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Making Mead

Randolph County business creates beverage with honey

The Inter-Mountain photos by Haley Gordon Ben McKean, left, and Erika May discuss the different varieties of mead produced at Healthberry Farms.

DRYFORK — A Randolph County business has been honored for the honey-derived mead it creates.

Healthberry Farm, a meadery located in Dryfork, was recently awarded a silver medal in the Sweet Varietal Mead category of the Mead Crafter’s Competition for their Honey River Basswood Mead. The competition was organized by the National Honey Board.

Healthberry’s Ben McKean and Erika May recently offered insight about their process. McKean started apprenticing in the mead-making field in 1998 and began making his own products in 2014.

“It took me awhile to build up my beehives, sell honey, get equipment, develop recipes, and really figuring out if it’s what I wanted to do,” said McKean. “That was an opportunity to really get the last piece of the puzzle, like taxes and licensing.”

“One of my most important management practices is to really make sure each hive has enough honey before I start taking honey off,” said McKean. “A lot of bees don’t leave the hive for the first couple weeks of their life so they need honey to survive, and then winter, of course.”

Ben McKean of Healthberry Farms explains the spinner that extracts honey from the frames of a beehive box by spinning them at top speed to ‘fling’ the honey out.

The honey house process begins with extraction. McKean explained the different tasks of each machine, such as uncapping the wax off of honeycombs and spinning the honey out of the frames.

“The spinner, here, holds 20 frames (…) we’ve taken the caps off, so that allows the honey to come out of the comb and drain down the sides, out the spout,” he said.

McKean explained that his specialty is varietal honey, “meaning I know what flower types are blooming at certain times so I harvest at different times of the year depending on what flowers are blooming, and I get different-flavored honeys.”

The honey produced at Healthberry is raw honey, meaning it’s never been boiled. Because of this, the floral taste is much more pure and natural, and it’s healthier and more nutrient-filled.

The wax from the honeycombs doesn’t go to waste, rest assured. All recovered beeswax is used to make candles and all-natural salves.

“The cappings that are collecting here are what I collect and melt,” McKean said.

“The demand for my mead has been really great,” he noted. “A true mead is just honey with water (…) so we’re following these old traditions and bringing back some of the old names.”

McKean also makes several melomels, which are fruited meads.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by a national organization that specializes in honey,” McKean said in regard to the competition. “We’re proud to represent West Virginia by winning this award.”

Visitors are welcome on the farm by appointment. To make an appointment, please call 304-227-4414 or email healthberry@frontiernet.net.

“We love having visitors to the farm. People enjoy seeing how we process the honey and how much care we put into running our small business,” said McKean. “Plus, wine tastes better when you know where it’s made.”

Healthberry Farm will host an open house on Sunday, Dec. 15 from 1-5 p.m.