Mead, the drink of Vikings and Medieval knights, is making a comeback.
The honey-based drink was one of the first alcoholic beverages ever made because the easy source of fermentable sugar, said Mark Haynes, co-owner of Noble Grape.
“All it needs to do is be diluted and it will turn into alcohol if you leave it long enough,” he said.
Not only the drink of choice served in many a flagon, mead also made an impact on our vocabulary.
“The term honeymoon comes from the fact that the mead makers would provide mead for a full month after the marriage, and if they were blessed with a son (the couple) would give credit to the mead makers.”
After many centuries of popularity, mead dropped off the map, until recently. Haynes sells mead kits with local honey at his winemaking stores throughout the HRM. He said meaderies have popped up around the world and enthusiasts can buy commercial examples if they can find some. He added he hasn’t seen any around here.
“It’s not something most people know about or drink much of. It’s kind of a really neat niche thing appealing to people who are into historical things,” Haynes said.
Mead isn’t at the core of his business.
“We’re hobbyists, so interesting little sidelines like that we sometimes pursue.”
Haynes, along with his brother Steven, took their winemaking hobby to a whole new level 14 years ago. Steven worked in the industry and when a store came up for sale, the brothers jumped on it.
“We’ve just tended to pursue any opportunities that would arise if they were practical and feasible. It’s just a passion for the business I guess.”
They now have a small chain of five stores throughout the HRM and recently opened a satellite store in Fredericton. Their expansion strategy is evenly split between opening brand-new locations and buying up winemaking stores and changing the brand.
“They both have some advantages. It’s nice when you’re starting from scratch because you get to design things exactly the way you want them although there is no existing customer base.”
Reaching out of the province has had its challenges, Haynes said, and requires a reliable manager.
The brothers aren’t ones to pass by an opportunity, but for right now, Haynes said they have their hands full with six stores. “We certainly have no immediate plans to expand beyond (the Maritimes). As a small business it’s hard enough to manage the existing locations we have, so you’re always conscious of not wanting to expand too quickly and lose control of what we have.”