“I like to ask people who think all meads are the same if they have ever had a beer they didn’t like,” says Nick Lorenz, co-owner of Nectar Creek in Corvallis. “When they say, ‘of course,’ I then ask them if they thought that one beer represented all beers.”
“Mead is like beer or wine in that it is its own category,” Nick continues. “It’s just that mead is defined by the fermentation of honey rather than the fermentation of fruit or of grain.” Mead’s primary ingredients are honey, water and yeast.
Although many people think anything made with honey is sweet tasting, Nick points out that the sugar in honey is 100 percent fermentable. “There is a great depth within the category of meads,” he continues. “Every mead is not the same style. Some may be higher in alcohol or sweeter than others.”
When you talk with Nick, who founded Nectar Creek with his brother, Phillip Lorenz, in 2012, his passion for his work comes through loud and clear.
It is a passion that has been years in the making. In fact, Nick and Phillip knew they would be partners one day in a value-added agriculture business when they were still teenagers.
Nick recalls that a turning point came when his mother caught 15-year-old Phillip — Nick’s elder by four years — drinking beer. Instead of punishing him, she challenged to learn how to make beer himself.
Phillip took her up on the challenge by learning how to homebrew beer and by eventually teaching his younger brother as well.
The Lorenz brothers, natives of the Willamette Valley, gained further experience that would serve them well in their current business as college students on the East Coast. At Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Phillip studied apiary science and fermentation and spent his summers beekeeping.
At the University of Vermont, Nick studied ecological agriculture and spent his summers working at an apple orchard, learning how to make cider and apple brandy.
These experiences, along with the young men’s family background in eating local produce purchased at growers’ markets and local farms, served them well when they decided to combine their knowledge and experience by producing mead.
“We always knew we would come back here to Oregon,” says Nick. “There is not a place better than the Willamette Valley for access to good quality honey and good quality fruit.” Nectar Creek meads won several medals in the 2015 Mazer Cup International, the world’s largest mead competition.
Nectar Creek currently produces three flagship session meads, all of which are dry with a low alcohol content of about 5 to 7 percent. They are Waggle (a wildflower mead), Sting (a ginger mead) and Brood (a raspberry mead). Later this year, the brothers will add Cluster (a cranberry-strawberry blend) as another year-round flagship variety.
Nectar Creek also produces specialty meads such as a new sour peach mead and a bourbon wildflower mead that is planned for release to mark the company’s anniversary in September.
The Corvallis company has six full-time employees with plans to bring on four more people this year to handle the new products and some new marketing and development plans.
When asked what foods match up well with mead, Nick doesn’t hesitate before responding, “I don’t think there is a food I can’t pair mead with.”
He explains that Waggle matches well with salty foods, such as cheeses, olives and cured meats; that Sting matches well with spicy Asian cuisine; and that the acidity and tartness of Brood allows it to match just about any food.
“Our big focus as a company is to produce session style meads that are of a style, taste and price point that line up with the craft beverage industry,” says Nick. “Every time they (our customers) see a bottle of Nectar Creek, we want them to know it will be light, dry and have the consistency they have come to appreciate.
“We have the knowledge and the experience, and here in the Willamette Valley. we have the friends and the contacts to obtain the best local honey and fruit.
“There is no better place to be.”
Watch our short video of Nick telling his story at the 2015 Oregon Honey Festival.