Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN — Mead Day comes every December and every December the legend of this Saskatchewan elixir grows greater and greater.
The annual release of the Bushwakker Brewpub’s Blackberry Mead is met with such anticipation patrons line up for hours, starting as early as 3:30 in the morning, for their opportunity to buy no more than 12 bottles of this one-of-a-kind brew.
In Regina, Mead Day matters. A clock displayed in the bar counts down to the exact second when the potable will be released. This year, it arrives on December 1. Like holiday shoppers, people plant themselves eagerly outside the closed doors. They set up tents, patio heaters and even barbecues to cook up breakfast as they await the 11 am opening of the bar.
“We will sell approximately 6,000 bottles in two hours,” says Grant Frew, the bar and promotions manager of the Bushwakker. “It takes us a year to make the mead and it will be gone just like that. We have some security to keep the line orderly and our staff will go out and check on how everyone is doing.”
The mead is made with honey from the nearby Lumsden Valley, as well as local ingredients of what Frew calls “the bread belt of Canada.” Frew says the mead’s taste is like “honey without the sweetness.” It includes a blackberry puree that gives it a purplish colour and a sweet, fruity aroma.
Mead lovers pay $60 for a six-pack of 23-ounce bottles. A sharp increase from its original price of $2 for one 12-ounce bottle. Despite the fervour from mead drinkers, the beverage wasn’t always so loved. The bar, which debuted in 1991, has been making mead for 15 years but it wasn’t until 2006 that its popularity overflowed.
“It wasn’t catching on. People just weren’t sure of what it was,” Frew says. He credits a CTV News report on the Blackberry Mead for the mania. “The next day, we got requests from Vancouver all the way to New York City. Ever since, it’s been just amazing.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the mead is so popular. The Bushwakker makes some of the nation’s finest beer, winning a Canadian Brewing Awards gold medal for its Russian Imperial Stout and impressing Vacay.ca judges so much it was named Canada’s No. 1 brewpub in October. The craftsmanship that goes into the ales and lagers serves the bar’s most popular drink well. As Frew points out, “mead isn’t beer and it isn’t wine. It’s its own entity.”
There are no plans to sell the Blackberry Mead outside of Regina, which means that by the time you’ve read this article the Bushwakker may be on its way to selling out its 2012 supply and the countdown clock will be reset for 2013. Rumour is, though, that you might be able to cajole a sip from one of the lucky residents who stash away the mead for special occasions — and thirsty visitors.
More About the Bushwakker Brewpub
Location: 2206 Dewdney Avenue, Regina, SK
Ghost Story: The Bushwakker reputedly has a resident ghost, believed to be former property owner James Strathdee, who was found dead in 1936 on tracks close to where the bar now stands. Police were never sure if it was suicide or murder. Strathdee was a Scotsman and the Bushwakker has numerous Scottish-themed events, including an annual Robbie Burns Day.
Hours of Operation: Monday to Thursday, 11 am to 1 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 2 am; closed on Sunday.
More Coverage: Read why the Bushwakker topped the Vacay.ca list of the Top 24 Brewpubs in Canada.
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