Before you can have honey, you have to have bees.
Apis Mellifera and related species of what most of us call honey bees spend their lives visiting various flowers, fruit and vegetable plants, performing the important roll of pollinating each plant, then bringing nectar back to the hive that becomes honey.
The average hive can contain a colony of tens of thousands of bees.
Steve and Jill Villers are school teachers who launched Blacksnake Meadery in Dugspur, VA last September. Steve had been homebrewing for about 15 years and the couple had talked about owning a business for a number of years.
“We look at the idea of opening a meadery and it was interesting to us. It was the whole bee thing,” says Jill Villers.
“I find bees fascinating. They work so hard. It’s kind of relaxing watching them coming and going from the hive,” Villers says. “Each of the hives is different. You can tell when they are calm and when they are agitated by the sound they make.”
Originally Blacksnake had three hives, but has grown to 11 hives at its southwest Virginia location. The meadery still buys honey to supplement its supply.
Blacksnake makes two dry “wine style” products at 11 percent alcohol by volume, a Tupelo honey wine and a cyser using crab apples that results in a drink that is crisp and tart. They also make two “bee brews,” Villers said, that are 8 percent alcohol by volume. One is flavored using hops, the other using lime. They are not braggots, because they do not contain malt.