For a pair of mead makers in Freeland, it’s all about the bee.
Herbalists Jeremy Kyncl and Michelle Scandalis began making mead in Mead, Wash., a census-designated place about 10 miles north of Spokane.
The serendipitousness of that isn’t lost on them. Neither is their love for dogs and their close proximity to an off-leash dog park, nor the location of their first tasting room being in Green Bluff — also in Eastern Washington — and their newest location being near Double Bluff beach on South Whidbey.
The couple made the move back to western Washington about two years ago and landed on Whidbey, choosing it for its agricultural tourism, or agritourism, potential.
“We thought we found Narnia,” Scandalis said of the island. “We thought we found the Shire.”
Their meadery business, Hierophant Meadery, simultaneously relies on the bee and supports it.
With honey serving as one of the fundamental ingredients of mead, Scandalis and Kyncl source the sweet stuff from beekeepers throughout the state, which has helped bolster the local economy and regenerative agricultural efforts.
In turn, putting their knowledge from their herbal sciences degrees to work, the couple have been busy creating a pollinator sanctuary by growing native plants for the bees to pollinate.
The hierophant, Scand-alis explained, is a word that comes from ancient Greece and refers to someone who shows or reveals what is sacred or holy.
“The honey bees are showing us something very important with their decline,” she said, adding that this has also been the impetus for focusing on the production of mead over other types of fermentable alcoholic beverages.
“It’s a fermentable sugar that you can never get bored playing with because even one hive in one place, one fall versus one spring, the pollen flow is so different,” Scandalis said.
That, and mead was the first thing Kyncl ever tried brewing in college.
“You taste ecologies in the honey, entire ecosystems that produce these beautiful flavors,” he said, adding that he also sees mead as a way to help the human palate travel a little further by exploring bitter and sour tastes.
Scandalis believes Hierophant Meadery to be one of the few commercial meaderies to infuse the drink with botanicals, the historic metheglin style of mead making. She finds mead is a wonderful medium to experiment with medicinal plants.
Some of these infusions include ingredients such as lavender, rose petals, poplar leaf buds, tree resin, nettles, dandelion root and even the tips of Douglas fir tree branches and mushrooms from the Pacific Northwest.
“We were always making all kinds of interesting stuff in college,” Scandalis said, “and going commercial with it is really, I feel like, the best job in the world.”
Hierophant Meadery began in 2012, and since then, the libation offerings have only grown. Hierophant Whidbey, on Double Bluff Road in Freeland, opened this month.
All production of the mead has moved from Green Bluff to the new 2,000-square-foot facility on Whidbey, which accompanies a tasting room that offers beeswax, soaps, jars of honey and of course, plenty of mead.
Both buildings are modeled after barns from the Moravian region of the Czech Republic, a nod to Kyncl’s Czech heritage.
“We really wanted to have kind of a storybook vibe here to meld into the island,” Scandalis said.
Some meads are similar in taste to white wines, others are bubbly. Some include fruit cider, others are cut with tea.
One of the most popular meads is a fan favorite, a butterscotch mead inspired by Butterbeer, a beverage in the “Harry Potter” universe.
Hierophant’s Butterbee mead sold 24 cases in its first day on the market last year, more than any other new flavor in one day.
“Mead just seems to attract a broad variety of nerd fandoms and it’s awesome and I love it,” Kyncl said.
“I always feel like it’s how authors sprinkle a little historical relevance into their works of fiction.”
“We didn’t watch ‘Game of Thrones’ but we definitely knew when there was a season premiere because people would come and get mead for it,” Scandalis said.
Although the new meadery is only offering outdoor tastings due to the governor’s mandate, there are plenty of picnic benches for guests to spread out on. The mead makers are hoping to create some trails into their woodland next that people will be able to access, and one day, possibly a Hobbit-themed bed and breakfast.
Both Kyncl and Scandalis said they have seen a surge in popularity of mead in the state over the last few years. They estimated Washington has at least 20 meaderies, but the number is growing.
“It is expanding,” Kyncl said. “There are some really beautiful meads being made in Washington.”
“We do part of it, but we’re not even nearly all of it,” he said.
In the future, the couple is planning some new flavors involving sea and maritime vibes. They are making a Pacific Northwest Perry Melomel, which infuses mead with pine resin, douglas fir tips, red cedar tips, black pepper and cardamom, and blends with a pear cider.
Another mead will use San Juan Sea Salt, and a third will be a London Fog sparkling mead.