Mead mania: Peacemaker, others cause a stir at Queen City Meadery
By Ben Tsujimoto
Published 7:00 a.m. October 14, 2019
What if the next must-try local drink isn’t a hazy India pale ale, a patiently barrel-aged gin or a crisp hard cider using local apples. What if it’s a session mead made with wildflower honey, blackberry and Szechuan peppercorn?
That sweet-with-a-bite mead – dubbed the Peacemaker – was the favorite of Queen City Meadery’s 14 mead options and already has been distributed to local businesses such as Hatchets & Hops and Crabapples.
While the Peacemaker drew rave reviews, the Buffalo area’s willingness to embrace mead – an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting a mixture of honey, water and yeast, then adding anything from fruits and spices to grains and hops – has seen the West Seneca business become the third of its kind to open in the last five years.
“We decided to make mead because beer became too filling and overdone,” said Ken Voelker, a partner who handles marketing, sales and behind-the-bar education. “We wanted a new experience.”
A flight of meads, from left, features Simplicity, Screaming Wench, Peacemaker and Barrel of Monkeys. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)
Nestled on the east side of the Wimbledon Plaza, less than a minute from the 400 Expressway, Queen City Meadery opened quietly last December, refined the production process through winter and spring, then finally held a grand-opening party on Aug. 3, National Mead Day.
When first-time mead samplers enter the taproom, they’ll hear a short spiel about mead’s history (it dates back to 9000 B.C., when hunters and gatherers received a surprised buzz, making it the world’s oldest alcoholic drink) and a general rundown of the options at Queen City.
The ownership group of Voelker, Brian Bookmiller and Rob Schweizer takes turns behind the bar, often soothing fears and gently correcting preconceived notions about mead. No, it’s not the same consistency as honey, and no, it’s not – in most cases – bracingly sweet. The honey taste is subtle, at times more noticeable than others, depending on the strength of the accompanying flavors. And yes, mead is gluten-free, which makes it a strong alternative to beer.
Co-owner Ken Voelker pours a session mead for a customer from the taps. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)
Customers will learn to differentiate between sessions and stills, which split the 14 taps down the middle. Sessions are lightly carbonated with a lower alcohol content (just over 7%) and usually more subtle in flavor, while stills are potent in alcohol content – roughly 13% – and flavor.
“It’s sensory in the same way as wine,” Voelker said, offering advice to smell and savor the blend of flavors. It’s not a drink you chug.
The Peacemaker, back in stock in late September, was an easy-to-drink session, fruit forward with a hint of peppery spice at the end. Other sessions will please fans of cranberry – the Screaming Wench – and mules (the cocktail, not the sturdy beast of burden) – My Lil Mule.
Of the stills, the Three Ring Circus (wildflower honey, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry) was the most drinkable, but wine fans would be drawn toward the Admiral – akin to a semi-dry wine – or Simplicity, which mimics Riesling in its sweetness.
Some of their mead names reflect the Middle Ages when mead was a common drink in Europe, or that one time when Rob Schweizer’s wife actually enjoyed a mead flavor (No. 10). (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)
The best bet, both in value and experience, is to try a flight of any four ($10); customers can pick two stills and two sessions, or all stills and no sessions. In the flights, the stills are served in 1.5-ounce portions, while sessions are 3 ounces.
Otherwise, all glasses of mead cost $6 (8 ounces for sessions, 4 ounces for stills) and 500-milliliter bottles of sessions cost $10 and 750-milliliter bottles of stills run for $22. They may be purchased at the store to take home.
290 Center Road, West Seneca (320-0354)
Hours:5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday through Wednesday.
Scene:In the corner of a quiet strip plaza in West Seneca, close to Wimbledon Lanes and the Rusty Buffalo.
Drafts: Seven for sessions, with seven more stills available. Varieties rotate by season and batch. Call the meadery in advance to check on a specific mead’s availability.
Interesting fact: Queen City sources its honey from Dutch Gold, a Pennsylvania collective that manipulates pure honey with blossoms, such as orange, mesquite, clover and even alfalfa.
The outside of Queen City Meadery in Wimbledon Lanes in West Seneca. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)
Queen City Meadery offers tasty variety of beverages
About five years ago, Rob Schweizer started making mead in his basement. Fast forward half a decade and he’s part of three-man team that runs Queen City Meadery at 290 Center Road in the Wimbledon Plaza.
For those who are not familiar with the term, mead is an alcoholic beverage derived from fermented honey and water. Those who brew it add various fruits, spices, grains, hops, etc. to create a unique flavor. Often it takes four to 12 weeks of aging before it can be bottled or sold.
Schweizer first fell in love with mead at the Renaissance Festival in Sterling, New York, a few years back. He was also a big fan of the mead one of his friend’s fathers brewed.
Schweizer, who has two kids and doesn’t watch much TV, decided he needed a hobby, settling on brewing mead. He bought a book and started reading online forums about making mead. After about five months of studying, he brewed his first batch. He continued to improve, eventually winning a gold medal at a local competition.
