A Hive Five
One bee produces a 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. With that knowledge, the upkeep of an apiary housing thousands of bees would be a major investment for a small beverage producer like Bill Cavender at Black Heath Meadery.
Currently, Bill buys that sweet, sweet nectar from a Virginia-based supplier, but wholesale has a tradeoff. While he's allowed to sell by the bottle and offer samples in his tasting room, he cannot sell by the glass.
To qualify for on-premise consumption, according to the Virginia ABC, Black Heath Meadery would have to own or lease at least 51 percent of the farmland where the agriculture product (i.e. honey) is produced.
That doesn't mean beekeeping isn't in the cards someday. In fact, Black Heath Meadery is quickly outgrowing its Scott's Addition space. Walking through the production facility, there are barrels and tanks in every corner and rightfully so - it takes three to four months to produce one batch.
"Making mead has been an opportunity to support the greater good," Bill says. "We're supporting Virginia farmers and helping maintain the bee population."
As with many stories in food and beverage, Bill desired a career change and pivot from his corporate and non-profit work. Black Heath Meadery had a humble beginning with the creation of RVA Mead Lab.
This project of Bill and his wife brought home brewers together to test recipes. RVA Mead Lab helped create the "buzz" to fund a Kickstarter to build Black Heath Meadery.
"We're in the middle of a craft beer renaissance," Bill says. "About 10 years ago when my meads were winning awards, I thought this might be fun. Once Hardywood came along and after testing the waters with the RVA Mead Lab, the timing felt right."
He says he's lucky to have landed in Scott's Addition which has become a walking destination filled with other beverage producers.
"It's given people who might enjoy beer or cider the opportunity to try something new."
It's also opened doors to collaborate with neighbors like Three Notch'd Brewing Company and Blue Bee Cider.
"We love being in the neighborhood because it’s very vibrant," he says. "People like to support each other and the more people we can bring into Scott’s Addition, the better it is for all of us."
In Richmond, you can find Black Heath Meadery's goods on draft at the Cask and the Answer Brewpub and in bottle at Union Market and Growlers To Go. Black Heath Meadery is located at 1313 Altamont Ave, Richmond, VA 23230.