Parenteau Brothers Meadworks: Mead made from Saskatchewan wildflower honey
While Canadians love their local craft beers and ciders, a family business from Saskatchewan is bringing something a little medieval to the table: mead. Also known as honey wine, this fermented beverage has historical roots in ancient Greece and, while pretty scarce in Canada, is more popular in Eastern Europe.
“A lot of people have heard of mead, but never tried it,” said Ian Parenteau, of meadworks.ca. “When it’s referenced in things like Game of Thrones or Dungeons and Dragons, people want to know what it tastes like.”
Ian and his son have set up a production facility in the small village of Clavet Saskatchewan, using locally-sourced wildflower honey.
Perfecting the taste
It all started in 2017, when Ian’s son, Connor, used the wine-making techniques he picked up from a previous summer job to experiment with honey that he sourced from local beekeepers.
After a few trials, they thought the honey-wine had great potential, thus began Parenteau Brothers Meadworks. They spent the first two years tweaking the recipes of their five primary mead products.
“Our meads have a flavour all their own. If you ferment honey from anywhere else, it would taste different. That’s why our mead tastes like our region,” said Ian.
Ian and his son [Connor] have been building the business, taking an iterative approach. Instead of going all-in, they’ve been working on it part-time, and improving their products based on customer feedback.
This includes having a booth at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market every Saturday. After being closed for a few months due to COVID-19, the market is back up and running with new health guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“We use the market as an opportunity to communicate with our customers. They tell us what flavours they like best and what alcohol percentage they prefer. We welcome the feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, and use it to improve our product and business.”
The Meadworks stand at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market showcasing a few of their products.
Creating a digital presence and brand
"We always planned on branding ourselves specifically as Canadian, as many people around the world see the Canadian West as kind of an exotic and faraway place," said Ian.
“We like to go camping, fishing and canoeing with our family dog; we wanted our branding and graphics to capture who we are and how we enjoy the Canadian outdoors,” said marketing manager Ian Parenteau.
Showing Ian’s two sons at their favourite family vacation spot north of La Ronge, Saskatchewan.
In addition to the Canadiana wilderness look to their branding and packaging, they also chose a .CA domain for their website.
“Our domain was always going to be .CA, with meadworks.ca being our first choice,” said Ian. “We secured it on day one, registering the domain in the morning, followed by federal and provincial business name registration that afternoon.”
Right now, the website is primarily used as an extended business card.
“Our website is a way of declaring that we exist as a legitimate Canadian business. We consider it absolutely critical to have a website that people can review to verify our company and get some information on our products.”
Meadworks: Coming to a store near you
They will soon be ramping up production, with the intention of getting onto the store shelves of every major liquor retailer in Saskatchewan.
The plan is to eventually sell Canada-wide, starting off in neighbouring provinces. They will also be turning their website into an ecommerce store that will allow buyers from across Canada to mail order our products.
So if you’ve ever been curious about trying mead, be on the lookout for Meadworks coming to a store near you!
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