Artisan Beverage Cooperative has a focus on mead

  • Garth Shaneyfelt in the tasting room at Artisan Beverage Cooperative. Recorder file photo

  • Artisan Beverage Co. in the CDC on Wells Street gives an official a tour. Recorder file photo

  • Tasting Room Manager Ramelle Schepp and Garth Shaneyfelt in the tasting room at Artisan Beverage Co. on Wells Street. Recorder file photo

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Artisan Beverage Cooperative makes three different fermented drinks not far from downtown Greenfield. Their Green River Ambrosia meads (a wine made with honey), Ginger Libation alcoholic ginger beer and Katalyst Kombucha, a fermented tea with active cultures.

It started as two companies that shared a facility, merging in 2013, and earlier this year they expanded, opening a tasting room at 324 Wells St. where they offer flights of different products and product to go. They fill growlers and bottles and have 12 taps featuring kombucha in different flavors from small batches, which you can only get in the tasting room. The tasting room is open on Friday afternoons and Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Will Savitri and Jeffrey Canter founded Katalyst in 2005, and employee Garth Shaneyfelt founded Green River Ambrosia in 2007 with Savitri. The ginger beer came three years later, spearheaded by a former worker-owner who had been making it at home.

Alcoholic ginger beer harkens back to 19th-century Europe. But it was a homemade kombucha that served as the catalyst for what became Artisan Beverage.

“Will started making kombucha at the Sirius Community (in Shutesbury) while I lived there,” said Canter. “I liked it a lot, and we decided to form a company to get it out there.”

Mead, considered by some to be among the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages, has enjoyed a recent rise in popularity. The beverage, that was featured heavily in tales of medieval times, has seen a resurgence after popping up in the show “Game of Thrones.”

In 2007, Savitri and Shaneyfelt got to talking and realized mead, the centuries-old wine made with honey rather than grapes, was missing from the list of local libations.

“Will and I said, ‘Why isn’t anyone around here making mead?’” Shaneyfelt recalled. “It’s a great way to support local beekeepers.”

So, Green River Ambrosia was formed. They made mead after-hours at Katalyst’s facility. It’s gone on to make more than 20 kinds of mead.

The business uses almost exclusively local honey in all its meads. It also makes an Apple Cyzer, which is part mead, part hard cider, using all local cider. For Local Libation, it sources the signature spice from Amherst’s Old Friends Farm. It also makes a Local Libation that adds fruit from area farms, and hopes to have a Blueberry Libation made with berries from Benson Place in Heath.

While Artisan’s beverages can now be found in all the New England states save for New Hampshire, and Katalyst Kombucha has made it into the Market Basket grocery store chain, “Our mainstays are still cooperative (markets) and farm-stands,” Shaneyfelt said.

Artisan now makes about 600 gallons of kombucha per week, from 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of Ginger Libation per month, and around 300 gallons of mead each month. While it only accounts for about 10 percent of Artisan’s production, the mead takes the longest. Depending on the variety, they’re aged for anywhere from six months to three years before release.