Honey Moon Mead and Cider has been bringing locally-made mead and cider to Bellingham and the Pacific Northwest since it opened in 2005. A little like Superman in a phone booth, the family-owned and locally-operated Honey Moon is a mead and cider manufacturing facility by day that transforms into a cozy tasting room and intimate music and poetry venue by night. A vital part of the Downtown Bellingham community, this little speak easy is the perfect stop when you’re ready to get off the beaten path.
The story goes that more than ten years ago Bellingham Attorney Murphy Evans, his wife Anna, and Robert Arzoo of North Corner Brewing Supply made mead together as a pass time. Just a hobby at first. But they enjoyed it so much that they decided to partner and build Honey Moon as a small-scale production space and tasting room, rather like a traditional winery. Virtually no one else in the area made mead or cider. Although Arzoo is no longer a partner and Murphy has recently retired from law, the Honey Moon has remained much the same as its humble beginnings.
Its All About the Atmosphere
If you aren’t looking, Honey Moon is a gem that’s easy to miss. Its entrance is on the alley, and not the street that sets its address. It faces the Interurban Trail and is just up the block from the bustling Bellingham Farmers Market at Depot Market Square. Pepper Sisters restaurant’s outside deck seating sits just above it.
The space was once a glass factory and rumored hardware store which explains its unique look. The ceiling inside is incredibly high, with large glass windows above the entrance. The original historic brick is painted white and hung with the work of local artists. The lighting is subdued and warm yellow, adding to the cozy date-night feel with an industrial vibe.
The outside seating along the alley equals the size of the interior space, which is full at around 40 people. While sitting at your copper-topped table, sipping your mead over a twinkling candle, its hard to believe that earlier that same day, the room had been cleared to make room to process local fruit and honey into cider and mead. Just as you’d never expect that industrial space could be transformed into a room full of musicians and dancing patrons each night.
Music Both New and True
Many local bands and singer/songwriters got their start at Honey Moon and just as many come back to play even when they draw larger crowds and play much larger venues. You’ll find all ages music there six nights a week until 11 or so and amazingly, most all shows are free–although tipping the band is welcomed and encouraged. The Honey Moon loves to support local musicians and their friends. Irish and Folk Mondays with Jan Peters are followed by either a New Music Tuesday or a seasoned favorite on a Tuesday night. Open mic on Wednesdays is very popular and a great opportunity for newbies to get their start. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are full of local bands from Whatcom County, or their friends passing through. Honey Moon Marketing Director Scot Casey–former owner of the Black Drop Coffee House and a musician himself–handles the booking. Some shows are recorded and broadcast twice a week on local radio 102.3 KRME as Concerts from the Honey Moon Meadery.
Its not unusual to sing along old Sea Shanty tunes with The Good Time Girls or hear a five piece string band on a Tuesday night. I recently saw a Hot Damn Scandal show on a Thursday night. Their friends from New Orleans opened the show because they were passing through the Pacific Northwest. Rag jazz band Jocose Bird featured incredible clarinet and fiddle with lonesome vocals, peppy accordion, and spunky banjo. There is no green room so the performers of both bands were part of the audience until they walked to the performance area and began to play. Once Hot Damn Scandal began their tipsy American gypsy blues, the patrons cleared the tables to create a dance floor, and Jocose Bird started to swing dance with the audience.
I felt like I was in a friend’s living room; as if I had a personal experience with the musicians that I won’t soon forget.
Murphy and Anna are as committed to the literary art form as they are to local music. Their support of the local poetry scene comes in the form of special events, like the complete reading of Beowulf and the appreciation of the sonnet, as well as parties for local literary magazines, readings, and poetry slams. Server Erica Reed is deeply involved in the Whatcom County poetry community, who also spend time at the Honey Moon.
Mead, Cider, and More
According to Casey, Bellingham does beer and coffee very well, but the Honey Moon is the place for mead and cider. They make all of theirs, on site, with local fruit including cider apples from Bellingham’s Bellewood Acres. Meadmaker Sam Maxwell and Murphy develop the meads and cider heads with the help of their loyal crew. The rhubarb and quince used to to make two popular meads are grown in Murphy’s back yard.
What is a cider head you may ask? Its an English style cider made from fresh local apples with no added sugar or concentrate. Or a person who loves hard cider–a lot.
I’ve always enjoyed hard cider, but had little experience with mead beyond knowing that it was the ancient beverage drunk since the medieval times. Mead is a fermented beverage made from honey and a variety of other ingredients including fruit or spice. That’s why I ordered the Taster Tray, which is like a beer flight, and comes in sizes 6 and 12 tastes. Mine included three meads–the reserve, traditional, and rhubarb–and three cider heads–dry, semi-sweet, and cranberry. My inexperienced pallet told me that ciders were sweeter but the meads slightly more syrupy with more of an after taste. It would make sense that medieval ruffians would prefer something more substantial than a crisp, light cider. I enjoyed sampling multiples of both to compare.
In October Honey Moon puts out a call to the community to bring their local apples from throughout the county, old school style, to be blended together into the mead called Bellingham Extra. Many area businesses carry Honey Moon’s meads and ciders and their products are also distributed up and down Washington’s I-5 corridor.
It’s okay if you don’t feel adventurous about mead though. They also serve local beer and wine as well as light fare at affordable prices with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Cider is naturally gluten-free of course. The server generously agreed to make my hummus platter vegan without even a blink.
Although Honey Moon has had many opportunities to grow beyond their modest beginnings, they’ve chosen to remain small and local. That dedication to quality and community has built loyalty and support from employees, musicians, poets, and patrons alike.
1053 North State Street in the Alley
Bellingham, WA 98225
Mon.-Sat. 5 – 11 pm