(NewsNation) — This summer, a new kind of buzz is supporting more than just barbecues and days at the beach.
Mead, a beer-like drink made from honey, is gaining popularity, and the way it’s made could also help boost the cultivation and preservation of endangered honey bee colonies.
While the popularity is new, the brew is the oldest of the alcoholic brews. Its resurgence has fueled the growth of the global mead market to $1.6 million over the next five yearsas young consumers are increasingly turning to low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages such as sodas and ciders.
“It’s just delicious,” said Greg Fischer, who runs a mead on Chicago’s South Side. called wild flower.
However, the drink is also very labor intensive. It takes about three pounds of honey to make a gallon of mead, which is why many brewers also grow their own bee hives.
“Bees are very important to the environment,” Fischer said. “And right now the beekeepers are the ones keeping them alive.”
Fisher would know. He has kept bees since childhood and has more than 100 honey-producing hives in the Chicago area.
“To produce a bottle of mead, bees will pollinate more than 2 million flowers. … That can generate 20 to 40 million new seeds or more food,” he said. “The production of this liquid produces more green, more light in the environment.”
The production of mead, or “hard honey” as he renamed it for the Whole Foods crowd, resembles the production of beer. Large steel vats contain a mixture of honey, water and yeast.
However, mead is distinguished from other similar products in two ways. There’s no boiling, it uses significantly less energy to produce, and the flavor comes from the flowers that the bees pollinated.
“(If) I get honey in Ohio versus honey in Illinois, it will be different,” Fischer said.
Keeping honey bees has become increasingly difficult in recent decades, impacted by a perfect storm of climate change, the more widespread use of pesticides in agricultural areas, and a deadlier species of mite infesting hives.
Independent beekeepers and private companies are the first line of defense for honey bees, helping colonies reproduce in ways that are no longer possible in nature. And that’s important, according to bee scientist Noah Wilson-Rich, because what’s happening to them is likely an indication of other important bees and insects in the ecosystem.
It also means that ordinary people need to get involved.
“That may be planting a flower, that may be getting a nesting site for pollinators,” said Wilson-Rich, who started best beesa company that cultivates honey bee colonies in commercial buildings to fund research.
“Whether supporting a mead, a local beekeeper or a large-scale national beekeeping service,” he added, “that’s the future.”