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Slate Point Meadery Proves Mead Is Marvelous in Poughkeepsie

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Photos by Jeremiah Shaffer, Hudson Picture Company

The Hudson Valley destination pours honey-fermented meads alongside local beers and ciders from its tasting room on Main Street.

On the list of things the Hudson Valley has a wonderful abundance of, breweries, wineries, and even cideries make the cut. From Albany all the way down to Westchester County, craft beverage producers tap into the bounty of the region to concoct artisanal drinks that entice locals and earn top marks in national award competitions time and time again. Because those makers are spread across every corner of our area, Hudson Valleyites never need look far for hyper-local sips.

Except, that is, if they’re looking for mead.

In a region known for nearly every craft beverage imaginable ­– glogg, moonshine, you name it – there’s a surprising lack of mead makers. At first glance, mead sounds like a pretty swell drink. Because it’s fermented with honey, it’s pleasantly sweet and almost resembles a lighter dessert wine. It seems like a guaranteed hit for a region that’s already enamored of artisanal beers, ciders, liquors, and wines. So where exactly can one find it in the Hudson Valley?

In Queen City, of course.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, what better place than Dutchess County’s queen bee city for a Hudson Valley meadery to make its hive, ahem, home? In this case, said meadery is Slate Point Meadery, and it’s located right on Main Street in Poughkeepsie.

Owned by mead maker Eric DeRise and his wife, Ashley Kerns, Slate Point Meadery is a longtime passion project that traces its roots back to 2011. At the time, DeRise turned to homebrewing mead after he began reacting badly to mainstream beer. Add to that the fact that mead was – and still is – hard to find in the Hudson Valley, and he soon realized he had the makings of his very own business endeavor.

In 2011, he launched Salt Point Meadery LLC with a few friends. Having grown up in Salt Point, he first named the brand after his hometown, although he later changed it to Slate Point prior to opening his Poughkeepsie tasting room. In 2017, he got more serious about production and began brewing out of a small space in Pleasant Valley. Yet even then, he knew the meadery had the potential to become something more. It just needed the right home base.

 

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Just before the pandemic hit the Hudson Valley, DeRise signed his lease at the Queen City Lofts building in January 2020. Not only did he love the strategic location in the heart of downtown Poughkeepsie, but he was also excited for Slate Point to sit alongside neighbors Fit Social and Zeus Brewing Company.

“The area that we set up in is starting to show signs of a real close-knit small business community, an area that promotes the ability for the public to walk around to various places, not just a street to drive through,” he says. “A lot of locals have said I’m ‘ahead of the game’ in terms of the alcoholic beverage industry, since mead has yet to become mainstream. So, why not open up shop ahead of the game in a city that is on its way up?”

With a new home in the Hudson Valley, DeRise and Kerns began a buildout that lasted from February to August. On August 1, a.k.a. National Mead Day, Slate Point Meadery opened for business in Dutchess County. Inside, the 1,400-square-foot space houses a tasting room and production facility. Visitors can stop by for full pours or tasting flights, with bottles available to take home. Currently, the meadery can accommodate 16 guests at a time in the tasting room. When social distancing restrictions ease, Slate Point plans to open its main bar for more tastings and educational demonstrations.

Because DeRise and Kerns are the sole employees of Slate Point Meadery for now (they plan to hire staff when they add hours and days to their calendar), they dedicate weekends to customer visits, with weekdays left open for production. As for what they’re brewing, it’s a new take on historic mead that prioritizes New York ingredients and drinkability. Unlike the meads of old, Slate Point’s versions run less sweet than your standard mead, with a lower ABV (six to 12 percent) than traditional ones (14 to 18 percent).

“This makes it similar to hard cider or table wine, thus making it more approachable to those who have never tried mead before or have had mead in the past and have a preconceived notion of what to expect,” he explains.

 

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To craft the small-batch meads, DeRise begins by sourcing most ingredients from New York State, with 80 to 90 percent of all the honey coming locally from the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes. Depending of the varieties he produces, he looks to Crown Maple in Dover Plains for maple syrup and CurrantC in Staatsburg for black currants as well. After that, it’s onto blending the honey and water together with a yeast strain to kickstart a fermentation that converts the sugar into alcohol. Additional ingredients can be added, depending upon which flavor profiles DeRise looks to create, but fermentation generally runs from one to two weeks, with aging lasting one to six months or more after that.

Inside the taproom, Slate Point pours two flagship meads and a rotating variety of limited-edition flavors. Based upon customer feedback, some of the special brews may turn into permanent staples in the future. For now, the Currant Rose, a black currant and rosemary mead that’s lightly carbonated with a 6.5-percent ABV, and the Green Lit, a green tea mead that’s also carbonated with a 6.5-percent ABV, are the two fixtures on the menu. They’re far from the only meads on offer, though. In fact, the meadery has a list of eight or so meads on tap at any given time, with flavor profiles ranging from vanilla and cinnamon to blood orange, raspberry, and apple cider. In addition to the add-ins, Slate Point Meadery experiments with different honey varietals, like clover and raspberry blossom, as well as carbonated and non-carbonated formulations.

“The fun part of a tasting room and making mead in general is the ability to come up with so many recipes,” DeRise enthuses. Because the meadery serves so many enticing variations of its core product, visitors who are intrigued by more than one offering would do well to order a Meadmosa flight. Available on Sundays, the flight is a spin on mimosas with sparkling mead instead of sparkling wine. Plus, for visitors who might want something besides mead (gasp!), Slate Point keeps one or two taps open for local beer and cider. It all pairs with snackable bites, although DeRise and Kerns plan to welcome local food vendors for pop-ups on weekends, along with a selection of retail products like honey and syrup for sale.

 

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DeRise and Kerns are excited to introduce mead to the Hudson Valley through their tasting room space, which also offers bottle sales for pickup. Looking ahead, they envision expanding to a larger production location. Because they have a NYS farm meadery license, they have the potential ability to open five remote tasting rooms along with the flagship location throughout the state.

“We also plan to build our portfolio of mead to be distributed, and eventually team up with an apiary to cultivate our honey for batches,” DeRise reveals.

Want to experience the buzz about Slate Point Meadery for yourself? Stop by the tasting room in the Queen City Lofts building on Saturday or Sunday or sample the mead at one of the local shops or restaurants that carry it in the Hudson Valley.

Slate Point Meadery
184 Main St, Poughkeepsie