Summertime and beverages. Like PB and J, or tacos and Tuesdays, they just go together. A fizzling, super-cold root beer, a frosty iced cappuccino, or a fresh-stirred jug of Kool-Aid are some universal favourites. If you’re over the age of nineteen and enjoy beverages of the spirited variety, then nothing says summer like a pint on a patio, or a pitcher of fruity sangria, or a lovely wine spritzer.
Here in York Durham Headwaters, we love the tradition of the summer beverage, and we’ve got the inside scoop on all the different kinds you can enjoy. That’s why we’re taking this opportunity to add a brand-new favourite to your repertoire… or, at least, brand-new-to-you perhaps. If you’ve heard of it before, then you’re awesome. If you haven’t, then you are missing out big time! But don’t worry, we can fix that. Let us introduce you to the delicious beverage called mead. We’ll tell you what it is, where it came from, and why it’s the perfect drink for summer.
What is mead?
Let’s start at the beginning and answer the burning question: What is mead? This unique and delicious beverage is also known as honey wine – though it should be noted that, like beer and cider, it occupies its own beverage category, so it is not technically wine. Mead is made from fermented honey. Alcohol is, after all, fermented sugar, and honey is one of the most delicious sugars known to humankind (yes, we may be a little biased). Its flavour profile ranges from very sweet to very dry, and it is available in both sparkling and still versions.
The history and tradition of mead is a long and proud one, so you can feel proud of continuing that tradition when you fall in love with it—which we know you’re going to do once you’ve tasted it. How long is that tradition, you ask? Well, archaeologists have found evidence of honey being fermented as early as 7000 BCE in northern China! Descriptions and references to mead has been found in texts that date from 1700 BCE by the peoples of northwest India, in ancient Greece, ancient Europe, and in medieval Britain. There is a reason this tried-and-true drink has lasted so long—ancient peoples knew how downright delicious it was! They even called it the “drink of the gods!”
In recent years, mead has experienced a resurgence, with craft meaderies returning time-tested recipes to modern times, and experimenting with new ingredients, techniques and other playful twists. That’s why we think now is the very best time in history to be rediscovering the delights of this ancient beverage.
Local mead in York Durham Headwaters
With our abundance of local honey producers here in YDH, it is no surprise that we’ve got some pretty great mead producers in our own backyard. Here are two of our favourites.
Ontario Honey Creations
938343 Airport Rd., Mulmur
Ontario Honey Creations is one of our family-run farms based in Headwaters, but with working hives all over York Durham Headwaters, and even into the GTA and the Downtown Toronto core. Their sister company, Toronto Bee Rescue, is dedicated to rescuing swarms of essential, hardworking honey bees that would otherwise be killed as pests. But honey is not the only thing you’ll find in Ontario Honey Creations’ online store. Using their own raw, unpasteurized Ontario honey as a base, husband-and-wife team Peter Chorabik and Sarah Allinson-Chorabik naturally ferment their honey to produce mead using a traditional Polish recipe that has been passed down for generations. Choose from a selection of bourbon-barrel aged dessert mead, rhubarb semi-sweet mead, or cranberry mead melomel (which is a type of mead fermented with fruit).
“HiveMinders is our own brand of mead here, made using our own raw and unpasteurized local honey produced by re-homed honeybees from Toronto Bee Rescue.” say Sarah and Peter. “Making mead is a passion for us here at Ontario Honey Creations, and we look forward to expanding our HiveMinders mead offerings this year. In addition to our traditional mead and melomel offerings, we will also be expanding into canned session meads. We are excited about what’s to come!”
As a bonus, you can feel extra good about enjoying mead from Ontario Honey Creations, because not only are you supporting a local farm that does amazing rescue work, but a portion from each sale goes to supporting the Toronto Bee Rescue.
Circling Hawk Honey Farm and Meadery
13433 Leslie St., Richmond Hill
Known for their friendly service and pure natural honey, cheesecake and mead, Circling Hawk Honey Farm and Meadery takes great care of the health and wellbeing of the millions of bees they manage. Only ethical beekeeping practices are used here, and bees forage the wilds of the Oak Ridges Moraine for alfalfa, clover, buckthorn, goldenrod and other wildflowers. “Three generations are involved in the farm. It’s our mission to responsibly grow quality managed pollinators in an ethical way, and to provide the freshest and finest honey in Ontario,” say the folks at Circling Hawk.
If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, then come and taste the latest release of local meads. Each Saturday afternoon this summer, from 2:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., Circling Hawk will be hosting art vendors, live bands, and will offer table service for mead and cheesecake. We challenge you to find a better way to spend a summer afternoon than with music, friends, and the “drink of the gods!” If you can’t wait until Saturday, then not to worry. The walk-up order window is open all day, every day.
Story by Katherine Ryalen