(Honey) Wine and Dine at Paisley Meadery
The locally grown honey wine brewery sets up shop in Chinatown.
Last October, we featured Paisley Meadery as part of our Drink Local roundup of Hawai‘i-made spirits and beverages. (Read it here.) At the time, the bubbly honey-based mead produced by Paisley was only available by the bottle in supermarkets. But in January, Paisley opened a brick-and-mortar location as a place for guests to enjoy fresh mead by the glass—as well as a full (and surprisingly diverse) lunch and dinner menu with selections ranging from Mexican street tacos to Vietnamese-style sandwiches.
Photos: James Charisma
“Everybody downtown wants food. So instead of having to turn people on to the idea of tasting mead, they now come in and order lunch or dinner and then ask what we have to drink,” says owner Brian Paisley. “The menu goes hand-in-hand with getting people to try a beverage they may have never heard of before.”
Mead is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages, dating back some 9,000 years. With between 8 and 20 percent alcohol by volume, it’s stronger than most beers but weaker than wine. Making mead is fairly simple: honey is mixed with boiling water, along with optional fruits or herbs for flavor. Then yeast is added for fermentation. The mixture sits for about four weeks before it’s “racked” (transferred to a secondary container) to filter out sediment. It rests again, for a month or longer; then it’s ready for drinking. In terms of taste and texture, mead is similar to cider in many ways; it can be dry and malty, sweet, naturally sparkling and produced with fruits, yeast, spices, hops and grains.
Paisley, previously the brewer of Pacific Beach Brewing Co., ages his flagship sparkling mead, made from Hawaiian honey and his own proprietary yeast, over cacao for 90 days. He also offers noncarbonated meads made with breadfruit, liliko‘i and green mango. Paisley Meadery’s new downtown destination also offers beers, including a hibiscus sour made from Hilo hibiscus and locally grown honey, a Kona coffee and cream pale ale and a heathered stout made with calluna and cinnamon. All are 12-ounce pours for $5 each. Paisley makes harder spirits too, such as a smooth brandy and 190-proof “meadshine,” the distillate of the sparkling mead. Both are $10. You can also take home a bottle of the brandy for $150 or the meadshine for $90 (both 500 mL; currently out of stock but available again soon).
The food menu includes pho with pork ($15); a Vietnamese sandwich made with pork, provolone, garlic butter and served with pho jus for dipping (also $15); as well as pasta options, such as the linguini and clams with zucchini basted in olive oil, garlic and spices ($18). The sandwich is a solid choice; the linguini is a little too no-frills for the price point. They’re original recipes by Erban Gamurot, the hardworking lone employee I encountered, who both seated me and then jumped behind the counter to start slicing meat and boiling pasta.
The menu also features salmon, available either sautéed as a steak and served over creamed spinach ($27.50) or prepared as ceviche, with tomato, cilantro, onion, habanero, lime and spices ($15), as well as a ribeye ($35) and a 10-ounce porterhouse ($47), both aged 30 days.
“Some places, you walk out after paying $30 for ‘small plates’ and you’re still hungry,” Paisley says. “I’m offering larger dishes that people can feel like they’re getting a good deal on, while also paying a good price on a fine high-end alcohol.”
In time, Paisley hopes to open a second location—underneath his existing restaurant and brewery. The current meadery is a 1,200-square-foot space; underground is an additional 1,200-square-foot space that sits empty. Paisley plans to convert it into a members-only 1920s-era speakeasy. “The staff will be dressed in age-appropriate attire and we’ll have performers playing jazz, bluegrass and Rat Pack-style music,” says Paisley. “The goal is for the place to be incredibly high-end and exclusive.”
Paisley Meadery, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 36 N. King St., (808) 673-5263, paisleymeadery.com
Bring the family down to the Best of Honolulu Festival July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Honolulu Hale civic grounds. Eat at ‘ono food booths, shop local designers in the marketplace, bring the family to the keiki zone for face painting, balloon animals, rides, games and more. For more information, visit honolulumagazine.com/bestofhonolulu.