The 2016 Semisweet Mead from Urban Forage Winery and Cider House was bottled just yesterday and will be available for purchase at the tasting room this weekend. Urban Forage’s doors are now open to the public on a regular basis. The East Lake Street building, which has housed the production facility for years, now includes a small tasting room serving flights of cider, with the promise of fruit wines in the near future as the cidery’s product line continues to expand.
Owner and vintner Jeff Zeitler is known for his use of unwanted things — from many of the furnishings in the tasting room to the ingredients themselves. Zeitler has become known as a collector of sorts. He forages ingredients from within the Twin Cities by getting tips from neighbors and customers with fruit trees, hop bines, and even herbs and spices. All of the apples required for cider production are foraged, and they are pressed into juice in the basement of the cider house.
The mead is an exception. As one can imagine, honey is not readily foraged. Instead, Zeitler obtains large batches from a beekeeper near Sleepy Eye, Minn. to make the honey wine.
The general public is not nearly as well versed in mead as it is in wine, beer, or spirits. Most casual mentions of mead happen around Renaissance Fair time, and very little is known about the fermentation process. Mead enthusiasts are few and far between, but there is a growing crowd of mead home brewers in Minnesota.
As is desirable in mead, there is no overwhelming honey character in the Urban Forage bottle. Instead, the characteristics of fermentation are there to be appreciated. No fruit is added to the product. True to its name, the semisweet character of this mead strikes a balance between a mild alcoholic heat and a sweet backdrop, and it has no carbonation. There is a significant barnyardlike funk in the aroma that is present to a lesser degree in the taste. A woody and orange-blossom character emerges on swallowing. It is neither tart nor astringent, and there is little tannic contribution.
The 750 milliliter bottles cost $18 and would make a great host gift, especially for wine enthusiasts or those averse to gluten. Serve in a wine glass or snifter at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, 3016 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406; 651.235.2726. Thu-Fri 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat noon-10 p.m.