Story by Brit Hart
Mead, or honey wine, is considered to be the ancestor of all fermented drinks and the history of mead is long and storied, with roots going back to Africa, India, Greece and China. Each account tells a tale of honey, intentionally or not, being mixed with rainwater and left to ferment, thus creating a delicious, boozy concoction to sip. Mead was once the drink of the gods but today, it is oft associated with Medieval times and Renaissance fairs, conjuring up images of goblets and chain mail.
In Alberta, we have embraced mead. Our honey is considered to be some the best in the world, thanks to our hearty crops of clover, alfalfa and wildflowers, and an enthusiastic number of entrepreneurs have taken to making mead and receiving worldwide praise for the innovative beverages. Here are some of our must-tries:
Chinook Arch Meadery
Chinook Arch Meadery in Okotoks has been around since 2006, making honey and mead while also hosting a number of events and educational sessions throughout the year. Their King Arthur’s Dry (see the medieval influence here) is a great starting place if you’ve never had mead before. It offers classic aromas of honey and florals with a waxy mouth feel, but is drier than your typical offering, making it more food friendly. Pair it with a little snack board filled with aged cheddar, cured pork, toasted almonds and of course, a dollop of local honey.
Fallen Timber in Water Valley is one of the most innovative meaderies in North America, being the first to step outside the box and offer session meads, more akin to a canned cocktail than the medieval drink we were talking about earlier. They do have more classic offerings as well as a well curated barrel program for their special releases. Their Hopped Session Mead is a perfect gluten free alternative for beer drinkers with its light, hoppy character, but also offers a surprising dose of acidity thanks to the honey itself. Pair this with creton or pork rillette and crab apple jelly as the sweet, salty, tart flavours work beautifully with the floral, citrussy hops.
Sunny Cider in Calgary is an urban cidery focused on using local produce and building community. They began making mead in 2020, using locally sourced honey and fruit available through Sunny Cider’s fruit donor program. Cupid’s Kiss is made with sour cherries to create a sweet, port-like mead. The colour is a beautiful, vibrant cherry colour and the wine is rich and sweet with a pleasant tart that helps keep it balanced. The key to capturing all the cherry flavour is using whole cherries, pulling colour and flavour from the skins and the pits, not just the juice. This pairs beautifully with flourless chocolate cake or a hunk of blue cheese.