November 7, 2018
It may seem odd for a family to take on a business where the workers could kill you. But the Ryan family has been running apiaries and a meadery for years, despite the fact a sting could prove dangerous.
"My cousin— who’s our brew master, or meadmaster for lack of a better term— and my aunt, are both deathly allergic to bees. So, we try to keep them away as much as we can," says Dan Molyneux of Fallentimber Meadery
Fallentimber makes several styles of mead, or honey wine, as well as mead beverages.
"We have a still Traditional Mead and we have a sparkling mead. The still meads are a little bit more like wine and the sparkling mead is a little bit more like cider or beer."
The company also makes a Meadjito, a take on a classic Cuban mojito, and a Honey Buck, a spirited honey-lemon-ginger concoction, and a berry-infused Saskatoon Mead. There's also a Hopped Mead and a beverage called Pyment.
"Pyment is a cross between mead and wine. Every year we go out to the Naramata Bench and bring home whatever grapes we really like or feel would work well, and we ferment them with our honey to emulate basically, a north eastern Italian wine-making style called recioto which is very much— if you’ve never had it— like a ruby port."
Sampling Fallentimber's mead for the first time is a pleasant and surprising experience. The Dry Mead has the crispness and tang of wine, with the taste of honey, but almost none of the sweetness. It's an extremely well balanced taste and is a nice reminder of summer as the weather gets chilly.
Fallentimber produces its mead drinks from its property about an hour northwest of Calgary, and about 15 kilometers from a town called Water Valley. The family keeps about 400 colonies of bees. Each colony houses somewhere around 60,000 bees, meaning the Fallentimber folks have about 24 million tiny winged workers.
"All those bees are not on the property. Our apiary extends from just south of Sundre to just north of a little town called Bottrel. All of our bees we basically push into the foothills as far as we can, to force them to forage for wildflowers instead of other crops, like canola."
Having those bees spread over a wide area also keeps the threat of a sting to a minimum. It also produces succulent honey since the bees have their pick of flowers to harvest from.
Unlike winemaking, where the wine must be pressed as soon as the grapes are ripe, with honey beverages like mead, it's possible to store the honey and make mead all year long.
"Honey in its natural state, is the only food product on the planet that will never go bad," explains Molyneux, "So a bountiful honey harvest will never go to waste.
Mead is often sipped on its own, the same way you'd enjoy a beer or a glass of wine but it also pairs nicely with food. Pyment goes well with chocolate and charcuterie, according to Molyneux.
Enjoy a cheese plate, a chicken ragu, or a rich creme brûlée with sweet mead. When it comes to a drier mead, Fallentimber's Traditional Mead plays nicely with Indian Food.
If you want to wow this holiday season, consider bringing a bottle of Saskatoon Mead to Christmas dinner.
"With turkey dinner it's amazing! You have that rich savory aspect that's going to be really, really nice."
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