From Bee to Bottle
On the lush island of Kauai, a local artisan brings mead into modernity
A SOFT AMBIENT GROOVE drifts through the tasting room of Nani Moon Meadery on Kauai, as three travelers take their first sips of Laka’s Nectar, the most honeyforward blend in mead-maker Stephanie Krieger’s collection. Light, complex, and occasionally effervescent, her meads are nothing like the dense, sweet honey wines created by ancient brewers. By the time the group has finished their glasses, mead has shaken its 7,000-year-old reputation to exhibit complexities as diverse as its modern makers.
Krieger was a marine scientist before she shifted to mead-making. She is using her training to help forge a new path for the industry, one committed to local sourcing and countering the global decline in bee populations. She concentrates on local fruits that don’t export well— all grown within 15 miles of the meadery—and her 40 beehives support the island’s diverse agriculture.
Now, as more and more craft-beer brewers are experimenting with honey fermentations, a new industry of mead-makers has emerged. Krieger finds herself one of a growing number of women in a surging industry; today, in the U.S., there are more than 400 meaderies. But, like the brewery circuit, mead has historically been a man’s world.
“Customers often assume the owner is a man,” Krieger says. Shattering stereotypes has become her business; she continues to work on updating mead’s reputation as heavy and cloying from its Viking days. “There are people who say, ‘Oh, I had mead once. I don’t like it,’” she says. “But you don’t hear them say, ‘I don’t like beer or wine’ after just one experience. They know there’s more out there to try.” Happily, there’s more mead to try now too.