You can call her queen bee. Or you can call her worker bee. When it comes to her business, Honeygirl Meadery, Diane Currier does it all.
Currier is the owner and sole employee of Honeygirl, Durham's first meadery, which is slated for a fall opening after bureaucratic setbacks delayed the original summer debut date. Though Currier is still waiting for her state liquor license, she has already started fermenting mead, a process that, depending on the type, can take nine months or longer.
"I take it all in stride," Currier said. "Mead is about patience. If you work with mead, you will learn to be able to wait."
That is part of the reason she became enamored with the process of mead making.
"Fermenting feels very natural to me," she says. "It is more my speed."
Currier began making beer at home in 1992, but after first tasting mead during a trip to Alaska in 2004, she decided to abandon brewing in favor of fermenting mead. The catalyst that converted a long-time home brewer into a mead maker: fireweed mead.
"I had just finished walking through a fireweed field when I first tasted the fireweed mead," she says. The field was so beautiful, and I felt like I was drinking where I had been walking, and it stuck with me."
After returning home, Currier began hosting bimonthly fermenting and tasting parties at which she and a group of friends would ferment, bottle and drink mead. Though she didn't know it then, some of the recipes she was formulating at the time, such as her Fig Mead, would become part of Honeygirl's prospective lineup, which is expected to include eight meads.
"I hadn't thought much about starting a business at that time," Currier says. "A lot of my friends at those parties encouraged me to, but people who are receiving free alcohol are always likely to say, 'This is great stuff!'"
However, by 2010 Currier had begun entertaining the idea of starting a meadery. She began communicating with and volunteering at various meaderies, cideries, wineries and breweries across the Southeast, including Blacksnake Meadery in Virginia and Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro, to discover what it would take to launch such an endeavor.
However, even after learning the ins and outs of the business, Currier wasn't ready.
"I still needed some form of external validation," she says. "I had my friends' support, but I still needed something more, something substantial."
That external validation came in the form of a ribbon from the North Carolina State Fair's vine competition in 2012. She won it for her Hibiscus Lemonthyme Mead.
The Hibiscus Lemonthyme Mead will also be a staple of Honeygirl Meadery's lineup, Currier says. She is ramping up production to be ready for the grand opening, which is set for Oct. 24.
Currier has graduated from fermenting five-gallon batches in her home to fermenting 150-gallon batches at her new facility off Hood Street in downtown Durham.
She is fermenting a batch of Blueberry Mead, which contains more than 300 pounds of honey and 250 pounds of blueberries, and a 200-gallon batch of Orange Blossom Mead. These are still test batches, she says.
During full production after Honeygirl Meadery opens, Currier expects to ferment 200–500-gallon batches.
As is the case with the opening of any business, start-up fees can be hefty, but according to Currier, start-up fees for alcohol-producing businesses trend even higher. All told, Honeygirl's Hood Street facility cost more than $100,000 to assemble, including building renovation, equipment and materials.
Currier says the facility will have a small tasting room by the time the meadery is open, but it will not be able to accommodate many people, as it is essentially just the lobby of the facility.
This isn't intended to be a hangout, but if that's what this area grows into, I'll certainly grow into it," Currier says.
She plans to bottle and sell her mead to bottle shops and restaurants in the area, but she remains open to wherever the business takes her.
"There are a lot of things I'll have to grow into," Currier says. "I just hope we can get a hive here, a swarm of people interested in mead."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Meading patience"