Bløm Meadworks: When timely seasonality meets an untimely pandemic
On Monday, Mar. 16, Governor Whitmer issued an executive order closing all Michigan restaurants and bars to slow the spread of the coronavirus — an unfortunate consequence of the pandemic for what would otherwise have been an exciting new time for the Ann Arbor food scene.
Bløm Meadworks, a meadery centered around downtown Ann Arbor, is among the businesses that are being forced to reduce or shut down their operations due to the pandemic. However, the true shame is that Bløm, like many other restaurants, is unable to optimally serve products tailored to the frosty harbingers of the spring season. Bløm, more so than other bars and restaurants, falls under the fickle whims of time’s passage. Should they fail to capture the fleeting presences of new produce that bloom and wither within a span of weeks, Bløm could potentially brew an incomplete narrative of the year’s capricious seasons.
Mead is an alcohol fermented from honey that can range in flavor from the piss-poor and overly-sweetened drinks at a renaissance fair to a well-balanced, fruit-forward melomel such as Schramm’s that shames all other wines in its wake. While Schramm’s nearly exclusively specializes in a rich-bodied drink somewhat similar to the alcohol content of wine, Bløm specializes in “sessionable” meads (drinks to be consumed at a leisurely pace in large quantities) more akin to the alcohol content of a dry sour ale.
Like Schramm’s, Bløm frequently features melomels — though by no means does Bløm specialize in them. In spite of that, Bløm’s greatest hits lie within the limited batches of brewed melomels that coincide with the season. A cherry-lemon mead released during late summer 2019 would screech with fruity acidity were it not tamed by the hints of sweet floral honey — exactly the sort of grown-up lemonade that you’ve always dreamed of drinking. The black currant mead, which was available within the late summer to early fall of 2019, emphasized the somewhat spicy and tart currant berries — a departure from a sweetened spice profile that one might find at a meadery such as Schramm’s.
Though seasonality throughout the winter may seem as if it would empty out Bløm’s selections of mead, Bløm compensates through an increased focus of ciders — and a Christmas-themed mead. For instance, though the apricots utilized in the Hopricot Cider would normally provide a sweet, autumnal tone, the inclusion of hops provides an astringency that helps you fight back from the chills of early winter — without any of the bitterness normally attached to a hop. As a follow-up, the Christmas mead’s spicy ginger overtones melds with sour cranberries — a melding that you suspect would be jarring were it not for the background notes of sweet honey binding the two together. Bløm, it seems, finds its style of mead by utilizing honey as a negotiator instead of the main event.
But perhaps the greatest mainstay of Bløm’s selection lies not with their meads or ciders, but with their switchel soda — a soda primarily consumed by American farmers in the 1800s. This drink is an anomaly — not only because of the lack of alcohol, but also because of what it highlights. The interplay between the honey and fruit vinegar is Bløm’s homage to the sweet and floral qualities of honey. While Bløm may use honey as the great negotiator in many of their sessionable meads, the soda takes the opposite stance in showcasing honey as a star player. Honey, you find, is not afraid to shine when it doesn’t have other ingredients nearby that need disciplining.
But with Governor Whitmer’s orders to shut down all restaurants and bars, it would be impossible to continue to drink Bløm’s carefully curated drinks on tap. As somewhat of a consolation, Bløm offers a few of their taps from their previous seasons across grocery stores and liquor stores such as Plum Market, Blue Front or Whole Foods. Most notably you’d find cans of a somewhat mediocre Blueberry Maple mead and its much tarter but exciting cousin: the Pear Ginger cider. Both may be throwbacks to the summer and fall seasons of 2019, though they provide an exciting sneak peek at what Bløm could offer in the coming bountiful seasons of 2020. In light of this pandemic, however, it’s challenging to watch the new spring season pass as you are unable to enjoy what Bløm might have created.
There are still ways to support your local restaurants and breweries — continuing to buy local food and drinks, providing generous tips to restaurant and delivery staff or when possible buying miscellaneous merchandise of your favorite local businesses. While it is possible to support Bløm Meadworks by purchasing their canned drinks and merchandise, supporting the artisanal, seasonal drinks that they create in small batches may be difficult if you are unable to go to Bløm’s curbside pick-up for a drink. Hopefully, you are able to support Bløm in their time of need. In the meantime, hope that you can enjoy Bløm’s curated tap by the full force of spring or summer.
Bløm Meadworks is located at 100 S 4th Avenue, Suite 110, Ann Arbor, Michigan.