Local mead headed to Cumberland County Weis
A Cumberland County business dedicated solely to making mead has found a retail home for its honey-based products.
Larsen Meadworks, located in downtown Mechanicsburg, will begin selling four of its meads on Monday at the Weis Markets store at 5140 Simpson Ferry Road in Lower Allen Township, just outside of Mechanicsburg.
"I'm happy they are taking a chance," said owner Nate Larsen, who has been looking to expand into retail in the wake of last year's state liquor law changes. Act 39 opened the door for wine sales in supermarkets and convenience-store chains.
Since early 2016, Larsen has been operating in a small storefront along West Main Street that doubles as a production facility and tasting room.
Mead, which starts as a blend of honey and water fermented by yeast, is the world's oldest known alcoholic drink. It qualifies as a wine, though several varieties made by Larsen are comparable to beer because they are made with hops.
Larsen envisions a strong market for his products among beer drinkers because several of his recipes blur the lines between beer and wine.
He has his own takes on pilsner and India pale ale styles. And like many craft brewers, he has a coffee-based product called Breakfast in Bed and a sparkling wine called Spicy Wife that incorporates fresh jalapeno peppers.
Larsen is on the popular mobile app Untappd, which caters heavily to beer drinkers but has a growing number of meaderies.
Additionally, Larsen makes a product called Captain Awesome that is inspired by spiced rum spirits.
Because it contains honey, people expect mead to be sweet. Larsen's products tend to start sweet but finish dry.
"I like being middle of the road," he said.
Larsen is hoping to sell mead through more retailers, which could lead to hiring staff. Another goal is to contract with a private-label entity to diversify his revenue stream.
The four varieties of Larsen mead being sold at Weis — called Jelsa, Aura, Honey Hop and Ginger Hop — range in price from $19 to $24.
Weis spokesman Dennis Curtin said the supermarket chain also is looking to put Larsen's products into its new flagship store in Hampden Township.
The Valley Road superstore has a pub and carries 900 beers and 500 wines.
The Sunbury-based chain operates 50 in-store beer cafes in Pennsylvania. Because of Act 39, Weis tweaked the shelving in its 49 cafes to include 180 varieties of wine, Curtin said.
On average, the Weis beer cafes offer about 800 varieties of beer.