Mead in P.E.I.: Island farm producing fermented honey beverage
Island Honey Wine Co. started in July
Charles Lipnicki had been looking for an escape from the daily grind of his job as a salesman.
He and his wife Laura were looking to buy a farm in Ontario when they found themselves vacationing on the Island.
Laura brought what in hindsight seemed so obvious.
"She said 'You know Charles I really envy the people that live in Prince Edward Island … they're never more than 20 minutes from the ocean, they have these fertile rolling fields, wonderful farmland … it's a beautiful place to live, the people are so warm … I would love to be one of those people,'" recalled Lipnicki.
"And I couldn't have agreed more."
"We were so impressed."
'Never had anything like it'
The couple now runs a certified organic farm in Wheatley River, P.E.I., about 15 minutes from the Charlottetown airport — and has been for five years.
This July they started the Island Honey Wine Co. a venture that specializes in making mead, a lesser known wine-type drink that is made with fermented honey.
"It's not part of the vernacular of most people, but mead is the oldest fermented beverage known to man," said Lipnicki.
"When people try it they're usually really surprised … they've never had anything like it in their life."
'Snapshot of time and place'
Lipnicki said that making mead offers a lot of variety when it comes to flavour profile because the taste of the honey is affected by where the nectar comes from.
"You're taking the honey which is a snapshot of time and place," said Lipnicki.
Something that they can share with people coming to visit and say "Hey here's something that we produce on the Island that's unique to the Island." You just can't get this everywhere.- Charles Lipnicki
"Every year is different, so what the bees forage on this year will be different than what they forage on next year based on the flowers that are available."
The couple have a small apiary which provides them with some honey and they source the rest from a local beekeeper.
Mead on P.E.I.
Lipnicki said another way they add flavour to the mead is by fermenting the honey with fruits grown on their farm.
Using haskap berries and lavender they produce different styles of mead.
He said that part of their plan was to make a product using solely Island ingredients.
"I think it's great when somebody can … sample a product that's from their backyard," said Lipnicki.
"Something that they can share with people coming to visit and say 'Hey here's something that we produce on the Island that's unique to the Island.' You just can't get this everywhere."
Investing time and money
Lipnicki said that the meadery has required a substantial amount of time and money from he and his wife, but that the two view it as an investment in their future and the future of the business.
"I think we're going to be doing this long enough that it'll pay off to do it right in the first place," he said.
It's a growing sector in the alcohol market but it's still in its infancy.- Charles Lipnicki
"When we built the building we use to process our meads we tried to do the best job we could, and tried to think it through so that we would be able to enjoy the use of it for many many years."
Lipnicki said that the province helped through the future farmers program and with some funding support from Innovation PEI for purchasing machinery and equipment.
'Steward of the environment'
Lipnicki said the buzz around mead is still small but is gaining traction.
"It's a growing sector in the alcohol market but it's still in its infancy," he said.
The hope for Lipnicki is to reach a point where Island Honey Wine will make it off of P.E.I., but he is also cognizant of how difficult it will be to get into other markets.
"We definitely don't see ourselves going to the point where we're in every province across the country," he said.
"It would be really nice if we had a product that would be exportable off the Island. It would be nice to be able to share that with the rest of the world."
Lipnicki said there was something just as important as the success of the business for he and his wife.
"To get the quality of product out there, make it available and always I think never lose sight of being a good steward of the environment as we're going forward because really that's what it's all about."
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