The Nectar Creek tap room in Philomath may be the country's only meadery with a full restaurant. It's also part of a mini-boom in the small town west of Corvallis, helping the community form a new identity. Here are some details about mead and its local impact.
Nick Lorenz: “Mead is really simply any alcohol made by fermenting honey.”
Two barrels of local honey, or 1,300 pounds go into each batch. Nick Lorenz started Nectar Creek with his brother Philip in 2012. Until January, they had 429 square feet, using tents to bottle their product, no matter the weather. Now they occupy more than 10 times the space, with 22 employees and room to grow. The Lorenz brothers have a two-fold goal: to raise awareness of mead as a choice for beer and cider drinkers and to contribute positively to their community. Lorenz says mead is the oldest fermented drink. It can be dry or sweet, carbonated or not, and high or low in alcohol content.
Lorenz: “We wanted to focus on what we call 'session style' meads, that means that you approach them in comparable manner to a craft beer or craft cider. You don't have to know anything about mead or ever even have had a mead before to be able to taste these and say 'wow this is something that's light and refreshing and approachable.'”
Restrepo: “It just tastes good. It's got a fresh, clean, natural taste to it. It's really tasty.”
Crystal Restrepo sits with a friend at the tap house. She's never had mead before, and doesn't love the taste of cider, but she says she'd drink this again. Restrepo's also happy there's a new restaurant in Philomath. Open just five weeks, Nectar Creek's expansion is part of a broader revitalization.
Chris Workman, the City Manager, says four vacant buildings were demolished recently, and he's had interest in all of them from businesses and developers.
Workman: “It's an exciting time in Philomath. I think we're seeing some good growth. It's a great time for our residents because that means they don't have to drive into Corvallis or drive into Albany to do their shopping.”
Within the last year Softstar, a shoe manufacturer, remodeled the old ice rink and moved from Corvallis. A new feed store just opened, True Value Hardware expanded, and Windsmith Music remodeled its store. A distillery, Marcotte, is opening soon. Workman says all those businesses and others to come mean more jobs, so people won't have to commute to work either.
Nick Lorenz says Nectar Creek's location was a benefit, both for finding land and for customers, hungry for new options:
Lorenz: “The folks at the city talked with us about us being a turning point. The truth is the city was doing a lot of stuff already and we're here in part because of the work they were doing. If we can be a little extra catalyst, then that's great.”
Lorenz says there are thousands of people in the coastal range who were underserved. Judging by the smiles and crowds on a mid-week lunchtime, they're tapping a robust market.