Zeb Johnston is minding his own beeswax. Literally. The Yorktown beekeeper began his beekeeping business, Zeb’s Bees, both as a new hobby and a means to help with his own pollen allergies growing up. He learned the way of the bees through the Tidewater Beekeepers Association before going on to selling the honey produced from his bees to neighbors on the Peninsula at Yorktown Market Days. With a number of his customers buying several pounds of honey at a time to fill five-gallon carboys, Johnston was introduced to the craft of making mead. As a result, he’s found sweet success with the use of honey to establish Melo Lion Meadery.
As a locally owned and commercially distributing meadery, Johnston responsibly keeps 15–20 hives throughout the year for Melo Lion and supports other keepers by naturally sourcing honey throughout the U.S. and Canada. “Most of the honey comes in April and May, which is what we call the nectar flow or the honey flow,” which is lighter, richer and sweeter, Johnston describes. However, the wild variety of local Virginia honey does change each season and can have its inconsistencies in flavor. By the end of the summer, the honey will have a darker flavor with a sting to it because of different plants blooming in the area. Therefore, with a focus on the quality of honey put in Melo Lion Mead, Johnston will use clove honey from the Midwest, since local honey is such a premium product that changes in taste.
Melo Lion’s most prized mead (or its queen bee) is Sunshine Daydream, a gluten-free honey wine made from clover honey. Other seasonal meads include flavors such as cherry, blackberry and strawberry. With a commitment of increasing beekeeping in Coastal Virginia, a portion of bottle sales support local beekeeping associations, including the Norfolk Beekeepers Association and Colonial Beekeepers Association.
To try some delicious Melo Lion Mead for yourself, find it in local bottle shops and online at MeloLion.com.