Lauren Bloom and Matt Ritchey don’t have much time these days for anything that doesn’t ferment. The couple is putting in long hours at their new business, Bløm Meadworks, a space for mead enthusiasts and those trying the beverage for the first time. “We wanted to build a business around what we love to drink and share that with Ann Arbor,” says Lauren.
In its simplest form mead is a mixture of honey, water and yeast fermented to make what is also referred to as honey wine. Though traditional meads are high in alcohol and typically sweet and syrupy in texture, Lauren and Matt use a lower honey to water ratio and let the yeast eat all the sugar to create a taste closer to a dry cider. They describe their product as a session mead: light, dry and carbonated, making it more accessible to their growing customer base.
Soon after co-starting a brewery in Chicago, Matt discovered he was gluten intolerant and needed to find another outlet for his brewing passion. With Lauren wanting to transition her own career into local food sourcing and production, making mead–naturally gluten-free with ample opportunities to source locally–met both their professional goals. After a few years in Chicago they moved to Ann Arbor. “Building a business from scratch meant putting down roots, and we wanted to do that back in our home state,” says Matt.
But Bløm Meadworks isn’t just interested in creating great tasting mead; most importantly the husband and wife team are committed to using as many Michigan ingredients as possible to support local growers. Their apples and pears come from northern Michigan, their rhubarb from the Leelanau peninsula, and the honey from beekeepers in the thumb. Through Michigan’s Farm to Freezer program they freeze much of the fruit to use in the winter.
“I love getting on the phone and calling farmers I know instead of a faceless company,” says Lauren. “Even as a small business we can use our buying power to help Michigan farmers and producers thrive.”
The mead industry is growing as people become more curious about craft beverages. Lauren and Matt plan to add more flavors including currents, maple syrup, and fennel. When they have a moment to sit and enjoy all they are creating they go for the hopped and rhubarb flavors. “The mead tastes slightly different throughout the year because of those seasonal ingredients,” says Matt. “It’s like we’re celebrating the flavors of Michigan’s agricultural regions in each pour.”
Erica Bloom is the Program Director at Growing Hope in Ypsilanti.