NEWLAND — Mead at its simplest is an alcoholic drink created by fermenting honey diluted with water.
The drink is ancient, with variations produced all over the world. It also makes up a very small portion of the alcoholic beverage industry, but that small portion is expanding.
One local entrepreneur is taking a serious look at opening her own meadery in Newland. Christy Hemenway is the owner of Gold Star Honeybees, which she founded in 2007. Currently based out of Spruce Pine, Gold Star sells honeybees and beekeeping supplies online, as well as books and classes among other services. Hemenway advocates natural beekeeping as part of her business.
Hemenway has been combing Western North Carolina for a location to start up her own meadery, and after running into repeated challenges in other counties, has taken an interest to an undisclosed location in Newland.
Hemenway hails from Maine. She picked up and moved to North Carolina more than a year ago after a chain of frustrating attempts to find housing in Maine convinced her to seek out a change in scenery.
Hemenway initially looked at the Asheville area and ended up in Spruce Pine. The idea to start a meadery began when she made the move to the area with her husband.
“I’ve probably looked in a dozen counties,” Hemenway said.
Hemenway has been creating homemade pilot batches as she looks for a location, and has a lot experience with mead, having a number of friends involved in making mead.
“When I was in Maine, I was a member of a group of motorcycle riding folks, and most of them were mead makers,” Hemenway said.
She has encountered a large variety of mead, which can be made with a number of different ingredients, varying alcohol content and sweetness ranging from extremely dry to very sweet.
She began creating a good base mead with only diluted honey and yeast, and has branched out to more complex varieties.
“Even if you just took [diluted honey] and set it outside, there’s enough yeast wild in the air that it would actually make mead on its own,” Hemenway said. “You wouldn’t have any control over it, but it would do it. It’s that natural of a process.”
Hemenway said she is hopeful, if not pathologically optimistic, to open her meadery by Valentine’s Day next year.
Hemenway added she hopes to support nonprofits with the business.
Run Amok Mead has an Instagram account for those curious about Hemenway’s mead-making exploits. Those curious can click to www.instagram.com/runamokmead.