New Brunswick

A New Brunswick beverage 10 years in the making, just in time for the eclipse

When John Way started brewing mead back in 2014, he set some aside some of his first batch for a special occasion.

John Way saw the eclipse coming years ago and created a special mead for the event at his brewery

A man with salt-and-pepper hair and goatee wearing glasses stands smiling in front of wooden barrels visible over his shoulder.
John Way stands in front of the four barrels of mead he started working on 10 years ago in preparation for Monday's eclipse. His plan is to offer it to customers under the darkened skies on April 8. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

When John Way started brewing back in 2014, he set aside some of his first batch of mead for a special occasion. 

At the time, he didn't know what that would be. 

Over the next three years his business continued to grow, making mead with the help of family and hundreds of thousands of bees. 

"If you ferment grapes, you get wine," said Way. "Ferment grain, you get beer. Ferment apples, you get cider. If you ferment honey, you get mead." 

As Sunset Heights Meadery and Apiary grew, just outside of Fredericton, that batch of mead waited.

When 2017 rolled around "and there's the eclipse south of us, and we were like, 'Wow, I wonder when the next eclipse is that's going to hit Fredericton?'" said Way. 

After a quick online search he knew exactly why he was aging his mead. 

"Are you kidding me? Seven years from now? Which will be exactly 10 years from when we started this mead? It all just came together," he said. "It was just like it was meant to be."

WATCHFancy a celestial concoction? John Way has just the ticket::

A meady drink 10 years in the making, ready for the eclipse

1 month ago
Duration 2:19
Since 2014, John Way has been brewing a mead especially for Monday’s solar event.

Way started immediately preparing for when he'd crack open his aging beverage. But at the time no one he knew was anticipating an eclipse, and no one was taking him seriously. 

The Facebook event he created seven years in advance didn't get a lot of attention. 

"Mostly disbelief," said Way. "Most people were like, 'Yeah, right.'" 

Friends joked with him at the time that they had plans on April 8, 2024, and could he move it a day.

A Facebook post that reads "I've got plans on that date, and I've already rescheduled twice. Any chance you can do this on the 9th?"
Way says friends had a good time poking fun at him while he was trying to plan out an event for his mead seven years in advance. (Facebook)

Undeterred, he set out to make something "epic." 

He went about "solera aging" that mead, a term that actually has nothing to do with the sun or the eclipse.

Instead, it's a labour-intensive process of fractionally blending that original mead together with mead from more recent seasons to increase flavour complexity and taste.

Once completed, the mead sat undisturbed for five years until Way moved it into four wooden barrels he imported from Scotland. That's where the aging process finishes, much like whiskey. 

Four wooden barrels full mead lay next to each other. They are labelled "Islay," "Speyside," "Lowland," and "Highland."
Way says he's sold tickets to an event Monday where he'll share his mead, named, aptly, Totality. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Now as the special day has arrived, Way is having the last laugh. 

"It's a great mix of trepidation and excitement," said Way. "I'm not afraid for the product, the product is amazing, I've tasted it. [It] makes your brain do these frizzly things, it's so complicated." 

He's sold tickets to an event Monday where he'll share his mead, named, aptly, Totality, among friends, family and mead lovers with live music — all under a darkened sky.

"We're actually giving them two tickets, because we're giving them a ticket to the next eclipse too," said Way. "So, you just have to wait until 2079 and we're going to do it again." 

"There is a caveat," said Way. "I have to be alive to host it." 

A man holds paper glasses with print on the side that reads "Totality at Sunrise: The 2nd Beeclipse Admit One Worker Bee, May 1, 2079 6:00 am.
John Way showcases the eclipse glasses he's giving customers that double as a ticket to a second event for the next eclipse passing over Fredericton — in 2079. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.