Redstone Arsenal bees have a role in the success of North Alabama’s first and only meadery.
Honey from Blossomwood Honey Farm, a company that maintains bee hives on post, is an ingredient in some of the popular traditional mead made by Ravenwood Meadery at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment.
Bill Elliott of Huntsville, Blossomwood owner, is a former aerospace engineer who started beekeeping in retirement.
“I currently have 25 hives for honey production and an additional 30 nucleus colonies to produce bees and queens to sell to local beekeepers,” said Elliott, whose hives produce around 2,000 pounds of honey each year.
Ravenwood owner and mead maker Roo Kline recently bought 30 pounds of Blossomwood honey, which Elliott said was a product of nectar from blossoming tupelo trees on the Arsenal.
“The blooms on tupelo trees make excellent honey with a beautiful color,” Elliott said. “It also has a delightful flavor.”
But the tupelo trees “are just one of the spring flowers that contribute to the nectar flow on the Arsenal,” he said. “There is also privet, dewberry, black locust, tulip poplar and many other wildflowers that help to produce delicious light amber honey with prominent floral notes in each serving.”
Mead-maker Kline was born in the Netherlands and raised in Australia. She moved to Huntsville in 2007 with her ex-husband, who was in the aerospace business, and settled down to raise their son, Jesse, 18.
She began making mead after growing a plant she thought was a concord grape turned out to be a muscadine It took a few years to perfect the mead-making process for Kline, who obtained space at Lowe Mill as a fiber artist, and later pursued the production of mead on the side.
Two years ago, she officially opened Ravenwood Meadery, a name based on the raven, a character common to Norse mythology, and wood, as a reminder of forests.
She had no idea what to expect on opening day, but said it seemed like the whole city turned out to try the mead, which now commands all of Kline’s attention.
The popularity of her products can be seen on any given Saturday, when the tasting room --which seats 25 – is full, while other customers are standing while sipping, and yet others are waiting in a line outside the funkily furnished business to come in when the crowd thins.
The mead is hand-crafted in small batches on site. The process goes like this, Kline said: She mixes three pounds of honey per gallon of water, reads a hydrometer to determine the sugar level in each batch, adds yeast, and waits.
Eight weeks, to be exact.
At that point, Kline does another reading to calculate the alcohol content of each batch, which varies from 11 to 19.7%.
The traditional mead also serves as a base for other varieties that are infused with such products as house-made ginger root reduction and Ceylon cinnamon, lavender flowers or birk bark and twigs.
“If we put peach or blackberries (in the mead), the yeast behaves very differently,” said Kline, adding that fruity mead can take up to a year to “age out.”
“We focus on the old ways,” she said, noting that Ravenwood’s seven-day open vat fermentation process allows the yeast access to oxygen. Then, “we give it a little ‘food.’ We use the smallest amount of chemicals.”
The meadery serves pours in two, four or six-ounce sizes, and also sells cocktails made with mead and bottles and growlers to go, with such product names as “Hive of the Rising Sun” and “Blood of Our Enemies,” which contains cherries and chocolate.
With a dedicated staff she considers family – two full-time and four part-time employees, including her son – Kline said the business may soon expand to accommodate more mead making and tasting.
Kevin and Michelle Drury of Nashville recently made a day trip to Huntsville with Ravenwood Meadery on the top of their list of stops after reading about the business and its neighbor at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment, Dragons Forge Cafe, on social media.
“We’ve been trying to get down here ever since,” Michelle Drury said. “A meadery with my favorite thing of all, kind of a Norse theme, yes!”
Ravenwood Meadery is in Studio 2069 on the second floor north at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit ravenwoodhuntsville.com or on social media @ravenwoodhuntsville.