Mead maker Jeremy Kyncl pours a tasting glass of Hawthorn Tulsi Mead, a blend of hawthorn berry and holy basil, in the new Whidbey tasting room of Hierophant Meadery. (Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record)

Mead maker Jeremy Kyncl pours a tasting glass of Hawthorn Tulsi Mead, a blend of hawthorn berry and holy basil, in the new Whidbey tasting room of Hierophant Meadery. (Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record)

Whidbey Island meadery off to a sweet start

Jeremy Kyncl and Michelle Scandalis of Hierophant Meadery in Freeland brew their mead with local honey.

For a pair of mead makers in Freeland, it’s all about the bee.

Herbalists Jeremy Kyncl and Michelle Scandalis began making mead in Mead, about 10 miles north of Spokane.

The serendipitousness of that isn’t lost on them. Neither is their love for dogs and their closeness to an off-leash dog park, nor the location of their first tasting room being in Green Bluff — also in Eastern Washington — and their newest location being near Double Bluff beach on South Whidbey.

The couple made the move back to Western Washington about two years ago. They landed on Whidbey, choosing it for its agricultural tourism, or agritourism, potential.

“We thought we found Narnia,” Scandalis said of the island. “We thought we found the Shire.”

Their meadery business, Hierophant Meadery, simultaneously relies on the bee and supports it.

With honey serving as one of the fundamental ingredients of mead, Scandalis and Kyncl source the sweet stuff from beekeepers throughout the state, which has helped bolster the local economy and regenerative agricultural efforts.

In turn, putting their knowledge from their herbal sciences degrees to work, the couple have been busy creating a pollinator sanctuary by growing native plants for the bees to pollinate.

The word “hierophant,” Scandalis explained, comes from ancient Greece and refers to someone who shows or reveals what is sacred or holy.

“The honey bees are showing us something very important with their decline,” she said, adding that this has also been the impetus for focusing on the production of mead over other types of fermentable alcoholic beverages.

“It’s a fermentable sugar that you can never get bored playing with because even one hive in one place, one fall versus one spring, the pollen flow is so different,” Scandalis said.

Mead was also the first thing Kyncl ever tried brewing in college.

“You taste ecologies in the honey, entire ecosystems that produce these beautiful flavors,” he said, adding that he also sees mead as a way to help the American palate travel a little further by exploring bitter and sour tastes.

Scandalis said Hierophant Meadery is one of the few commercial meaderies to infuse the drink with botanicals — the historic metheglin style of mead making. She finds mead is a wonderful medium to experiment with medicinal plants.

Some of these infusions include lavender, rose petals, poplar leaf buds, tree resin, nettles, dandelion root, mushrooms and even the tips of Douglas fir.

“We were always making all kinds of interesting stuff in college,” Scandalis said, “and going commercial with it is really, I feel like, the best job in the world.”

Hierophant Meadery launched in 2012. Since then, the meadery’s libation offerings have only grown. Hierophant Whidbey, on Double Bluff Road in Freeland, opened this month.

All production of the mead has moved from Green Bluff to the new 2,000-square-foot production facility in Freeland. Its accompanying tasting room offers beeswax, soaps, jars of honey and, of course, plenty of mead.

Both buildings are modeled after barns in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic, a nod to Kyncl’s Czech heritage.

“We really wanted to have kind of a storybook vibe here to meld into the island,” Scandalis said.

Some meads are similar in taste to white wines, others are bubbly. Some include fruit cider, others are cut with tea.

One of their most popular is a butterscotch mead inspired by Butterbeer, a beverage in the Harry Potter Universe.

Hierophant’s Butterbee mead sold 24 cases in its first day on the market last year, more than any other new flavor.

“Mead just seems to attract a broad variety of nerd fandoms,” Kyncl said. “It’s awesome and I love it. I always feel like it’s how authors sprinkle a little historical relevance into their works of fiction.”

“We didn’t watch ‘Game of Thrones,’ but we definitely knew when there was a season premiere because people would come and get mead for it,” Scandalis said.

For now, the new meadery is only offering outdoor tastings at picnic tables due to the governor’s mandate. Kyncl and Scandalis hope to build some woodland trails and a Hobbit-themed B&B on their property.

The couple said Washington is seeing a surge in mead’s popularity. They estimated there are least 20 meaderies in the state — and counting.

“It is expanding,” Kyncl said. “There are some really beautiful meads being made in Washington.”

The couple is working on three new flavors. There’s a Pacific Northwest Perry Melomel, which blends mead with a pear cider, along with a mead made with San Juan Sea Salt and a London Fog sparkling mead, both of which have yet to be named.

If you go

Hierophant Meadery, 5586 Double Bluff Road, is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call 509-294-0134 or go to www.hierophantmeadery.com for more information.

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