Scott Neeley started making mead in his Pleasant Hills home as a tribute to his Northern European ancestors.
The oldest known alcohol — with recipes dating back 7,000 years — is made with fermented honey. Everyone from the Vikings to the ancient Egyptians enjoyed the beverage, and by this fall, folks in Mt. Lebanon will have a place to swill it, too. Neely is opening KingView Mead ,a 1,500-square-foot tasting room at 101 Beverly Road, in a former Gulf gas station just off Banksville Road.
KingView Mead will sell mead by the glass and the bottle, including sweet offerings such as Watermelon Strawberry, gluten-free Blue & White, and Black & Gold, a mix of black tea and lemon mead. They also plan to offer a small menu of dried meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables picked from the on-site garden.
Neeley also makes wines and ciders and there will be a selection of beers and vino from across Pennsylvania. But the money’s in the honey.
A fan of medieval history, Neeley was looking for a way to build a company that was fun, educational and benefited humanity.
“There’s a big plight with our bee population in America and we need pollinators to create more food,” he says. “My heritage and that idea checked off all the boxes for me.”
KingView Mead started in 2015 and the production still takes place at Neeley’s home, where he churns out about 30,000 gallons a year. There are plans to convert the company’s 33-acre property in Springfield Township (near the Grove City Premium Outlets) into a fully functioning farm, complete with 500 to 600 beehives. Their Mead-for-Bees program pledges 10 percent of all sales to purchase new boxes, frames and nucs for local beekeepers and apiaries to be given away via sweepstakes drawings.
Through the state’s PA Preferred program, 75 percent of the company’s output is made from ingredients from Pennsylvania, including apples and honey. For KingView, a small order of honey weighs about 1,200 pounds.
Production on a batch of mead can take anywhere from one month to an entire year, depending on the style. Neely doesn’t have a particular favorite because each kind has its own character. Pyment boasts a grape juice base. Cyser uses apple juice. Braggot starts off as beer. Melomel uses fruit to give it its special flavor.
KingView’s beverages hover around 7 to 14 percent alcohol by volume, although meads can get as low as 2 percent and as high as 20 percent. Most are served cold, but the Happy Apple Pie is great warmed up on a cold autumn night.
As the Mt. Lebanon buildout continues, Neeley is hitting different farmers’ markets and wine festivals (according to federal law, mead is designated as a wine), including the Wine n’ Food Truck Palooza at the Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon on Aug. 22.
Neeley is excited to open the tasting room, to help Pittsburghers disconnect from the modern world.
“I think technology is great, but we need to take it back a few hundred years to when we used our hands more, went outside more and farmed more,” he says. “It was a simpler way of living. We want you to show up here, relax and go back in time.”