Continued from Circle Farm Tour: Brambles Bistro.
After lunch, it was time to learn about the process of making honey at Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery.
A warm welcome from Mike and Judy Campbell set the tone for our visit in their quaint shop that sits on eight acres of property. Mike, a former high school teacher, completed the Master Beekeepers Course in 2005, and Judy, a former federal public services worker, completed the same course in 2009. Their “retirement” is spent leading educational tours and activities, and spreading the honey love at community events. Beyond their knowledge of pollination, bees, and honey wine, the lovely couple has a knack for educating, and their passion exudes through their voices and their animated storytelling.
During our brief visit, we learned that honey is chock-full of enzymes, vitamins and amino acids, and that Mānuka honey (a New Zealand/Australian honey) has more health benefits than buckwheat and blueberries. We also learned that honey is antibacterial and anti-fungal, which opened the doors to stories of friends-of-friends that cured bed sores and every which ailment with the golden, sticky liquid.
When we were loaded with information about bees, it was time to taste some honey and learn about the varieties of mead, including: metheglin (with spices), melomel (with fruit) and pyment (with grape juice). We tried a variety of melomel, including raspberry, cranberry and plum. My personal favourite was the cranberry, but it was the 2011 Raspberry that won bronze and the 2009 Yellow Egg Plum Melomel that won silver in the Mazer Cup International 2013 Mead Competition.
Mike has been making mead since 1967, and although he is quite skilled at the process, it isn’t necessarily free of challenges.
“Because there are 2500 yeasts, chemistry is definitely the hardest part,” he explained.
I would argue that patience is up there too, as mead takes at least four years to be ready, with its optimum fermentation being four or five years. The last batch that Mike and Judy made was in 2009, so it is just nearing completion.
- The romantic tradition of offering mead to newlyweds led to the sweet “potion” being known as the drink of love in the middle ages.
- Mead is believed to be the oldest known alcoholic beverage.
- Honey is known as an efficient energy supplier, offering 10 – 12 hours of energy. This is due to the (minimum) 14 sugars in honey with different chemical structures that metabolize at different speeds. For example, glucose requires no insulin, while fructose does.
- Sugars and flavours depend on many variables, such as different times of pollination.