James Boicourt is the co-owner and founder of Charm City Meadworks. Launched in 2014, Charm City Meadworks is Baltimore’s first meadery, with distribution throughout the city’s stores and bars, and a taproom at the south end of the 895 Harbor Tunnel. James works as the company’s senior meadmaker, developing its products and recipes. He started the brewery as a hobby after collecting honey from bees during entomology courses in graduate school. Today, Charm City Meadworks offers several regular and seasonal products in bottles and cans available all over Maryland and online at cellar.com.
For those who may not be familiar: What is mead, and how do you make, package, and sell it?
JAMES BOICOURT: Charm City Meadworks is a local brand. We make mead, which is a honey based alcoholic beverage, and we focus on drier, lighter meads. We have mead on draft, which is now in cans at 6.9% ABV. Our process starts out with honey and water in big tanks. We mix that up, we ferment it for a couple of weeks and then we barrel age it for two to three months. After that we will infuse it with various flavors, whether it be basil and lemongrass—or we’re working on a mango comapeño, a really cool heirloom chili pepper. From there, we’ll take it through the packaging process and distribute it ourselves out to customers.
Did you always have a passion for mead or honey products? What is your background?
I first became interested in bees when I was in college. I took an intro to beekeeping class to satisfy a biology credit and it was something that was so fascinating that I decided to continue further and ended up taking some graduate-level beekeeping. I have a varied background, to say the least. This is something that came up towards the end of college when I was home brewing and taking up beekeeping, and it was always something that I recognized the business opportunity for—the business potential for—but like many people, I chose the safer, more standard jobs along the way. For the last six years leading up to this I was a submersibles engineer.
What was the inciting moment that made you start the company? How has your life changed since then?
We decided in late 2013 that mead was really the opportunity out of all the other options that we wanted to start with, and that there was a large niche for it, and we went for it. One of the biggest challenges has been a lot of long hours, seeing friends less frequently. I’ve had to really focus on it in a way that I wasn’t fully prepared for, probably. There are larger, unknown questions, because you’re not just worried about a house or what your girlfriend needs or what your family needs. You’re worried about a business, which supports your ability to do everything else in life. And also about your customers, your business partner, your employees. There’s a level of responsibility there with being the owner of something that really has been a major adjustment.