Mead the next generation: Brothers Don (left) and Greg Whitehead and Don’s wife, Tracey, with their Walkabout Apiaries Mead at Milawa. Picture: Zoe Phillips

COBWEBS and dust were to be expected.

But when twentysomethings Tracey Whitehead and her husband, Don, cleaned out the farm shed, they never expected to find hidden treasure. Lurking behind the long-forgotten piles of stuff were oak barrels full of liquid gold.

The barrels contained perfectly aged mead – a honey wine renowned in Viking feasts and medieval debauchery – made by Don’s father, Rod Whitehead, years before on a whim. The discovery led to what is now a burgeoning sideline for the bee-keeping Whiteheads of Milawa and their family’s Walkabout Apiaries business in North East Victoria.

“We were cleaning out the back of the shed when we found tanks and oak barrels full of mead and much of it was surprisingly OK,” says Tracey, 27, who is now chief mead maker. “We got some advice from wine makers and one in particular, which we now call classic dry, was a winner.”

Alongside bottles of that original classic, there are three other mead varieties they’ve since developed: red gum, raspberry melomel (made with local raspberries), and spiced, which is similar to a mulled wine made from red gum honey, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. They also have a limited edition blackberry melomel. Don says Rod, who started Walkabout Apiaries about 40 years ago, first dabbled in mead back in the 1990s.

“It was one of Dad’s projects started in the drought, when there wasn’t much bee work,” Don says. “When the bees improved, he didn’t have the time to put into the mead and it was just put to the back of the shed.”

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Vicky Rowe
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