Consumers hoping to consistently find out how many calories are in that burger and fries may have to wait — again.
A meadery takes honey from bees, mixes it with water and ferments that into mead or honey wine (often with fruit and other flavorings). So it’s nice that a meadery is giving back something for the bees.
KingView Mead, a new small producer in Pleasant Hills, has launched its business, as well as a crowdfunding effort to boost it, while promising to give 10 percent of all sales as well as of donations to beekeepers, in the form of new hives and other equipment and bees. The beekeepers, from this region and beyond, don’t even need to be one of the meadery’s suppliers. They just need to sign up for the raffles.
Owner and head winemaker Scott Neeley says he believes in the “noble cause” of reversing the decline in honeybee populations.
“I’m trying to draw a lot of attention to the whole bee crisis and how good they are for the environment,” says Mr. Neeley, who took his amateur mead-making pro earlier this spring. He’s already given back eight hives in his unusual program, for which more than 100 beekeepers have signed up.
The first hive went to John Robison Jr., who runs Robison Acres Plant Sanctuary in Scenery Hill, Washington County. He used it to house a swarm of honey bees he captured, and he says they’re doing well. “I think this is a very generous offer by KingView, as beekeeping is expensive and it helps beekeepers overall.”
Clinton beekeeper Hank Brinzer, who’s looking forward to getting new equipment to update some of his 10 hives next spring says, “I think it’s wonderful.”
Mr. Neeley wants customers to feel good, too. So certain KingView bottles have bee beads on top that people can collect and display as part of the effort, which he says puts up to 400 bees into the world for every $1 he gives back.
He’s selling his meads via his website (to Pennsylvania residents), at festivals (such as the Aug. 14 Pittsburgh WineaPalooza) and other events, and to several local restaurants, including Hines Ward’s Vines in Seven Fields. (There’s a tasting event there from 5 to 8 p.m. on July 14.) He’s asking people to donate to his Kickstarter.com campaign so he can scale up faster and, eventually, build his own Grand Mead Hall somewhere in the Pittsburgh area.
The crowdfunding effort, which runs through July 4, aims to raise at least $10,000, which he says he will spend on more fermenters and other equipment. Right now, his system is spread over his basement and his garage.
He started making mead about five years ago, and not only enjoyed it but also won some awards in amateur competitions, which encouraged him to go pro. Right now, he’s still also working his day job as an IT project manager for a bank.
Officially licensed as a limited winery this April, he started out offering four different meads, selling for $12 to $15 for a 375-milliliter bottle: A Süß sweet mead, a Trocken dry mead, a Triple Beere (with blueberry, red raspberry and blackberry) and a Doppel Schwarz (made with blackberries and black currants). He also sells a tasting party pack of all four for $50.
The German names are a nod to his half German heritage, which he says is one reason why mead called to him. It also seemed like a good product for this historically very Germanic state.
Western Pennsylvania already has two dedicated meaderies: Laurel Highlands Meadery in Herminie, Westmoreland County, which this past February opened a tasting room in Irwin (where they’re celebrating Mead Day on Aug. 6), and Apis Meadery in Carnegie. And mead is made by several local wineries and other places. Wigle Whiskey earlier this year announced plans to make some mead at its Threadbare Cider opening on the North Side. And Lawrenceville’s Allegheny Cider House and Wine Cellar announced this spring that it will be making some of its mead with honey from its own hives, at its forthcoming production facility in Penn Hills.
Mr. Neeley thinks there is lots of room in the market for more and better mead. “We’re just scratching the surface from that perspective.”
He plans to release a few new flavors every few months. Upcoming is one made with homegrown lavender. He’s also planning to make some cider and wine, which his licenses allow him to do.
“We have so many plans ahead for where we want to take this,” he says, but those include continuing to give back to the bees, whose population has been dropping for many reasons.
Stephen Repasky, master beekeeper and president of Burgh Bees and first vice president of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, says people like him appreciate it. “It’s a great program.” And pretty great marketing, too, because many beekeepers like an adult beverage now and again.
“I’ve had his mead. I’ve probably had too much of his mead,” Mr. Repasky adds with a laugh. “It’s a great product.”
Read more at kingviewmead.com.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.
Correction: The original version of this story included information about a Cider & Mead Festival but it has been indefinitely postponed.