Kenton Moore says he returned to the North Thompson Valley community of McLure to found the Bone Hill Meadery on his family farm.
Moore is undertaking the endeavour with the help of his mother and stepfather Shirley and Al Wiley, the owner of Wiley’s Buzz Farm.
He said this new project is a continuation of his family’s tradition of making homemade dandelion wine and is a way for him to keep the farm in the family.
“Last year I was talking to my parents about legacy and passing things on. My kids have all grown up and I just wanted a change of pace,” Moore, 42, said, adding that the farm has been in his mother’s family for three generations.
“My mum, Shirley, it’s her farm, and for her, it’s really about the legacy of it and she’s really happy to see our name on something. My stepdad, Al, he’s a beekeeper like his grandfather was a beekeeper, so I’ve been learning about that from him. It’s really a family team that’s doing this.”
The Canadian Navy veteran said he home-brewed wine all the time while working as a defence contractor in Victoria. When the COVID-19 lockdowns came down in 2020, however, Moore found himself trapped in his apartment with five gallons of his parent’s honey.
“I didn’t know what to do with it so I ordered some brewing supplies on Amazon and so began the mead-making journey,” Moore said. “That first batch turned out awesome. Right off the get-go, it was super clear, dry and crisp. I ended up taking it to a bunch of my friends and it became literally an obsession for me.”
Over the last two years, Moore said he fed that obsession by joining mead maker groups on Facebook to learn more about his new hobby. It was online that he met his mentor, Kristeva Dowling, owner of Stolen Harvest Meadery in Grande Prairie, Alta. Dowling invited Moore to her meadery to learn how to produce the drink commercially and encouraged him to open his own businesses. In April last year, he moved back home to start his own brewery.
Now is a good time to do it, Moore said, as the mead industry is “experiencing a renaissance right now.” He said this surge in interest is because of the craft beer movement and mead’s representation in pop culture. Video games like Skyrim and TV shows like Vikings both have popularized the drink among young people.
“There’s a lot of romance around the alcohol itself. Archaeologically speaking, there’s evidence that states it’s the world’s oldest fermented beverage because all it takes is honey, water and yeast. Every culture in the world has a form of mead that they make. It was called ambrosia by the Romans and the Greeks, tej by the Ethiopians, and the Celtics and the Eqyptians drank it, too.”
To make mead, Moore said you simply need the right equipment, ingredients and a steady supply of honey. His stepfather’s bees will supply the honey and Moore plans to start construction this summer of the meadery, following the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch’s approval in principle of his application for a manufacturer’s license. Within three to six months he said they should be fully licensed and ready to start brewing.
In the meantime, Moore is still homebrewing mead as he experiments to find the best brews for commercial use. Their “flagship” blend is a Bochet style mead where they caramelize the honey giving the mead a marshmallow and toffee taste. The process of experimentation and creativity is what Moore loves the most about being a mead maker.
“It’s such a fusion of art and science to do this kind of thing. You have to have the creativity and that innovative spirit to try new things but at the same time, there’s so much chemistry and biochemistry involved. It feeds my artsy side as well as my nerd side, it’s a perfect mix.”