Helderberg Meadworks is a unique “winery” located at the edge of the Helderberg Mountains where fresh water and local raw honey are used to craft the finest mead. They are one of the few meaderies in the state who primarily produce mead. Owner and meadmaker Peter Voelker has been making mead for many years. In 2010, he decided to open Helderberg Meadworks with his wife Kirsten to share what he considers the best mead in the country. They have since expanded to include Apple, Maple, Feral, Sweet Feral, and the award-winning Odin’s Tears meads—each made with local ingredients and unique in their own way.
In 2015, the Voelkers were able to purchase more land to expand their small orchard and add a vineyard. While working hard to clear the land and plant rows of fruit, they were able to truly appreciate the beauty of the location and the view overlooking the mountains. This will be the eventual location of their tasting room, a perfect setting to relax and enjoy their craft.
Mead is not a wine, but a unique honey-based drink. But just like wine and spirits, mead can be made in a wide variety of styles, such as Helderberg’s light and crisp Black Currant and Staghorn Meads, to their Maple Mead which reminds tasters of a mild bourbon.
Inspired by their Apple Mead, in 2016 Helderberg Meadworks began producing their own hard cider. The philosophy of using all-natural ingredients extends to their ciders as well, allowing them to bring out the crisp, fresh apple flavor. Thanks to the positive customer feedback at festivals over the past two years, Helderberg has decided to make hard cider a permanent addition to their future tasting room offerings.
In addition to mead and cider, Helderberg makes a rare product called a “braggot”, a beer/mead hybrid made with grains and hops. A collaboration with Brown’s Brewing, Braggoting Rights is a 12% ABV braggot that has been barrel aged for nine months. Amazingly smooth and light, Braggoting Rights was created using Helderberg’s Odin’s Tears for the mead component, with the beer component being a rye ale.
While mead remains Helderberg’s signature product, offerings such as hard cider and braggots allow them the opportunities to continue to expand their craft.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Staghorn Mead is the epitome of locavore. The honey, water, and staghorn sumac used to create it are all local to the meadery. Staghorn sumac is a forgotten and largely misunderstood ingredient native to the northeastern United States. This sumac, with its red berries has been used for thousands of years and is not poisonous. When used fresh, the red seeds provide a lemon-like citrus taste.
Helderberg harvests these staghorns in local forests to provide balance with the honey in their Staghorn Mead. They take pride in utilizing from nature as much as they possibly can, and the results of these efforts come alive in every bottle of Staghorn Mead.
Cherry Vanilla Mead
At last year’s Northeast Gold Wine Competition, all of Helderberg’s submitted meads won medals. The standout is Cherry Vanilla dessert mead which won Double Gold, Best NY Wine, and Best Fruit Wine of the competition.