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Friday, June 10, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Fallentimber - Water Valley, Alberta

Booze in the Woods

(Learn: *** Inspire: **** Amaze: ** Live: ****)
(The Two Cowboys Subjective Rate-o-Meter.   )

At the end of a dusty road in Water Valley, at the Foothills of Alberta, there is a small honey farm in the woods. Here you will have three brothers, their father and a cousin using their pure Alberta honey to make booze in the woods. What a life!

Fallentimber Meadery is a member of the cottage winery industry in Alberta.  Their doors officially opened to the public in the fall of 2010. In Alberta, just having a cottage wine industry is an achievement on its own (thanks to overbearing alcohol production regulations and the weather). We didn't even know we had such an industry. It is, therefore, no use to split hairs that Mead is technically not wine.

I've met Nathan Ryan (one of the brothers) at the Canmore Mountain market in 2015. He was selling his mead two stalls over from my Gelato trailer. The first hour listening to him proved interesting and entertaining, as he explained to people what Mead is, and what they do with it at Fallentimber Meadery

I must admit, I thought I knew something about the product. But, Nathan added a whole lot more information I did not know. After the first hour, I started to feel sorry for him having to explain to all the people, over and over again, what Mead is. "Man, you need a video!" I said. "You will go crazy telling the same story so many times in a day."

Then it hit me: He needs to do nothing more than let people sample what they produce. It is so good that the moment it hits your palate, it doesn't matter where it comes from. Fallentimber knows what they are doing, and you can taste it in their drink. My favourite is the Ginger Mead and the special Hops Mead. I do have my eye on the batch they still have in the Whisky Barrel back at the lab. That will be a special one too.

Great Mead starts with great honey, and honey is something that the Ryan family knows very well. Back in 1969, Blake Ryan started the family business when he purchased the family farm and established his first hives.  Today, Blake's son Kevin is the owner and operator of Ryan's Honey which is sold at select stores in the region. However, with the birth of their Mead business, almost all of they honey is going into the booze.

All of Fallentimber's Meads are produced with Ryan's Honey, and that superior flavour comes through in every glass. Think of it as the vintage that gives it its character.

Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 8% ABV to more than 20%. Yes, it has a kick! 

The defining characteristic of Mead is that the majority of the beverage's fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. Mead was produced in ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia and is in a revival phase in the craft brewing industry of Alberta, Canada.

Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar. It didn't take much drinking of Fallentimber Mead to turn the Two Cowboys into Poets and Mead Enthusiasts, for life.

The terms "mead" and "honey-wine" often are used synonymously. Some cultures, though, differentiate honey-wine from Mead. For example, Hungarians hold that while Mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast, honey-wine is watered honey fermented by the fruit of grapes or other fruits. We will go with the more purist perspective. For us, it is Mead, not wine.


What can be better than to live in the woods with the people you love, make a healthy product that makes people happy, and succeed in building a business with it all.

The Ryan's may just have discovered the ideal life. Every time we drink a bottle of their Mead, we remind ourselves: It is possible to live in the woods, make booze and be happy.


Hendrik van Wyk
Mead Cowboy

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Booze in the Woods

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