Nottingham Nectar aims to make mead more accessible to Madisonians and beyond
Nottingham Nectar creates a sparkling session style mead in four different flavors using Wisconsin fermented honey as the base.
Patrick Nottingham always wanted a winery, brewery or meadery included in his retirement plans. The self-proclaimed “beverage nerd” still has a ways to go before retirement, but his meadery, Nottingham Nectar, is already up and running in Madison.
For those unfamiliar, mead is alcohol made from fermented honey, instead of hops or grapes. Wisconsin happens to be renowned for its wild prairie honey, which Nottingham says has a distinct light color and flowery notes.
Mead is essentially just water and honey, but based on what you add to the mead, the type of honey and when the honey is fermented, there are all kinds of different styles. Nottingham Nectar creates a sparkling session style, which basically just means the drink is slightly carbonated. All Nottingham’s meads are naturally gluten free as well.
Nottingham says the carbonation makes the drink “approachable and crushable,” and brings out a bit of effervescence.
“Most people when they think of meads, they probably had a friend in college who made it in a bathtub at 22% proof — maybe it smelled like feet,” Nottingham says through a grin. “While I do like those big, heavy, thick and syrupy meads, not everyone does. I wanted a mead that’s for everybody, which is why I brew mine at 6% to make it nice and approachable.”
The Madison-based meadery has been around since 2016 as Colony Nectar Co., but went through a rebrand during COVID-19 as the former owner transitioned out, and Nottingham transitioned in. All four Nottingham Nectar meads are Colony Nectar Co. recipes, but with new branding.
Nottingham pairs with Paul Asper and Lissa Koop, co-owners of Restoration Cider on the east side, using their brewing space to help Nottingham Nectar come to life.
“The thing I like most about the brand is celebrating the social connection that people make, with the idea that you can bring everyone together over a drink,” Nottingham says. “But we also want to celebrate our weird, wild and whimsy.”
He also says a portion of each year’s sales are donated to support and protect pollinators in Wisconsin.
Nottingham, who has three other jobs outside of Nottingham Nectar, says the people are his favorite part of the job by far. He says he will often have customers approach him with a bit of caution, especially if they have had bad experiences with the drink in the past. He says he’s never had a person tell him they didn’t like the mead.
“Everyone has always been either very polite, great actors or they dug it,” Nottingham says. “The first moment that they sip it, their eyes, face and smile changes. That exact moment is my favorite in this job.”
Mead is a difficult beverage to describe because of the comparisons people will make to wine or beer. But the reality is that mead is more like a second cousin to those beverages. Each of the four meads Nottingham Nectar bottles have significantly different tastes to each other, with familiar bits of taste from wine and beer.
The best way to taste unique flavors in the mead (in this writer’s opinion) is to imagine the honey that was fermented to create the drink, rather than compare it to another beverage. If you really want to go all out, Nottingham says the best way to drink his mead is to pour a cold bottle into a frozen mug.
Each of Nottingham Nectar’s meads are uniquely branded. Nottingham Nectar has four different meads available. Hexes & Hijinx is made from Door County cherries, so it is sweet and tart. Bonfires & Battlecries is made for fans of pilsner and lager beers, but with a light, crisp finish reminiscent of a cider. Folklores & Fairytales is similar to Bonfires and Battlecries, but with a sweeter finish, almost like a sparkling white wine. Sagas & Serenades is the sour option, with acidity from strawberries paired with sweetness from honey.
Nottingham says he has plans to launch two more flagship meads by this summer, and then work to create special one-off batches.
You can find Nottingham Nectar in Madison bars and grocery stores. But if you can’t find the brand in your local area, Nottingham tells people to reach out to him. “My goal is to take mead out of obscurity,” he says. “The pie in the sky dream is you walk into a bar and you ask for their beer, cider and mead on tap.”
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