LONDONDERRY — There's something sweet in the air at Moonlight Meadery, where owner Michael Fairbrother brews up vats of honey mixed with water and yeast to produce mead.
Mead is a honey-based wine that predates grape-based wines. It was often referred to in ancient times as the nectar of the gods.
Indeed, Fairbrother said, he makes a "heavenly" product.
"I love to see the expression on someone's face the first time they taste mead," he said. "I love when their face lights up like a little kid tasting sweet fruit for the first time."
Fairbrother had been home brewing beer when he attended a meeting of Beer Free or Die, of which he is now president.
"Someone brought some apple mead," he said. "It was love at first taste. I read every piece of literature on it and began making it on my own."
For 15 years, Fairbrother has been perfecting his recipes out of his home garage.
He called his first mead Desire. It is made with 73 percent honey wine, with the rest made from black currant, black cherry and blueberry wines. It has a 16.7 percent alcohol content. Last year, Desire took first place in the New England Regional Home Brew Competition out of 353 entries.
Fairbrother now has 28 recipes that are in various stages of being federally approved. Those already approved sell for $15 a bottle retail and have equally romantic names — Kisses, Entice, Paramour, Bliss, Admiration, Coffee in Bed, Sensual and Breathless — with a design of a full moon on the label.
Each bottle is 375 milliliters, smaller than the average bottle of wine, which is 750 milliliters.
"It's just right to be shared by two people," Fairbrother said.
The wines can be consumed as an aperitif or after-dinner drink paired with cheeses or even chocolate, he said.
Fairbrother had been working his way up the corporate ladder since 1987. His last position was as chief operating officer of CommonPlaces, a web design company in Hampstead.
"I began moonlighting making mead, hence the name," he said. "But I decided to go full-time with the wine in May."
Sales then doubled in six weeks from 20 cases a month to 40. There are 24 bottles in a case. The wine is sold in 10 specialty shops from Concord to the seacoast, including the Drinkery in Londonderry. Moonlight Meadery is also at the Derry Farmers Market every Wednesday.
Fairbrother said his mother taught him to think through recipes when he was growing up and helping out in the kitchen. His eyes light up when he describes the recipe for Breathless that has cinnamon notes.
"It's like an Atomic fireball," he said. "Great over ice cream."
New wines will include Apple Pie and Blossom, using tart summer apples from Moose Hill Orchards.
Fairbrother recently purchased seven barrels of honey at 55 gallons per barrel from Black Cat Honey in Winchester. He adds water and yeast for fermentation and then adds fruit. The process takes three months from start to finish. He is making a new recipe, Wild, with wild New Hampshire blueberries.
Moonlight Meadery will soon be moving to a new location on Londonderry Road, quintupling its space, from 528 square feet to 2,500 square feet. There will be room for a retail shop and tasting room.
"We'll be able to hire staff then," Fairbrother said.
Now friends volunteer their help to bottle the mead.
Fairbrother said he starts off each day by sampling new batches — most likely he begins with Coffee in Bed.
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