“I made my first few batches, they were decent, they weren’t great,” Schweizer said. “I won a gold medal with one of them in a local competition. I was like ‘that’s pretty cool.’ I started making more and more and got better and better.”
Brian Bookmiller, a friend of Schweizer, also started brewing mead. The two began to work together to better strategize.
“We switched our techniques to what we use currently, which is called ‘Tasna,’” Schweizer said. “It’s a very popular mead-making technique where you’re monitoring the temperature where you’re fermenting it, you’re using different yeast, you’re staggering your nutrient additions so it’s very process-oriented. You’re coming out with a quality product every time.”
Eventually, a third friend, Ken Voelker, got involved, and the trio decided to start a business. After months of searching for a location, they ended up in the Wimbledon Plaza, choosing to start in a small space and work to improve their sampling. The business opened in December.
“We were looking at Williamsville, we looked downtown,” Schweizer said. “Then, this place popped up and we were super happy because we had a small footprint. We wanted to start small and improve the concept. Mead is something that 99 percent of people don’t know what it is.”
Currently, the trio all work full-time jobs while also maintaining the business. The place opens Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and closes at 8. It’s then open 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Schweizer and Bookmiller do all the brewing in the back and Voelker handles the marketing and sales. Since all three also have kids, the business can be a great balancing act.
“I also have a couple kids, Ken has a couple kids, Brian’s kid is older so it doesn’t impact him as much,” Schweizer said. “It’s a lot of planning: when to make the mead, when to rack the mead, when to bottle it. We have to plan what our shifts are. Like, ‘hey, man. I got an event I gotta get to.’ I have negative free time. When I was younger, I could do whatever I wanted at times. Now, I have to plan everything out to the day to make sure my work is covered, this work is covered, my kids and family is covered.”
Customers are welcome to walk in during business hours, sit down and have a few drinks. They can also just buy a bottle to take home with them. Currently, there are more than a dozen meads available on tap, ranging from 7.2 to 13 percent alcohol content. A lot of the flavors available now are of the light, summer variety. Fall and winter will see some seasonal meads go and other ones take their place. For example, they plan to introduce a blackberry and cinnamon flavor in the fall and potentially a chai tea type in the winter. Additionally, hats, T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts with the company’s name and logo are available for sale at the store.
“They can drink most of them here or they can buy a bottle to go,” Schweizer said. “They’re all in bottle and they’re all available. There are a couple, like the blueberry that we have just in bottle that we ran out of on tap. We will be cycling through a lot of these as well. Some, we will be keeping as our flagship meads. Summer Fling is a little more popular now. Sadly, when we first made it, it wasn’t selling. I was like ‘OK, the customer has spoken. We’re not going to make it anymore. Then we introduced Ebenezer Lemon Squeezer, which was very popular. If it’s not selling, then we know it’s not popular. But our plan is to make 40-50 different kinds and rotate them through so that if a customer comes through a couple times, they can try different products.”
Those who would like to learn more can call 345-8170, visit Queencitymeadery.com or stop in to the business. Schweizer believes anyone can find at least a couple drinks they’ll like.
“If you’ve never had mead and you’re like ‘ah I wouldn’t like that,’ you’d be very shocked,” Schweizer said. “You’d come in here and get a flight of four and you’d find at least a couple things you like. And that’s for the person that’s a total naysayer, you’ll find two or three things on our menu that you’ll really love. Most people are pleasantly shocked and they’ll like six or seven, if not all of them.”
QUEEN CITY MEADERY CELEBRATES ITS GRAND OPENING
The Ribbon-Cutting Celebration Coincides with National Mead Day
West Seneca, New York— Queen City Meadery (QCM) is celebrating its official Grand Opening on National Mead Day. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at the Queen City Meadery tasting room at 290 Center Road in West Seneca, NY on Saturday, August 3rd, 2019.
Queen City Meadery opened its doors to patrons seeking an alternatively unique drinking experience on December 7, 2018. Since then, QCM has been pouring up a variety of still and session meads with critical acclaim. Due to the heightened demand and traffic upon opening its doors, the meadmakers at Queen City Meadery elected to hold the Grand Opening festivities in the summer to accommodate a larger crowd.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony begins at 3:00pm and will feature a DJ playing tunes to taste to, a covered tent (event is rain or shine), the Lloyd Taco Truck, as well as several prizes and giveaways. It is recommended that attendees arrive prior to the ribbon-cutting to sample the best mead QCM has to offer in celebration of National Mead Day.
Organized by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) in 2002, National Mead Day looks to increase mead awareness and foster camaraderie among meadmakers. The meadmakers at Queen City Meadery encourage all meadmakers and homebrewers to celebrate Mead Day in West Seneca.
What is mead? Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices or hops. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage is derived from honey. The beverage can be still or slightly carbonated. Alcohol content for QCM’s meads range from 7.2% ABV to over 13% ABV.
