Manitoba’s first ‘bee-to-bottle’ meadery will launch this fall, with hopes that the sweet honey wine will bring people together.
“I want people, when they’re sitting at the table, I want to make sure that Bee Boyzz brought them to the table,” said Kon Paseschnikoff. “When you make mead, you make people happy.”
Kon and Julie Paseschnikoff, beekeepers and owners of Bee Boyzz Honey, will soon unveil Bee Boyzz Meadery. They’ve developed saskatoon berry, strawberry-rhubarb, and pear flavours using Manitoba fruit.
“I just want to keep the honey and the fruit Manitoba,” Kon said.
While mead has been made in Manitoba before, the Paseschnikoffs are the first craft meadery to use their own honey.
The Paseschnikoff farm began in the 1960s, when Kon’s father came to Canada from Venezuela. Kon Paseschnikoff Sr. was a beekeeper in Venezuela, and continued this as a hobby in Canada. The farm’s main function was as a market garden, and after awhile the beekeeping fell by the wayside.
Shortly before he died, Kon’s father suggested that Kon get back into beekeeping. Kon balked initially, but eventually gave in. He got his bees the day after his father’s funeral.
These days, the Paseschnikoffs don’t grow veggies. They operate about 175 hives in the Pembina Valley, Assiniboine Valley, Sanford, Oak Bluff and Winnipeg.
A few years ago they were looking for ways to diversify. Bulk honey prices were bad and they had excess honey. Julie developed flavoured honey — a lengthy process of research, sourcing, tasting and blending the flavours. No sooner did she have labels on her first jars and Kon had another idea: mead.
“She almost kicked me out. I was almost living in the shop,” Kon joked.
What followed was two years of research — visiting meaderies in British Columbia, attending courses in California and researching liquor laws — and making batch after batch of experimental honey wine.
One thing they learned was that, as Prairie-dwellers, they had access to exceptional honey. At a mead-making course in the States, they met fellow beekeepers who’d brought honey to taste.
Some of what they saw was black and strong. The Paseschnikoffs’ honey was pale yellow with the flavours of canola and alfalfa. Some of the American beekeepers couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been bleached or processed.
“I will tell you, we make the nicest honey,” Kon said.
Their traditional mead is pale and golden like white wine and sweet and mild in flavour.
They also made a blueberry mead for Julie’s 50th birthday. The crimson beverage with deep blueberry notes was a resounding hit, they said.
Now, just weeks from hitting store shelves, the Paseschnikoffs are nervous and excited. This is their retirement money on the line, Kon said, adding he’s often been tempted to quit.
Preparations are ongoing for the first bottling, the Paseschnikoffs say. They’re still finishing up reams of paperwork and waiting for their labels to come.
“This has been a long, long process,” Julie said, “and it will continue to be.”
“We push each other, and I think for us all this has really brought us even closer together,” Julie said. “It’s coming together, slowly but surely.”