By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor
University of Nebraska Omaha students who enjoy partaking in eclectic libations have a new place in which to indulge their tastes. Moonstruck Meadery, the first of its kind in Nebraska, opened at 6 p.m. Oct. 28 at 2221 Madison Street in Olde Towne Bellevue.
The meadery is the creation of owner Brian Schlueter, who, according to the shop’s website, has been crafting meads since 1990. Buzz about the meadery has been building in Bellevue since their initial opening announcement three months ago.
Moonstruck Meadery takes its name from the 2011 “supermoon,” the coincidence of a full moon with the time when the moon is at its closest distance from the earth. During a “supermoon,” the full moon appears noticeably larger than during other full phases. Supermoons happen approximately every 18 years. “It’s kind of a reference to the moon and stars,” Schlueter said. “People have always talked about the moon when it comes to mead.”
Schlueter began brewing and selling mead while running a brew club. He made several batches for sale, and his meads were a big hit with the crowds at craft beer events. The idea to start a meadery came to fruition in March of this year.
For those unfamiliar with the golden nectar, mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and yeast. It is thought to be one of the oldest of its kind, with a nearly 8,000 year history. The Vikings consumed it during celebrations and festivals, and until the development of large-scale beer brewing it was common across Europe. When the price of honey rose, it fell out of favor and was replaced by cheaper beverages such as beer and ale. Mead can be brewed in a variety of ways, and many mead makers add spices, fruits, apples or hops to make specialized or seasonal drinks also known as melomels, cisers and metheglins.
Brewing mead is not like brewing beer; for one thing, it takes a lot longer to make it in quantity. “It takes about three months to make a good batch,” explained Schlueter. “You can make beer in about a month.” The shop has four brewing vats with 600 liters total capacity, which Schlueter hopes to increase as the business grows.
Moonstruck currently offers four varieties of meads, including a hopped Metheglin (mead brewed with hops), a Plum Melomel, a traditional “Sack Mead,” and a cherry Melomel, which Schlueter calls their “flagship mead.”
There are plans in the works to expand the list to as many as seven different varieties. “I’d like to do a Christmas-type mead with spices,” said Schlueter. “It’s a little too late for this year because of production time, but we have some melomels up and coming with blueberries, blackberries and other fruits. As soon as another batch is ready to go, we’ll be concocting new recipes.”
From the outside, Moonstruck Meadery greets you with a big window painting of a Viking holding a foaming flagon emblazoned with the slogan “Got Mead?” Step through the gleaming glass doors and you’ll find this is no Saxon mead hall – the brightly-lit, casually decorated interior is as modern as the drink is ancient. A row of square black tables adorned with glass chessboards lines the north wall, while the south half is dominated by a tiled, cherry-trimmed serving bar. A rack behind the bar houses a display of neatly arranged bottles.
Prices are very reasonable at just $5 for a glass. Libations can also be purchased by the bottle for $15 to $20 each, which you can drink at table or take home to enjoy later. Each mead is bottled in still and sparkling varieties.
If you’ve never tasted mead, you’re in for a treat. The sweet, heady brew is a feast for the senses. If you’re at a loss as to which to try first, or not quite ready to unleash your inner Viking, Moonstruck offers sample tastings at just $4 for four one-ounce samples.
Watch the amber liquid fill the fluted glass, raise it to your nose and breathe deep its fragrance. Hold the glass up to the light and see the golden liquid scatter and refract the rays. Imagine days long passed, of Normans and Saxons raising brimming tankards in halls, telling tales and singing sagas. Then sip and savor the nectar.
Each mead has its own unique qualities. The Hopped Metheglin has a rich aroma and subtle honey flavor that will appeal to craft beer lovers. It goes down smoothly and is a very satisfying drink. The Sack Mead is a more traditional brew, unadorned with fruits or spices. It has a stronger honey flavor, a sweet nose and tastes the way a traditional mead should. The Plum and Cherry Melomels are meads made with fruit added during the brewing process. Each has a flavor redolent with the fruit of choice and will appeal to wine drinkers.
Teetotalers, designated drivers and students who have yet to assume legal drinking age need not fret – the meadery also offers a selection of fine handcrafted cream soda and root beer as well. You won’t find better anywhere else.
Schlueter’s meadery is very much a Nebraska operation. Because it’s officially a farm winery, he gets 75 percent of his honey from local sources. “I like to use a sweet clover honey,” he said. “It gives it its unique flavor.” Local sourcing also gives Schlueter a fair degree of flexibility in sourcing. If there’s a problem with a crop, he said, he can request permission to use honey from other sources.
“Bees are life to humans,” Schlueter said. “If we lose bees, we’ll lose fruits and other things that need to be pollinated.”
Moonstruck Meadery is not your typical drinking establishment. The quiet, casual environment encourages conversation and makes it a good meeting spot for a date or even a small study group, or to begin (or cap off) an evening’s entertainment. And if a horde of thirsty Norsemen have invaded your home or if you’re just looking for a different libation to serve at dinner, you really can’t go wrong with their fine selection. Stop in and discover why mead has oft been called the “nectar of the gods.”