The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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- December 1, 2020 - (excerpt)

DRYFORK, West Virginia — Healthberry Farm awarded a Gold medal in the Pyment category for their Honey River Pyment in the 2020 Mead Crafters Competition.

“We are proud to represent West Virginia by winning this award,” says Healthberry Farm’s owner, Ben McKean. “This wine is made with 100% West Virginia grown ingredients, and represents a long tradition of mead-making in the region.”

Ben studied under Master Meadmaker Ferenc “Frank” Androczi, proprietor of Little Hungary Winery in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Frank learned the winemaking practice from his family in Hungary, and he is most remembered for the grape and honey wine he bottled simply as “Melomel.” In 1999, Ben and Frank began a formal apprenticeship through Augusta Heritage Center, also forming a life-long friendship.

Frank continued to be Ben’s mentor and friend and, after Frank’s death, Ben began his own line of meads and melomel. Honey River Pyment uses the traditional name for honey wine with grape, and is an homage to Frank’s own beloved Melomel.

Since the beginning, Ben has been true to Frank’s traditional methods, which means he does not add sulfites or chemicals, nor any sugar or additives, and he sources his ingredients locally if he cannot grow them himself. “Frank was doing things in a method. He didn’t know the word organic, but his practices came from the old-world before chemicals were available to small farmers.” This dedication to “better than organic” and local ingredients led him to a collaboration with Hank Kopple of Kopple Vineyards in Lehmansville, West Virginia. The Gold Medal-winning Honey River Pyment is made with Kopple’s Chambourcin grapes. These are fermented as whole berries, a tradition he learned from Paul Roberts at Deep Creek Cellars in Friendsville, Maryland. Ben uses his own Tulip Poplar varietal honey and ages the wine for at least two years before bottling.

The Mead Crafters Competition, organized by the