ANN ARBOR – Lauren Bloom and her husband Matthew Ritchey co-own Bløm Meadworks, a mead (honey wine) and cider brewery set to open downtown in 2018.
Bløm Meadworks will brew meads and ciders on-site, using only local ingredients.
We sat down with Lauren to hear their story and how their exploration of meads began.
How did you guys meet and how did all of this brewing of beer and meads happen?
“We met in high school actually. We were on the ski team together and dated for a while and then went our separate directions and got back together years later. I moved to Chicago and while we were there, Matt started home brewing with a friend just as a hobby and they kind of had this hair-brained idea with a third friend of theirs to start a brewery, which none of them had done before. So it felt a little ambitious but it was what they all wanted to do so they started Begyle Brewing Co. and learned along the way and it went well.
Inside the near 3,000-square-foot space on 100 S. Fourth Avenue (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
“Matt is one of the owners and was head brewer and he found out that he had a gluten allergy, which was a blow as a brewer to find out you’re allergic to your career. He kept brewing for a while but it was tough to be brewing and not be able to taste it. So that was kind of a good motivation and we wanted to move back to Michigan and be closer to family and friends and just be a part of the Michigan community. We knew we wanted to be in Ann Arbor.
"We came here and I had been working with a few nonprofit organizations and sat on a few boards that were focused on local food production. We were trying to figure out how we could weave those two together -- he wanted to figure out how to keep brewing and fermenting and I wanted to be doing something where I was working on sourcing local ingredients and working with local producers.
“He's always been curious about mead in particular, but cider also. It’s just this interesting beverage that not a lot of people know about. It just seems like the right intersection of what we both wanted to do and it’d be fun to do it here."
Their taproom will be located next to the large storefront windows (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
So when did he start experimenting with meads and what is his signature style? What can people expect?
“The very first batch we made was probably five years ago when we were living in Chicago and it was just a home brew batch that we made and it was the toasting drink for a friend’s wedding in Colorado. We made up this batch of a plum mead that tasted pretty similar to champagne and drove it out to the wedding and it went really well.
"So, that got us on this path of wanting to make meads that were dry and carbonated and kind of hit that cross section of what appeals to a cider drinker and a craft beer drinker and even a little bit of a wine drinker."
Why Ann Arbor?
“Ann Arbor was the right community for us – just the personality of this town I think matches well with our beliefs and our vision. There’s a vibe here that I feel fits us so well."
Tell us about how you got the space?
“The real estate process was long. A bit challenging, but we were pretty excited when we came across this space. Actually, our architects had heard about it and so they got in touch with the landlord and brought us over to see it. It has so many of the things that we needed. The No. 1 requirement for us is being downtown. We want it to be a community space, we want it to be a place that people can walk to and be a place people can come spend an hour or two in, come and have a drink and read a book, or come have a drink with friends, or if you’re a small nonprofit, you can come and use the space for a movie screening or a meeting.
"We needed a space that would logistically meet our needs in terms of the amount of space, the height requirements, the weight requirements. It’s in this location that is downtown but its right in between the main downtown area and the Kerrytown area so there is this path between the two. And I don’t think that corner has seen a lot of love over the years. We’re hoping it brings some more foot traffic and brightness and livelihood to that little in-between spot."
(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Explain the CSA model you will have.
“We’re kind of adopting that from Community Supported Agriculture, which is used by a lot of farmers and there are a ton of incredible CSAs in the Ann Arbor area. In a typical farm CSA, you pay at the beginning of the year for a portion of a produce that the farmer grows and then you’re getting your box of produce every week or whatever frequency and delivery you set up with the farmer.
"One, that offers some financial stability for the farmer and two, it just creates I think a deeper relationship than individual transactions you might have at a market or at a store, which are also great but just a different dynamic.
"So we wanted to recreate that even though we’re selling a different product, but we wanted to have that relationship where customers will be coming in regularly and will have tasted several products. It does offer an incentive to the member in that it is a little bit cheaper than it would be to buy regularly, which is similar to a CSA."
(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Do you know if this is the first meadery in Ann Arbor?
“I don’t know if, historically, there’s ever been one here. I’ve never seen any kind of news article or evidence of one existing previously. So, as far as I know, I don’t think there has been any mead or cider producer on a commercial level here."
Read: Bløm Meadworks coming to Ann Arbor in 2018