Guests can look forward to sampling a variety of Queen City Meadery’s delicious lineup of newly bottled and flagship meads including the Amy which is made with wildflower honey and features notes of black currant, black cherry and blueberry; the Ebenezer Lemon Squeezer which is a crushable blend of orange blossom honey, cold brewed iced tea and lemon; and the crowd favorite Screaming Wench with raspberry and cranberry, among others. There are dozens of varieties to try and purchase.
For a full detailed list of what to expect at Queen City Meadery on National Mead Day, view the entire tasting room lineup of meads, or to contact the meadmakers directly with any questions or comments, visit queencitymeadery.com or call 716.320.0354. We look forward to hosting everyone on Saturday, August 3rd, for the Grand Opening of Queen City Meadery.
Queen City Meadery, LLC is committed to creating high-quality, delicious-tasting beverages that fit anyone’s lifestyle. We use the freshest ingredients and a unique “Bee-to-Bottle” fermentation process to ensure a superior mead and refined drinking experience. Whether it’s honey from our partners all across the United States or locally-sourced fruit, only the highest quality ingredients make it into Queen City Meads. We encourage everyone to obey all local laws when using our product and to always drink responsibly!
This article is a paid promotion by one of our advertisers. With these paid articles our goal is to share valuable information with our readers that we think you’ll find useful and interesting.
Craft beverage geeks, here’s a little booze news you can use. The world’s oldest alcoholic beverage is making a comeback. It’s not beer, cider, or liquor. Yes, we are talking about mead.
Wait… what is mead? Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from honey. Mead literally goes back centuries. We’re talking circa 9000 BC. Crazy, right? Mead technically falls in its very own beverage category.
If you’re looking for mead locally, you’re in luck. Buffalo has its very own meadery, Queen City Meadery. They officially opened back in December of 2018 with a special mission in mind: to reinvent the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage.
At Queen City Meadery, they follow a strict bee to bottle process that involves sourcing from local vendors whenever possible. Only the highest quality ingredients go into their mead.
One of the biggest misconceptions about mead is that since it’s made from honey, it’s always sweet. Not true. Mead can be sweet, semi-sweet, or dry and the flavor varies based on the fruits, spices, hops, and brewing style. Mead can be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling.
Queen City Meadery’s Tasting Room
You’ll find a variety of options in Queen City Meadery’s tasting room. Really, the possible flavor combinations are seemingly endless aka there’s a type of mead for anyone and everyone. With 14 different meads on tap there is sure to be a favorite.
Interested, yet? They are currently open Wednesday through Saturday, so go check ‘em out. Also if you’re down for a really good time, mark your calendar for the grand opening coming up on August 3, 2019 at 3pm.
Queen City Meadery
290 Center Road, West Seneca
9.15.2018 West Seneca Bee
Meadery to open on Center Road
The site at 290 Center Road, next to Buffalo Ultrasound, will soon house West Seneca’s first meadery.
Approval of a special use permit was granted to Queen City Meadery Monday night during the Town Board meeting.
Owner Brian Bookmiller said the site will serve as a production and distribution facility, with a small tasting room in the front. The meadery will open in October.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage that is created by fermenting honey with water, Bookmiller said. At times, various fruits, spices, grains or hops may be used in the process.
The alcoholic content of mead ranges from as low as 5 percent alcohol by volume to more than 20 percent alcohol by volume.
Bookmiller said the defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. Mead may be still, carbonated or naturally sparkling, dry, semi sweet or sweet.
Queen City Meadery will be a licensed, bonded winery through the New York State Liquor Authority and the federal Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The company has three owners.
“We might produce 400 gallons a month, at most,” Bookmiller said. “There’s no limit when you’re a fully bonded winery; you can produce as much as you want. You just have to pay taxes to the federal government and the state accordingly on how much you do produce.”
Mead will be stored on the property, he said. Depending on the alcohol content, it will need four to 12 weeks to age before it can be bottled and sold in the establishment.
Bookmiller serves as vice president of operations at Queen City Meadery. Robert Schweizer serves as vice president of mead operations.
According to Bookmiller, both he and Schweizer are award-winning mead makers, each having more than 20 years of business operations experience.
Ken Voelker, vice president of sales and marketing, has more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience and will focus on educating the public on the business and promoting product awareness, Bookmiller said.
“Initially, it’s just going to be the three owners because we’re going to be producing for a while until we can gain inventory. Once we open, we intend to hire a few employees here and there to cover the tasting room hours and retail space,” Bookmiller said.
The tasting room area will be small, with an expected capacity of about 15 people at a time, Bookmiller said. An official occupancy limit will be set by the town’s code enforcement office once the building is open.
“This is going to be similar to a tasting room if you were to visit a winery in Lake Chautauqua or the Niagara Trail. You come in, try a couple small glasses. If you like anything, you buy a few bottles, or, we hope you buy a few bottles,” he laughed.
Queen City Meadery products will be available through area farmers markets and events in the Erie and Niagara region. Eventually, Bookmiller said they plan to sell to liquor stores and bars directly, distributed from the facility.
Tasting room hours will be limited, but subject to change depending on demand. At present, hours are proposed as 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday; 2 to 8 p.m. Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The tasting room will be closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.