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What’s all the buzz about mead?


When I first heard of mead, I thought of medieval chalices containing a liquid that resembled muddy grog, but I was surprised when I first sampled this fermented honey and water beverage at Black Heath Meadery this past Spring. I discovered that it wasn’t the unappetizing liquid that I’d envisioned but a refreshing flavorful beverage packed with complex tasting notes. It was delicious!

This wonderful tasting experience is what sparked our third History on Tap program—a collaboration with Black Heath Meadery, The Queen Bee. Bill Cavender, owner of Black Heath Meadery, recreated a historic mead based on a recipe from The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook (1802) by Susannah Carter, which is in the collection of the VHS. The recipe features various spices and herbs from the British Empire—Cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, and bay leaf—and from the British Isles—Sweetbriar, Rosemary, and Thyme. You will have your chance to taste this historic mead, said to have been a favorite of Queen Victoria, on September 8 at 6:00 p.m. at the VHS.

Susannah Carter. The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook published in 1802. (VHS Call Number: TX705 . C32 1802)

Susannah Carter. The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook published in 1802. (VHS Call Number: TX705 . C32 1802)

Tickets are currently on sale for the event ($18 for VHS members/$20 for nonmembers) and include a glass of Queen Bee mead, an additional pour of Black Heath’s Muse mead, and hors d’oeuvres. Paul Levengood, President and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society, will discuss the importance of the society’s collections; Bill Cavender will explain the mead-making process and the featured collaboration, Queen Bee; and Keith Tignor, State Apiarist, will discuss beekeeping and honey.

I wanted to do a little research on beekeeping, so I ventured into our online catalog and discovered that we actually have a large number of items in our library collection that deal with beekeeping, bees, and honey. I thought it would be appropriate to share them in a slideshow below, hoping that they’d whet your appetite for a night of history and mead.

I hope that I’ll see you next week when you can find out for yourself “What’s all the buzz about mead?”

Purchase your tickets for History on Tap: The Queen Bee.


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