Gregory Wilhelm uses a deceptively simple recipe of honey, water and yeast to brew mead, a relatively uncommon wine-like drink. He discovered the world’s oldest fermented beverage while attempting to blend business and bees together in his post-college plans.
A historical hub for beekeeping, Schoharie County still supports sizable honey harvests that afford Gregory plenty of room to grow as interest in mead increases among craft beverage connoisseurs. Awareness of the alternative alcohol has spiked thanks to regular appearances in the hit television show and cultural phenomenon “Game of Thrones.”
The simple honey-yeast-water core can be combined with a vast number of companions like fruit and spices that the Royal Meadery sources locally as well. It’s that endless potential that keeps Gregory creating and business buzzing.
Gregory: “I started in craft beer. I started with one mission, to use local ingredients in as many ingredients that I produced. I started a garden at my parents’. I grew blueberries, raspberries, hops, and I got a beehive. I was addicted to bee-keeping. I started getting more hives, and more hives, and more hives, and I became overloaded with honey. What else do you do, you produce mead. It was a good transition from craft beer into mead-making, because there are a lot of similarities between the two products. It’s the world’s oldest fermented beverage.”
“People have forgotten about mead, and it’s starting to come back into popular culture through Game of Thrones. I think people are more willing to try some of these alternative fermented beverages. Cider’s growing back really quickly, and we’re seeing mead see the same growth as cider, and it’s really exciting for us that we could be the next cider or craft beer.”
“To me it’s the world’s oldest fermented beverage. It’s created by fermenting honey, yeast, and water. That’s the most simple form of mead. You can add anything into mead: fruit, spices, even vegetables. There’s a ton of things you can do.”
“Our core product’s New York Nectar, and that’s a traditional mead. From there we add fruit and we get our Mumford’s Melomel. We add ginger, we get our metheglin, which is a spiced mead. There are a lot of different flavor combinations you can create with such a simple recipe.”
“Central New York has a lot of apples, and to create apples you need a lot of pollinators, so there are a lot of beekeepers in central New York. We found some of the biggest bee-keepers in New York are in central New York. We were able to partner with one and get honey from one to get enough honey for this year, and probably for the rest of our life, he’s so big. These are people that have a rich history in this, and they’ve been in central New York their entire life. They’re going to be in central New York because of all the other ag crops that they pollinate.”
“It’s great to have so much company and other beverage producers. They’re all more than willing to invite you in and tell you everything they know. I started because of KyMar Farm, Ken Wortz’ offer of the opportunity to come up there and see what he does. He walked me through licensing, and financial, legal, everything. It really made me say, I can do this. Everyone in New York has been great. They’re so encouraging, they walk you through anything you need, and to be in this together with so many great producers makes me proud to be a New Yorker.”