Greg Fischer calls mead the world's oldest fermented beverage, and he's proud to be part of the drink's illustrious history that includes mentions in epic stories like "Beowulf." Fischer will add another chapter to the drink's story when he opens the Wild Blossom Meadery later this year in Beverly, near the Rock Island 91st Street Metra Station. The project, which is slated to open in late summer or early fall, includes a taproom where visitors can watch the process of making mead.
Fischer is a beekeeper and runs Bev Art, giving classes to prospective beer and wine makers. He lauds honey made in Illinois, saying it's the perfect component for making his variety of meads that consumers can find a retail outlets like Binny's and Whole Foods. A few bars also pour Wild Blossom meads, such as Monk's Pub. They've struggled with city permitting—originally hoping to open in December—but Fischer can wait. The closest meadery in Chicago is White Winter Winery in Iron River, Wis., so Wild Blossom would be Illinois' first.
"I've been wanting to do this for 20 years," he said.
They'll pour plenty of different types of meads, using flavors like pomegranate, cranberry and apple. There's also cyzers, a mead-cider hybrid full of Midwest pride: Honey Crisp apples from Michigan, cranberries from Wisconsin and honey from Illinois. Fischer said the timing for the meadery is great, as craft beer's popularity has piqued the interest of drinkers, opening the door for cider, mead and other drinks. Wild Blossom will also serve beer and wine. Visitors will see the bees, but not too many, as Fischer said he doesn't want to scare them.
The site backs out to Dan Ryan Woods, and visitors will also be able to take their drinks outside. Crews just started construction, and the taproom is a major part, glassed in so guests can see the entire mead-making process. The 9,000-square-foot project is designed by Moss Architecture, which also designed Begyle Brewery's taproom. The space will house the bees, as well as other production and retail areas. Moss architect and owner Matt Nardella said it's the most-unique project he's ever been involved with, and it's also one of the most environmentally-friendly. They salvaged the existing warehouse without tearing the entire structure down, but that's not all.
"'Farm to table' is a common term thrown around when it comes to restaurants, but this is as local as you can get," Nardella said. "The bees are there, only honey and fermentation is used, and it's served right on premises. It's a zero-mile footprint."
The space will also use charred wood, a nod to the conditioning wooden barrels go through before filling it with alcohol. Fischer said check the Wild Blossom's Facebook page for updates as the project progresses.