Megan’s Interview with Wayne Spohnheimer
Did you know mead is the fastest growing segment of the alcohol industry? Did you know aronia is the perfect fruit from mead? So says Wayne Spohnheimer, co-owner of Buzzed Bee Meadery, a new meadery in Central Iowa. Wayne is joined by his wife Michelle and their young son in their mead making adventures. Wayne and Julia had been homesteading for years and got into honey production when he needed pollination for his fruit trees and berry plants.
Wayne and Julia really thought about exactly what they needed to start a meadery. They moved to a beautiful new property in the country that easily attracts visitors. The house was suitable for building a production facility that met code too. Wayne said, “Michelle works with local government and her combination of skills helped us get through the paperwork to ensure we were getting all the needed permits and meeting the required regulations.” Buzzed Bee is small scale, just the way they like it right now. Their basement production facility includes ten 80-gallon stainless steel tanks, all small-batch recipes. Visitors get a warmth in their bellies and their backs when they visit the tasting room. The tasting room is located in a sun room attached to the house.
Facebook has been instrumental to their success. MAA board member Corey Hillebo learned about the new meadery on facebook. “Facebook has become the new word of mouth,” says Wayne. Small agritourism destinations like Buzzed Bee Meadery are great for locals and out of towners. Facebook can easily spread your agritourism destination through local networks, and you can also place Facebook ads to have a more targeted reach.
Aronia, the Perfect Ingredient for Mead
Aronia had been on Wayne’s radar. There’s an increasing demand from the public for functional foods. Aronia’s high antioxidant levels and anti-cancer compounds make it an attractive ingredient for the meadery. Aronia’s unique flavor and high tannins pair perfectly for mead making. Buzzed Bee adds the berries to the musk for about a week before they are removed to finish off the mead.
Building Relationships with Buyers
Wayne said he’s had great relationships with the growers he purchases aronia from because they talk to one another. “I let them know what I’m looking for in my berries, each buyer has a different need. For me, I want a good plump ripe berry. In my operation, I can be flexible with the brix levels.” The growers that work with him are good about communicating when they think harvest will happen. Talking in advance about how crops should be packaged and delivered can be helpful too. Buzzed Bee was happy to be contacted by an aronia farmer. Wayne didn’t mind being approached by the grower about purchasing aronia. “They did a good job educating me on the benefits of the fruit and what it can do in fermented beverages.”
Buzzed Bee has 3 tanks of aronia mead fermenting currently. Visit Buzzed Bee Meadery and give it a try! Regular open hours are Thur. 4-7pm, Sat. noon-5pm. MAA will be coordinating a winter visit to Buzzed Bee. Watch the newsletter for further details.