Bees are amazing insects, and a small business in Western Massachusetts is growing thanks to the tireless work of bees, coupled with a large dose of curiosity.
In 2009, Mimi’s Hilltop Apiary was born from the harvest of honey and beeswax atop Prospect Mountain in the Hampden County town of Granville.
There, Mark and Tammy Cressotti, along with their son, Austin, and daughter, Jessica Haas, worked to bring their old apple orchard back to life through beekeeping.
Mimi’s Hilltop Apiary produces raw honey and makes handmade beeswax soaps, lotions, salves and lip balms. Their products can be found in grocery stores, salons, farm stands and small boutiques throughout the region.
“In 2017, one of our workers mentioned that her father made mead, and we were curious to try it,” Tammy Cressotti recalls. “Mead is by definition honey wine, and it would fit perfectly with our existing business.”
Their employee’s father gave the Cressottis their first taste of pear mead. “And,” she says, “it blew our minds. We knew right away that we had to learn the trade.
The history of mead is one of the oldest among alcoholic beverages, and it is perhaps the earliest form of alcohol, dating back to the Viking Age. Mead is a sweet, fermented drink made from honey, water and spices.
“We’ve created our own secret recipe for delicious mead,” adds Cressotti. “Our bees do a lot of the work for us, feeding on the flowers of the trees and the flavor-enhancing plants.”
The family owns 15 acres of clover, wildflowers, apple and pear trees, wild grapes, blueberries, raspberries and many other food sources for their bees.
Five years ago, the Cressottis learned the craft of making mead, creating their first 5-gallon batch.
“Our learning curve, confidence and skill as brewers increased over the next four years, and now we offer a variety of flavors to our customers,” says Tammy Cressotti. “Making mead is a difficult job. Being beekeepers gives us an advantage because we know honey inside and out.
Last August, they opened Daggers Meadery at 35 North Lane, where customers come to sample their creations.
“Our business grew and evolved as we learned more about beekeeping and honey products,” she says. “We first invested in building a barn as a sales space for our skincare products, but now with the success of our mead, we have room for mead production, a tasting area and gift shop.”
Currently, customers can enjoy tastings from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and in the future they hope to offer a farm-to-table menu by working with other farms in the area to provide food options. simple.
Daggers Meadery now has eight varieties of mead and two sparkling. “Our traditional meads like ‘Berserker Mead,’ are made with golden honey, while our ‘Prediction Mead’ is made with dark amber honey from Japanese knotweed,” says Cressotti.
They also have fruit mead, called melomel, which is made with blends of pears, blueberries, and berries. Their pyments, mead made from grapes, include “Revenge”, made with red grapes and is naturally carbonated, and they have a white grape called “Longship”.
The business has had its ups and downs over the years, but some of the challenges are not ordinary, notes Cressotti. “Climate change and bears keep us on our toes all the time,” she says. “We need to protect our bees from both.”
The Hydromelerie de Poignards became the first winery established in Granville and was well received by the town and its inhabitants.
“It’s truly a blessing for us to be able to do what we love and have a community to support our efforts,” says Cressotti. “We hope people can come to the country and enjoy what we have to offer.”
To learn more, visit the website, daggersmeadery.com, or call 413-214-5245 to book.