By Viviane Gilbert Stein
When Nani Moon Mead’s president and owner boasts that her product is “100 percent local,” she really means it.
Stephanie Krieger is crafting an outstanding collection of mead on Kaua`i using 100 percent “organic, local, independently sourced” ingredients.
There are more “100 percent” distinctions to be made: the mead is 100 percent natural, gluten free, chemical free and GMO free. As Hawaii’s only meadery, Nani Moon is 100 percent unique.
“All of our gift items are from local artisans,” Krieger said. “We’re 100 percent Kaua`i-made in terms of retail sales.”
Krieger gives a tropical twist to the world’s oldest recorded alcoholic beverage by adding island fruits and spices, fresh from the `aina.
“We are sourcing from our local beekeepers and farmers that we know individually,” Krieger said as she giddily accepted the delivery of 77 gallons of honey, gathered from 38 island hives.
She had recently finished processing 250 pounds of lilikoi, and was gearing up to juice mountain apples next.
All that fresh local goodness is provided by a dozen independent farmers, three beekeepers and a slew of smaller suppliers — such as friends with extra fruit on their trees.
“They’re your neighbors,” Krieger said. “They’re our local farmers and they’re bringing me fruit they wouldn’t be selling anywhere else.”
The results are spectacular. The Nani Moon collection ranges from the light to bold. On the light side is Laka’s Nectar (with ohia lehua blossom honey and mountain apples) or Pineapple Guava Sunset. Bold meads include Cacao Moon, Winter Sun (wildflower honey, star fruit, lilikoi) or Ginger Spice (wildflower honey, star fruit, ginger, winter spices).
“I have a mead for everybody here,” she said.
Krieger has been making honey wines for 13 years, and producing them commercially for the past four. Some of the meads will appeal to white wine drinkers, while others appeal to beer drinkers who want something lighter, she said.
As a recent visitor from Ohio told her, “Mead is the beer drinker’s wine.”
“Mead as a craft beverage is really, really picking up in the craft brewing community,” says Krieger. “A lot of my success in this industry is from the craft beer industry.”
That’s a change from when she started.
Krieger was inspired to create a locally made product to highlight island flavors while working in fine restaurants and selling fine wines from around the world. And while she initially patterned her meads after wines, she is adapting as the increasing popularity of craft beers spills over to meads and ciders.
“I’m focusing and fine-tuning,” moving from meads aimed at a wine-style palate, to ones that appeal to craft beer drinkers, she explained.
Nani Moon meadery and tasting room, tucked in the back of Kapa`a’s Yasuda Center, is a blend of industrial and artistic. The walls are alive with art (including giclees of the serenely beautiful bottle labels designed by Kilauea artist Shastin Grace) while an intricate mirror mosaic brightens the front of the bar. The sectioned-off back of the cozy space is dominated by large fermenting tanks, where batches of meads bubble their way to perfection.
The tasting room has a twofold purpose: to serve mead aficionados — many of whom are tourists, thrilled to discover a uniquely Hawaiian version of the “ancient nectar of the gods” — and to educate curious residents.
“Basically, I want to promote awareness for the island that we’re doing something really special here,” Krieger said.
But that something special requires honey — and a lot of it. Honey is to mead what grapes are to wine, which means Krieger needs a lot of the sweet stuff.
“Our limiting supply right now is honey,” Krieger admits. So in addition to relying on island beekeepers, Krieger now has 40 “active, fully functioning, healthy hives here on Kaua`i,” as well as 10 more in development.
She’d like to add an additional 10 hives a year, and is looking for investors to help buy hive bodies, and landowners willing to support a small apiary.
“Our goal is to expand our apiary base here on Kaua`i with investors,” she said.
Krieger, who believes in reaching out to the community, also wants to nurture local interest in home brewing. She encourages anyone interested in forming a club to contact her.
“I want to see people doing their own stuff,” she said. “It’s fun and we can all learn together.”
For more information, go to Nani Moon Mead at nanimoonmead.com or call 651-2453. The tasting room is open from noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. A complete list of retailers who carry Nani Moon Mead is available on the website.