DELMAR — The Royal Meadery became the first state-licensed farm meadery in New York state in late October.
Royal Meadery, located on 20 Hallwood Road in Delmar, is a stone’s throw away from the Four Corners. It is a craft beverage manufacturer that produces mead — said to be the world’s oldest fermented beverage that is crafted by fermenting honey, yeast and water — from state-sourced honey. Mead, also known as honey wine, can incorporate fruits, herbs, spices and flowers too. Royal Meadery offers rich options for low-alcohol, carbonated and high-alcohol, still products. For a full list of options, visit royalmeadery.com/mead.html.
Owner Gregory Wilhelm said his business originally opened in 2015 in Cobleskill before moving to Delmar in 2017. When asked how he felt about receiving the first-ever farm meadery state license, Wilhelm said, “I was thrilled. We’ve been advocating for this legislation for five years and we finally had some local politicians that agree that this is great and makes sense. There’s already a license for farm breweries, farm wineries, distilleries and farm cideries so it was only natural that this was the next step. I think it’s that last missing piece.”
In December 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed state legislation to establish the farm meadery license “to further support the state’s thriving craft beverage industry and stimulate demand for honey produced in the New York State,” according to a press release.
Cuomo said, “This administration continues its commitment to supporting the state’s growing craft beverage industry and the economic ripple effects that come with it. Creating the farm meadery license not only helps our local craft beverage producers, it creates jobs, promotes tourism and continues to support New York as a leading producer of honey in the Northeast.”
Wilhelm said prior to this new license, a meadery had to get a commercial winery license which was expensive. The new one is cheaper, provides fringe benefits including allowing the business to sell products in beer stores and grocery stores, and allowing the business to embrace more ingredients. “Under the winery license, we were limited to certain ingredients but now as long as we use 100 percent New York state honey, we’re not limited in what we can use in our products,” he said.
Cuomo’s press release also indicated that the license allows a business “to sell their products by the glass and by the bottle from their own manufacturing facilities or tasting rooms. … Farm meaderies may also operate up to five no-fee offsite branch offices with tasting rooms anywhere in the state.”
Royal Meadery’s roots trace back to how Wilhelm — who was raised in Guilderland and continues to live in the Capital District all his life — is a longtime avid beekeeper. “I was just fascinated with bees and beekeeping was a fun hobby and you get honey and I was using it to make beer and mead at home,” he said. “I was a home brewer years ago and I had the ability to start a beehive and I just fell in love. I’ve had beehives on a farm in Guilderland and Berne. We were up to 50 hives at our peak and now we have just a handful.”
While attending SUNY Cobleskill six years ago, he spoke to a professor about his two passions — beekeeping and brewing — and the professor encouraged him to combine them to start a business. Afterwards, he started a business plan for a “school project” in his entrepreneurship class in 2013 that would eventually become Royal Meadery.
He also participated in the New York Business Plan Competition with that business plan for two years, placing third in 2014 and second in 2015. “It gave me about just shy of $10,000 to start the business and with some of my savings, I used that money to open Royal Meadery down in Cobleskill,” he said.
Wilhelm expressed gratitude to his business’ loyal customers but noted the general public mostly still does not know what mead and mead making are, so raising brand awareness is important in years to come.
“Our next goal is getting people to try mead or try it again because there’s a wide spectrum of different products,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for a business owner, like myself, is just seeing the loyalty and people coming back. It warms my life up.”