LOVELAND - From basement to storefront, Adam Kittel turned a hobby of making mead into a Loveland meadery.
Kittel opened Bacchus Meadery in downtown Loveland in October 2007, relocating to U.S. 34 a year later where he could offer daily tastings.
"Colorado is considered the Napa Valley of mead," Kittel said, adding that including his, there are three meaderies along the Front Range and one in Palisade, along with four wineries that make mead.
Mead is wine made from honey fermented with yeast and water.
Kittel, 41, made mead in his garage for five or six years for himself and his friends, at first to save on the expense of buying mead for the medieval events he circuited as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a historical re-enactment group based in Berkeley, Calif.
Kittel spent two years experimenting with the right mix of honey, yeast and water and made more than 100 batches before he came up with a mead that his friends thought worthy of selling, he said.
"I was having so much fun with it as a hobby, and everyone was pushing me to open," said Kittel, who had been working for the past 17 years as a test or solutions engineer. He was ready to exit the corporate culture and was burned out, he said.
Kittel, a Broomfield resident, chose Loveland for his meadery because mead is known as the drink of love with its origins in wedding celebrations; hence the word "honeymoon."
Kittel asked his younger brother Jason, who lives in Loveland, to help start the business. Kittel's brother is in charge of sales, while his girlfriend, Christy Wolfe, is serving as event planner.
Kittel started his meadery in downtown Loveland, producing the mead on site but selling it off site at festivals.
When he wanted to expand and sell the mead at the meadery, he had to relocate the business because the building was too costly to renovate to meet code requirements, he said.
In October 2008, Kittel moved his meadery to a building downtown. There, he makes mead year-round, using honey from Colorado beekeepers.
Kittel's mainstay is metheglin, a type of mead made with herbs or spices or both.
This summer, Kittel, with the help of his brother and friends, began selling the mead at farmers markets in Fort Collins and Berthoud, in addition to the festivals.
The Kittels also do daily tastings at the meadery.
"My favorite thing is giving people samples," Kittel said, comparing the tastings to bartending because he can talk, joke and laugh, he said.
Kittel also likes the "meet and greet" aspect of the tastings.
"It's fun to see everyone's expression when they try it," he said.
For now, the Kittels distribute the mead to liquor stores mainly north of Denver.
"We're hoping to grow slowly," Kittel said. "It's easier to manage that way."