Saturday we joined Chatham Extension & Chatham County Beekeepers to celebrate Pollinator Day. There were fantastic displays about honey, types of bees, pollinator-friendly plants, products of the bee hive, and cooking with honey. A local 4-H’er also had an impressive collection of butterflies and growing larvae. Neat stuff. The bee cage drew a great crowd who got to peek inside a hive with the protection of a screened venue. Things got entertaining when a young fellow started passing around drone honeybees (They are the males, who have no stinger. They are fun to play with!) But not everyone was convinced.
The highlight of the day (for me) was the mead making demo by Starrlight Mead. I’m no alcohol aficionado – really a lightweight. But I was fascinated by the idea of a new (to me) use for honey. Mead is simply fermented honey wine. It’s as ancient a drink as you can imagine. Pre-Egyptian. Fertile crescent kind of stuff. And later, the drink of choice of the Vikings. So I’m in good company.
Starrlight owner, Ben Starr, walked the group through the basics of equipment, procedure & recipes. You can get started at home for ~$50 and 3lbs of honey (which ain’t cheap. Luckily, I know a guy). They may have offered samples too, but as I was trying to keep an eye on Buck Naked’s booth, I missed somethings. So I visited their stellar retail store behind Chatham Mills – cool tasting bar & all.
Their mead menu is extensive but I opted for their honey-heavy “Traditional Semi-Sweet” to start. Wow. Really wow. I gotta try this with our honey! If you haven’t tried mead, you should. Despite the marketing challenge of renaissance festival imagery and generally unflattering name, honey wine is excellent. Any wine drinker who appreciates honey will love it. It is a beautiful (adult) way to savor the unique flavor nuances of honey. It would be truly lovely with a picnic in the warmth of summer.
It should take 5-6 months to ready a home-brew batch, but that will be just in time for the holidays! Next time you need a break from the usual pairings, try something old, unusual, and very tasty – mead. Or skip the tights & jesters and just call it honey wine.