Moon Dog Meadery and Bottle Shop | 1104 Broad St., Suite C, Durham | 919-381-5222

Below a beloved cafe sits a dimly lit tavern with free-flowing beverages and intricate art adorning the walls. This is not, by the way, a preview of my next Dungeons & Dragons campaign; it’s the scene at Moon Dog Meadery, a combination bottle shop, craft meadery, and board game cafe located below Joe Van Gogh’s Durham location.

Over the years, the 1104 Broad Street building has played host to a variety of businesses, including the nineties-era music venue Under the Street, the Mid-South Fencers Club, and the Vault at Palace International. Next up: a meadery.

Moon Dog opened to the public on December 26. Though relatively bare-boned, as it has only been open a month, the shop’s walls are brightened with murals painted by local artists, and unfussy shelves hold local beers, ciders, and wine for folks to consume on-site or take to go.

An unlit corner to the side, still under construction, marks where Moon Dog’s draft system will go; mead sits in plastic fermenters, meanwhile, until it’s ready to be bottled and served to customers.

Despite its current humble state, though, the shop has a clear vision for a simple yet refined community hangout spot. With like-minded Durham hangout spaces like Bar Brunello and local board-game paradise The Atomic Fern now shuttered, Moon Dog seems poised to fill an easygoing bar-meets-activities niche.

Co-founders Kenneth Thrower and Derrick Forrest’s story, in fact, begins with an activity: they met at a rock climbing event several years ago and connected over a shared love for fantasy and sci-fi novels. They became fast friends.

“I knew Derrick had been making mead and I was spending all this time with him and wanted to learn how to make it,” Thrower says. “He taught me, and we started researching the flavor profiles and it was a lot of fun. We made another batch and another and another and just kept going.”

Eventually, an offhand bonding experience turned into a personal passion for both Forrest and Thrower. And then, a potential profession.

“People had been pressuring Derrick to go professional for a long time because he’s been doing it for about 10 years,” Thrower says.

They had spent years refining recipes, but it took a global pandemic to actually push them forward. After Thrower was furloughed from his job at the rock climbing gym and diving back into mead-making with Forrest, the two decided to seriously consider opening a meadery. Forrest had years of experience in the hospitality industry, and Thrower began working on the creative and marketing side of their future business. After months of planning, Moon Dog Meadery came to fruition.

“If COVID hadn’t happened, Moon Dog probably wouldn’t have happened,” Thrower says.

Though Moon Dog Meadery and Bottle Shop opened to positive response at the tail end of 2021, Thrower and Forrest don’t actually have any mead ready to sell yet.

In a bittersweet turn of events, the shop actually received its permitting months ahead of schedule—an almost unheard of stroke of good luck in the beverage industry—so their mead is still in production on-premises and likely won’t be ready until March. But, in the meantime, Forrest and Thrower have been able to serve samples of their home-brewed batches of mead; standouts, so far, include their traditional mead and a mixed-berry mead. Meanwhile, Thrower admits that more unique flavors like butterscotch are still being dialed in.

“We will have our three flagships that are year-round available,” Thrower says. “Once we have enough stuff to make sure that’s a thing, we’ll have our traditional, which we’ll have a dry and semi-dry variant of. And then we’ll have a mixed berry, which will be like an off-dry, and then a coffee vanilla mead.”

But, while they patiently wait for their own mead to finish, Forrest and Thrower are able to serve customers anything from their selection of wine, beer, cider, and mead in the bottle shop portion of the space. Cubbies stretch up to the ceiling holding cans and bottles of local beverages, and Thrower has made it a point to stock primarily North Carolina producers.

“The bottle shop is something we wanted mostly to support local businesses and just have options for people,” says Thrower. “We don’t think that’s the primary way that people are going to be interacting with us. Our hope is that they’re mostly going to come for our mead and for our events—or, just to hang out and play board games.”

In addition to serving locally produced beverages, Forrest and Thrower want to use their tasting room as a gathering place for folks in the neighborhood. They plan to host events like board and video game tournaments and mead-making classes; a planned small stage in the space may provide the opportunity for intimate live music and comedy night.

“[It’s great] just talking with people, feeling comfortable, knowing this is our space and we can run it however we want,” says Thrower. “No one’s over my head telling me what to do.”

As for the dog reference in the business name: It comes honestly.

Several mead mixes have dog references, and well-behaved, on-leash dogs are welcome at the bar; Moon Dog also recently hosted an adoption event at the bar. Wednesday through Sunday, during the shop’s hours, you can find Thrower and Forrest tending the bar along with their dogs, Sherlock, a corgi-and-beagle mix, and Mystic, a rescue pup who graces Moon Dog’s logo.

“Hosting events, having live music, running board game competitions, that’s what I’m most excited about,” explains Thrower. “I’ve had other jobs that I like, but I love this job.”

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