Honey for Nothin’

Brooks, AB is not the first place I’d think to spend a summer vacation. But every year in early August, the entire city (or at least the cool citizens) get dressed up and go to feast and joust at the Brooks Medieval Faire. Think of it as their version of the Calgary Stampede. Except set in the 1400s. But no jousting tournament is complete without a horn of mead. Enter the Fallentimber Meadery from Water Valley, AB.
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fallentimber_logo_griffintop_blackI’d never been much of a mead drinker in the past. I had always expected something made of honey to be overly sweet and cloying. After meeting up with Nathan Ryan and Cole Boyd from the meadery, I now understand that there’s a mead for every taste.

“My Dad’s been a beekeeper for almost 40 years now,” said Nathan Ryan of the family-owned and operated business. “Growing up around that, we didn’t have a ton to do with it. I was allergic to bees, so there was no way I could be involved.” With a brewing background though, the Ryan family was bound to expand their scope. “Under the Cottage Winery license we were able to open the meadery, doing small-batch production.” The doors of Fallentimber Meadery opened in 2010. Current production is about 1800 litres at a time – not a terribly small production, but still a home-grown organization.

Mead selection
(Right to Left) Dry Mead, Saskatoon Mead, Traditional Mead, Spiced Mead and Sweet Mead.

I soon learned how versatile honey could be – not only can it be made into mead (which in ABV terms is more alike to a wine), or in the case of the hopped mead, more like a beer. “The Hopped Mead comes with a bit of a story, ” Nathan began. “We had been making our still mead for a while, but since we had a brewing background we decided to do a Braggot. This is a drink that’s about 50% malt and 50% honey, and kind of a grey area for legislation. When we started talking to AGLC in 2013, we had already bought a lot of brewing equipment. they were going through a review of legislation and ended up rejecting our application. This was the same review that got rid of the minimum requirements to breweries – while this was good for microbreweries, it made us the ‘exception to the rule.'”

Rather than wait and waste the equipment, Nathan and his brother decided to use the equipment and “act” as if DSC08727they were making a beer. Thus, the Hopped Mead was born. They’ve since seen the policy change to allow for the Braggot to be made, but the Hopped Mead has already become a signature product. The sweetness hits you right at the beginning, and quickly mellows into a rich, earthy hop flavour. It’s definitely worth a try for any hop-head.

Like the hopped mead, the Ginger Mead is also brewed with more of a beer-focus and a fraction of the sweetness of your “typical” ginger beer. “Drinking a pint of 14% mead is tricky in the afternoon. We wanted something you could have a pint of – the ginger mead is ultimately our ideal patio drink.” The honey flavour is subtle upon first sip, but the sharp ginger flavour is the star of the show.

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Cole and Nathan of the Fallentimber Meadery
Centred upon a rustic quonset, the Falltentimber Meadery is becoming one of Alberta’s forefront destinations for beer and wine-lovers alike. Much like the wineries of Kelowna, the Fallentimber Meadery is a place to visit and enjoy the scenery with a beverage. “We would like more people to come visit the meadery. We’ve got the place on Google maps. I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a nice middle of nowhere.”
The Fallentimber Meadery
The Fallentimber Meadery

Want to learn more about mead? Fallentimber Meadery will be at the Calgary Oktoberfest near the end of September. The following weekend, October 3rd, will be their 5th Anniversary party at the apiary complete with live music, dinner, dancing, an informative K-Country show, and vikings. Yes, vikings. Tickets are currently on sale at their website.

Honey is a common ingredient in many sauces for meat. Mead is therefore the only logical next level ingredient.

Chicken Thighs with Ginger Garlic Mead SauceIMG_20150912_193554

12 chicken thighs or wings

3/4 cup ginger mead (or ginger beer)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger (one 2″ cube)
4 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine the ginger mead, brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and Worcestershire in a saucepan. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/2 cup water. Pour into saucepan and whisk rapidly until combined. Cook over medium heat until liquid begins to thicken.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish once cooked through. Pour sauce over the chicken to coat.
  6. Return chicken to oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and sticky, about 15 to 20 minutes.Serves 4 hungry knights or vikings.
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