If you asked me 10 years ago if I’d like a big glass of mead to quench my thirst on a hot summer day, I might have laughed at you.
Have you had a bad mead before? Me too.
The honey-based liquor, which dates back thousands of years, isn’t exactly the first thing a person gravitates toward while strolling the aisles of a liquor store or perusing a restaurant’s drink menu should you see it on one at all. Its always-assumed sweetness level turns people off.
Yet, here I am enjoying a recent discovery created by Fallentimber Meadery called Mr. Pink. Technically a mead-cider hybrid known as a cyser, this drink has been fermented with honey, apples and raspberries and is ridiculously refreshing. It’s tart to the taste, with the distinct lingering sweetness of honey. Looking beyond its pleasant taste, the appeal of its bottle design makes it feel more like a cool craft beverage than the “mom and pop” labelling you’ll see on most bottled meads.
Dan Molyneux is the owner of this interesting meadery, which produces out of Water Valley, approximately an hour’s drive from Calgary. Here, Mr. Molyneux has been working with his beekeeping uncle and mead-master cousin – Kevin and Nathan Ryan, respectively – since 2010 on their 50-year-old family farm to create a range of meads that run the gamut from traditional to anything but.
Mead-making essentially just involves honey, water, yeast and a fermentation period. As with winemaking, different types of honey can offer different terroir to the finished liquor. On the Ryan family farm, Fallentimber uses honey from the apiaries on-site to create their mead.
“[People automatically assume] that they don’t like mead because one of their friends made it in a bathtub in college,” Mr. Molyneux said. “People also think that because it’s derived from honey it is going to be super sweet, when you can actually make it super dry if you like.”
In Fallentimber’s inaugural year, the meadery offered only traditional and sweet meads, but after several years, Mr. Molyneux and Mr. Ryan decided to start experimenting with what they call “session meads” as a way to increase appeal.
The mead-based drinks they created were lower in alcohol, carbonated and much less sweet than any traditional meads in the province. In 2015, they debuted their hopped-mead honey and caramelized honey infused with a blend of cascade and chinook hops. Two years later, the patio-friendly Meadjito followed, which tastes as the name implies. Then came a ginger, lemon and mead combination called Honey Buck in 2018. Mr Pink was released to market in time for summer.
“These are meads that destroy any misconceptions without explanation. They’re gateway meads that help open people’s eyes to the big wide world of mead without intimidating them,” Mr. Molyneux said.
Today, Fallentimber’s session meads are readily available at a variety of restaurants and bars across Alberta as well as liquor stores in Saskatchewan. Another interesting and lesser-known liquor they produce in small-batch is Pyment, a mead infused with cabernet sauvignon grapes from the Okanagan that drinks somewhat akin to red wine.
These unique mead-based drinks seem to be a recipe for success for the nine-year-old meadery. Mr. Molyneux said the farm underwent a substantial expansion to allow them to produce up to two million litres of mead a year. By the end of this year, they will have produced more than 200,000 litres.
Although Fallentimber Meadery seems to be forging its own path in the mead industry with its innovative lineup of drinks, a new Saskatchewan cidery called Sentinel Bottleworks is also trying its hand at a few bottled cysers.
Both their Kerr Cyser and Sour Cherry Cyser are available province-wide and have been quickly embraced by local eateries and intrigued drinkers alike.
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