It’s not beer or wine, but mead. I have tried mead before but not even close to the quality and variety as I I found when my wife and I visited Bootleg Hill Honey Meads. We were fortunate to arrive mid-day when it was slow and we could take time to visit with co-founder, Keene Hart.
Keene told us about how 12 years ago, owner, Rick Harris started making mead in the basement of his home in East Moline. That home was was built by a bootlegger decades ago. Thus the name “Bootleg Hill”. The two made and distributed on their own from there and then in November 2018, the business was moved to its current location. They are located in an older downtown building, that is small but quite quaint and comfortable for patrons. There is even a small stage in one corner to facilitate live music.
So what is mead? Well, it is considered an ancient drink that was likely the first alcoholic beverage. Mead was discovered entirely by accident, when honey was allowed to ferment by mistake, or even found fermented in the wild. More information on the history of mead can be found on their website.
However, I will share the following information on the types of mead that is also found on their website.
With its honey base, mead is a versatile drink. It can be made sweet or dry, still or sparkling, and other ingredients can imbue delicious flavor.
- Melomel is a mead that contains any sort of fruit. Many of Bootleg Hil’s meads are melomels, with delicious flavors like strawberry, blackberry, cherry, blueberry, pineapple, and orange. Mead made with grapes is known as pyment.
- Cyser meads contain apple juice as well as honey, for a flavor akin to a cider.
- Infusing mead with spices and herbs creates a metheglin. Here at Bootleg Hill, we’re particular fans of adding ginger to our meads, as with our Orange Ginger variety.
I tried a few different meads, and Keene was more than happy to tell us about all of the options. The samples I had were:
- Pineapple Planet Melomel – a traditional melomel with pineapples. I had a glass and not just a sample of this.
- Cosmic Cherry Melomel – semi-sweet melomel made with clover honey and real cherries.
- Purple Moon Pyment – extra sweet made with Concord grapes
They also have a few meads aged in bourbon barrels and mixed drinks, including slushies. Keene had me try the slushie of the day, which was pineapple. I could have had a full glass of that had we not been off to our art exhibit!
In addition to meads, they also have a fine selection of craft and Belgian beers, basic beers, ciders, Iowa wines, and sodas.
If you are ever in the area of downtown Davenport and want to try something different, stop by and try the meads and hang out.
I wish to offer a big thank you to Keene for his hospitality. His background is another story, but you’ll need to stop and ask him about that!