Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages. It was widely popular in ancient Greece and during the Middle Ages, especially in northern European countries where grapevines didn’t flourish.
“On one hand, it’s not new at all — it’s the oldest alcohol, but it’s new commercially,” Nick Lorenz said. “Especially our style. It’s a niche, but emerging marking. The opportunities are endless and it’s just growing.”
The production of mead starts with fermenting honey in a tank with water, yeast and — depending on the brew — additional flavoring ingredients, such as berries. The mead is then filtered and carbonated in a tank before packaging. The process takes around a month, Nick Lorenz said.
At their company, Nectar Creek, the brothers produce session style mead, which refers to alcohol content, that ranges from 4 to 8 percent alcohol. Nick Lorenz describes the taste as light and similar to beer and cider.
For mead with additional fruit flavors, the company picks flavors that pair well together, along with giving brewers freedom to experiment. Nick Lorenz said that ginger-honey is one of their most popular meads, along with their lemon-lime brew they called “Nectorade.”
Nectar Creek formed in 2012, but the brothers had the idea since high school to start a value-added agriculture business.
“Selling strawberries is great, but strawberry jam is available all year round,” Nick Lorenz said.
Phillip Lorenz started home brewing before going to work at Queen Bee Honey Co. When the brothers first started Nectar Creek Phillip Lorenz kept bees, but eventually sold them to Queen Bee Honey Co.
“It’s too much,” Nick Lorenz said. “Beekeeping is a whole separate business.”
Instead, Nectar Creek receives honey from local beekeepers and describe themselves as a “honey co-op.” Nick Lorenz said that they try to add a new honey supplier each year.
As the company has grown, the brothers have decided to double the size of their operation and expand into a new facility that can also work as a tap house, as well as a distillery. The facility is expected to increase operational efficiency by 50 percent.
Nick Lorenz hopes that the building will be done in November.
The biggest struggle that the brothers have had is educating consumers about what mead is.
“People in the beer industry know everything about beer and have never heard of mead,” Nick Lorenz said. “Or they’ll say, ‘My uncle made mead in his basement and it was gross,’ but they don’t really know what it is.”
He described interactions with bar owners where it took multiple attempts and samples for the owners to even try the product.
He said that even when the owners do like it, they aren’t sure if they can make any money from it. He contrasts that with getting a new IPA in bars.
“A bar will just take it without trying it or even knowing if it’s good or not,” he said.
Although Nick Lorenz knows there is still a lot of education to be done about mead, one of the most rewarding aspects for him is seeing customers’ eyes light up after trying it.
“It’s the impact we have on people,” he said. “The goals we have rests on our positive impact on the environment, people and community.”
Nectar Creek employs five workers, and Nick Lorenz said that the first time he wrote an employee’s paycheck he knew “it was real.”
“The more mead we’re making, the more people are drinking it and the more we can care for our employees,” he said.