What am I doing? This isn’t a beer. Honey apple wine? Well, let’s have at it I suppose.
In this flagship release from Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, New Hampshire, the label says it all. “Honey – Apple Wine with Spices Added.” Unlike many flavored beer offerings or off-the-beaten path wines or liquors, everything about this honey wine is immediately and abundantly apparent upon a first sip. Rich with a honey sweetness, the delicate golden hue and absence of carbonation almost set you up for surprise when the rich, full flavor of the mead hits the tongue.
The elements of apple blend perfectly with the notes of cinnamon, bourbon vanilla and sweet honey. The only thing missing from making this drink a proper apple pie is a flaky crust which, if it were a part of this bottle, would likely be a greater cause for concern than enthusiasm. That being said, as it is commonly sold as being “apple pie in a bottle,” the pitch is not far off the mark. Possessed of a weight and generally heavy mouthfeel, Kurt’s Apple Pie is surprisingly light in respect to aftertaste and coating. After encountering the honey notes, you might almost expect to experience a sticky aftertaste and residue, but instead you find the sip gliding down the throat smoothly and entirely, more like a light, dry white wine.
Drinking this, one can understand how and why throughout the Middle Ages, mead (and other assorted fermented honey mixed wine) was often stocked in full supply in the wine cellars of nobility and royalty, with its almost luxurious front of the tongue presentation and thoroughly smooth, seemingly refined overall palate profile. Lending itself well to the introduction of other fruits, berries and spices, the addition of this formula of apple pie thematic presents one with an interesting mix of that highbrow luxury and old world pagan sacrament, with a more modern, American folksy feel. In this drink — which for the purposes of sampling can thankfully be corked and set aside for enjoyment after opening due to its non-carbonated nature — the sense of a long and vested history of refinement upon an ancient art is easy to recognize.
The history of mead itself, as interesting as it is on its own, also connects strongly to the history of beer as we know it. Many of the predecessors to the modern incarnations of beer took the forms of various styles of meads. At present, some breweries such as Dogfish Head have even launched lines such as their “Ancient Ales” series where offerings such as the Midas Touch (which will be reviewed here soon) use ancient recipes involving honey and other spices, common among ancient and modern meaderies, exploring both the bounds of what can make a good beer, as well as beer’s own roots in the world of sweeter fermentations.
In respect to this particular prize winner from Moonlight Meadery, which has won the small crafter national praise, Kurt’s Apple Pie offers up a well-balanced and refined sweetness which is appealing to both beer drinker and wine enthusiast alike. Whether seeking a sweet desert sipper or looking to broker an eternal pact with the Norse god Odin, Kurt’s Apple Pie will likely serve your purposes perfectly with its complex body and slightly boozy after tones.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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