Saskatchewan

'People can't seem to get enough': Mead having a renaissance in Saskatchewan

Regina craft breweries say mead is soaring in popularity in the province.

Local breweries say mead is soaring in popularity in the province

Rebellion's Prairie Cherry Mead. (Submitted by Mark Heise)

This piece was originally published Dec. 2, 2018.

Mead has essentially three ingredients — honey, water and yeast — but a mead brewer would probably tell you the drink has a world of possibilities.

You can add berries, apples, spices, peppers, currants and grains. The list goes on.

The versatile beverage is thought to be among the oldest fermented drinks in the world, and mead is having a resurgence right here in Saskatchewan.

Grant Frew, bar and marketing manager at Bushwakker in Regina, said that mead is unique for a few reasons. 

"People tell me, and pardon the pun, but it's a different kind of buzz that they get off of mead," he said. 

"The fact that we ferment it out a little bit more than normal, it's a little bit dryer but still lots of fruity flavour. You can taste the honey, but there's not that cloying amount of sweetness."

Bushwakker famously makes blackberry mead, and releases it once a year on the first Saturday of December. Some years, people have lined up for blocks just to get a case.

Tents line the street in front of Bushwakker Brewpub on Saturday in anticipation of the release of their blackberry mead. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC News)

Frew said that over the years, the ancient drink has risen in popularity. 

"A few years ago, we were really the only game in town," he said. 

But now, there are more locations in Regina producing mead. Saskatchewan's first brewery dedicated to mead, Prairie Bee Meadery, recently opened in Moose Jaw.

A look at two past blackberry meads from Bushwakker. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC News)

Rebellion Brewing Co., just down the street from Bushwakker, is also brewing its own mead. 

Mark Heise, president of Rebellion, started out by brewing mead at home. When he opened the brewery, he carried the recipe over.

"People can't seem to get enough," he said.

Heise said that the increase in mead popularity has been dramatic. They are sending their first shipment of mead to Alberta next week. 

Local ingredients

Another name for mead is "honey wine." (Submitted by Mark Heise)

Both Heise and Frew use local ingredients. Heise gets the fruit for the mead he makes at Over the Hill Orchard just outside of Lumsden and Frew said they source their honey from a producer in Lumsden as well. 

Heise said that he originally got into mead because he knew there were quality local ingredients in the province.

"The benefit of having such a strong agriculture sector here is that we basically have the world's bread basket and fruit basket and honey basket all right here in our own backyard," he said. 

Bushwakker's honey producer saves them the darkest, best honey every year. 

"A lot of people akin our blackberry mead release to being a truly Saskatchewan experience," Frew said. 

"I think there's a lot of warm fuzzies attached to our blackberry mead release. A lot of Saskatchewan pride."

Frew said he loves that the mead is different every year because of the variations in the honey.

"It ages wonderfully," he said.

Mead Day

Some mead fans still line up in the early hours of the morning to get their hands on Bushwakker's concoction. You don't have to line up anymore since the brewery changed their buying rules, but some diehard fans do it for the tradition.

Curtis Mang has been coming for mead at Bushwakker for 11 years now.

"[It has] become a tradition that is known throughout Regina and to uphold it, keep it going, is a lot of fun," he said. 

Mang said he loves meeting people in line every year and seeing some old faces too. 

Curtis Mang stands surrounded by friends old and new with past bottles of Bushwakker mead. He still lines up every year to buy it. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC News)

"Some of these people I only see once a year so every single year it's 'There's White Boots, there's Facemask'," he said.

"The idea of the line has just become a tradition for those who did it years back when you needed to. And it's not a thing you have to do, it's a thing you do."

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter

Emily Pasiuk is a reporter for CBC Edmonton who also covers news for CBC Saskatchewan. She has filmed two documentaries. Emily reported in Saskatchewan for three years before moving to Edmonton in 2020. Tips? Ideas? Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

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