Mountain Dragon Mazery — Fine Honey Wines is introducing the area to both forgotten and new flavors of mead.
At the end of last week, Tom Maltby and Ruthann Smith celebrated the grand opening of their business with the community by offering tours, tastings and flower giveaways. The mazery, which is an old word for a place that makes honey wine, or mead, can be found at 1516 Morgantown Ave. in Fairmont.
Smith said they have gotten quite a bit of positive feedback from the public. People have been very interested in and excited about their business, and the grand opening introduced their products to the neighborhood.
Mountain Dragon Mazery offers four main flavors to customers. The Wildflower Honey Mead is a straight honey mead made from the state’s wildflower honey. Black Cherry Red and Black Cherry Blush are made with black cherry and honey, and Cafe Monteverde Methyglyn is a coffee and honey wine.
Tulip Poplar Honey Mead and Basswood Honey Mead are varietal honey special reserves. Then the wild harvest special reserves include a mulberry and honey product called Morat Melomel and also Ruthie’s Rhodomel Methyglyn, which features honey fermented with rose petals.
The availability of these four special reserves will depend on the harvest of the honeys each year. But right now, there is plenty.
Maltby explained that honey wine has a long history, and every country and culture around the world has made it. Mead has become very popular lately, with meaderies, or mazeries, popping up across the country.
“Mead is really trending nationally, so bringing the trend here is an exciting thing,” he said. “It’s one of the fastest-growing sectors of the wine market and part of why we tried for a very distinctive assortment of meads to set ourselves apart from the pack that’s coming out.
“We’ve really targeted a niche of bringing back forgotten flavors and creating a couple new ones.”
The business got started because Maltby and Smith, who have been married for 10 years now, were both ready to change directions in their careers. Maltby had been doing computer programming for 20 years, and Smith had been in the natural food industry for a long time.
They started brainstorming about options for the future and thought about how they had been making mead since 2008 just for themselves and their friends. Their friends kept encouraging them to sell their amateur mead professionally, and Maltby and Smith decided to bring that idea to life.
The husband-and-wife team focused on practicing and perfecting their mead process. They got their business license in April 2010, and have been working for the past four years to get everything in place.
With all the paperwork complete, they could concentrate on the process of mixing the batches of mead. They designed a special factory for mass production to make sure their favorite recipes would always turn out the way they expected.
“We’re not adding any chemicals,” Maltby said. “We brew all in craft glassware. We’re really picking top shelf ingredients and debugging our recipe and then just babying it, doing everything by hand and with love.”
In 2011, they obtained the building at 1516 Morgantown Ave. in Fairmont, which was formerly the home of Frankie’s Supper Club and had been closed for about six years. They spent about a year and a half doing renovations, including cleanup, wiring, lighting, plumbing and getting the space up to city codes.
Smith has lived in West Virginia for 25 years, and Maltby came to the state 12 years ago from Ohio. They have a 3-year-old daughter, Penelope Rose, and live in Catawba, just outside of East Fairmont.
Catawba is also the location of their apiary, which is where the bees are raised. This year, they hope to also put a couple smaller bee yards on other pieces of land.
At the age of 3, Maltby started beekeeping with his father. His daughter is continuing the family tradition of beekeeping, too.
The mazery on Morgantown Avenue will have regular hours from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and those hours may be expanded later. It is also open by appointment, and tours and tastings can be scheduled.
The owners are focusing on getting their products out into restaurants and stores and attending festivals. Slight Indulgence in Morgantown and South Charleston Wine Shoppe currently carry their meads.
Maltby and Smith currently have 600 gallons of mead ready, and are planning on making 2,000 gallons this year.
“We’re ramping up volume at a great rate,” Maltby said.
Many of the old words in the names of the honey wines may be unfamiliar to customers, but people can go to the website www.mountaindragonmazery.com to learn all about the linguistics of mead and honey. The site also offers cooking recipes, and information will be posted about festivals. In addition, the business has a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MountainDragonMazery.
For more information about Mountain Dragon Mazery — Fine Honey Wines, call the mazery at 304-534-8716 or the apiary at 304-368-0637.
Email Jessica Borders at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.