Some of that change was born of the ongoing pandemic, while some of it was with an eye to a positive future. But, through it all, the local mead and honey-wine producer continues to offer their wares while looking at creating new and exciting products for their loyal customer base.
The first and most obvious change was a move for their storefront.
Previously situated at 23 Main Street North, Prairie Bee recently completed a move down the street into the Grant Hall Hotel. While it would be nice to say the change came out of simple convenience, like everything that happens these days, the pandemic naturally played a role.
“With no tourism and things being closed down, we did have a really rough time, I don’t think there’s any surprise there,” said Prairie Bee Meadery owner Crystal Milburn. “In our old location, we were right by the Tunnels of Moose Jaw and that’s such a fantastic tourist attraction, so much of our traffic as a retail location came through that foot traffic. Having them close last year and everything else happening really had an impact on us.”
That led to the search for a smaller location, with the Grant Hall spot fitting the bill perfectly.
“We have a smaller space here, but it works really well and we’re looking forward to working with the Grant Hall and this new partnership,” Milburn said.
Now that they are settled in, it’s back to business as usual for Prairie Bee, and that includes selling their delicious selection of meads and honey wines.
The old favourites like Traditional Bee, Melon Mist and Strawberry Splash are still there and popular as ever, with some new future favourites coming down the line in the coming weeks.
That includes their new limited-run saskatoon and haskap berry mead as well as a special bochet — mead made with caramelized honey — that has an extra interesting connection.
“It’s a dark wine with really rich, caramely flavours, then aged it in bourbon barrels so it has some nice, rich bourbon notes on it as well,” Milburn said in describing the unique offering, which will carry the name Bourbon Bochet.
The libation was developed this past summer as part of the CityTV television show Flat Out Food, which featured host Jenn Sharp going through the process of creating mead with Prairie Bee, including the creation of Bourbon Bochet.
That whole experience was featured in a MooseJawToday.com article last week, which you can read right here.
“It’s a beautiful show, I really enjoyed watching it,” Milburn said. “I love that idea of eating what is grown right here and certainly when we’re talking about honey, Saskatchewan has some of the best honey in the world and we have a lot of it, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be trying to feature it.”Of course, Prairie Bee has no plans to stop offering the amazing creations that helped build them into what they are today.
“Then we have our old favourites, I’m never going to stop doing blueberry (Blueberry Bliss), I’m never going to stop doing haskap (Haskap Haven), we grow sour cherries and we’ll always have that (Cherry Charm), but it’s fun to play around with flavours and see what we can find,” Milburn said.
Prairie Bee sources their fruit as locally as possible: either growing it themselves, finding a local vendor they can buy from, or going through a Canadian fruit broker if all else fails.
And speaking of their locally-grown fruit, Prairie Bee plans to once again start offering tours of their Grandpa’s Garden farm and winery on May 1, offering a complete look at the entire process that creates their delicious goods.
“A lot of people don’t know what mead is and don’t know what to expect, so a lot of what we do is educational,” Milburn said. “People can come out and we’ll talk about bees and what they do to make honey and the importance of caring for bee population, we’ll talk a bit about the history of mead and how long people have been drinking it and then the operation itself and how we turn honey into something not-so-sweet but lovely and drinkable.”
Those looking to purchase Praire Bee’s offerings can do so at one of the 80 Saskatchewan stores offering their wares or do so through their website at prairiebeemeadery.ca. There, you’ll also find plenty of information on their products as well as lots of answers to any questions you may have.
As for the future of Prairie Bee Meadery, it’s all a matter of looking forward to what happens once the pandemic has waned.
“We’re really pinning our hopes on tourism picking up and giving people that lovely experience of visiting us here or out at the farm so that we can meet them face-to-face and give them a taste of what we do,” Milburn said. “It’s always nice when winter is over and spring is here and you can look forward to nice days and fresh air and getting outside and doing something different.”