The tradition that predates history and lived through oral culture is making a resurgence right here in Squamish.
Mead is made out of honey, which was the only thing sweet enough to ferment back in the day, and is traditionally lower in alcohol content.
This was to sustain ancient all-night gatherings of the Romans or the Egyptians. Long-time Squamish resident, Julie Malcolm, first got her hands sticky 25 years ago and is ready to open up shop with her sparkling champagne mead.
What began as in interest in the 10,000-year history turned into an appreciation for the ritual of bringing people together.
“Every continent with bees had mead,” she explains noting there are many different ways to make mead but at its base is honey, yeast, and water. “Every culture flavoured it.”Meadb, meaning mead-woman” or “she who intoxicates” will hit the shelves of the upcoming Squamish Farmers Market by early May. Each artisanal glass bottle will be sold by the litre — it’s meant to be shared.
“I’m doing culturally historic meads,” she says. “What I’m really trying to get at is what we were drinking 2,500 years ago.” Four flavours are featured; rose petal honours the Romans, lavender highlights the Egyptians, elderflower gives a nod to the Norse Scandinavians and vanilla bean, commemorating Mesoamericans. “I plan to play around some more but I’m waiting to carry on with some really nice light meads,” she says.
“It’s all about a good recipe and good ingredients and cleanliness.”
The process takes about eight months, including fermentation. With some investment, Malcolm’s been working for years to open and says she’s grateful for the affordable space on Second Avenue where she manufactures.
“My main power source is me,” she says. “There’s nothing high tech about it. I’m trying to do small batches with intention.”
The honey comes straight from Prince George’s Elias Honey, which Malcolm says has sustainable practices. “They’re a third generation apiary, total family business,” she says. “Sometimes the grandson delivers or sometimes one of the uncles.” The nature of paperwork and navigating liquor laws can be tough — since meaderies are not recognized yet — but she’s now full-time preparing to open with a goal of 4500 litres of production.
From business to homebrew, one local beekeeper also got her hands sticky with mead. Michalina Hunter along with her partner and friend plan to make mead commercially, but for now, she makes batches at home. “I like exploring flavours with different types of honey and plants that I grow or forage myself,” she says, noting the booze is an added bonus.
Hunter loves the champagne style sparkling mead, which she tried last winter in California at a beekeeping conference. “You could taste the different honey varietals,” she says. “I remember distinctly there were macadamia and carrot flower honeys.” •