By day, Deborah Lee is an accountant. On nights and weekends, though, she's the creative force behind Queen Bee Brews Meads, an artisan company dedicated to dry meads, far different than the excessively sweet stuff many of us are familiar with. But what sets Lee's meads apart is her passion and attention to detail when it comes to one ingredient: the honey.
“I focus on small-batch meads using honeys from all over [because] honey has different flavors and aroma profiles,” Lee says. “There’s a lot of character from honey that people don’t realize.”
Lee explains that the taste of one honey can vary from year to year, and honey isn’t limited to what we find in the grocery store. The variety of flavors includes floral, fruity, spicy, woody, barnyard-like and even leathery — all of which act as inspiration for Lee's mead recipes.
“I make meads to focus on some of those different flavors from honey, and they really surprise the consumer,” she says.
The differences aren’t limited to the taste, either; honey can also vary in aroma, mouthfeel and crystallization characteristics, Lee continues. Beyond the 300-plus varieties of honey in the U.S. that she uses, she seeks out honey from around the globe, such as a Zambian wildflower honey from a community that keeps beehives in trees.
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The honey, along with added fruits, spices, flowers and herbs, makes creating mead fun and versatile, says Lee. And the unexpected, unique meads are exactly what Lee’s customers are looking for. “People come in and want what’s new and what’s different,” she says. “I’m always exploring new territory.”
That new territory includes mead made with fire-roasted Hatch green chiles, one aged in barrels from local distilleries, and one made with avocado-blossom honey, pineapple, chipotles and organic apple juice from Palisade. Her pyment, a style of mead made with grapes, comes in several variations made with chardonnay, zinfandel, merlot, pinot noir or sangiovese grapes. Lee also has a session-style mead up her sleeve that will be lighter in alcohol and served chilled and sparkling; it will be ready just in time for summer.
Queen Bee serves about a dozen meads for sipping in its tasting room, which seats fifty guests and is open on the weekend. On weeknights, the taproom is open by appointment for groups such as book clubs and gamers. Find the meads around town at the Proper Pour, Mondo Vino and other specialty shops.
Visit the Queen Bee Brews taproom at 800 East 64th Avenue, # 6. Hours are Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, see the Queen Bee Brews website.