Sample sparkling honey wine from Mānoa Honey & Mead in central Oʻahu.
In a tiny shop, off the beaten path, in an old plantation town, there is a meadmaker.
“I thought it was a beautiful lifestyle to harvest golden elixir from flowers with the bees,” said owner of Mānoa Honey & Mead, Yuki Uzuhashi.
Pouring tastes of honey wine into champagne flutes is Uzuhashi’s production assistant manager Rick Tongg. He offers four varieties: Sour Pineapple, which has a lactic acid-like mouthfeel achieved from aging; Lilikoi, sweet and tart just like the fruit; Ginger, zippy and bright; and Punch, made with fresh dragon fruit, lilikoi, mango and Tahitian lime.
Uzuhashi’s journey to mead making began by operating a small honey business in Japan. In 2014 he and his wife Erika Ota moved to Wahiawa, halfway from Honolulu to Haleiwa, on the island of Oʻahu – once the hub of Hawaiʻi’s pineapple industry. The couple purchased a local business called Mānoa Honey, from a friend, and began beekeeping in its namesake town of Mānoa. Soon, Mānoa Honey became a household name, producing approximately 20,000 pounds of honey a year from several locations on Oʻahu including Mānoa, Witmore (near Schofield barracks), Waiʻanae (near Kahumana Organic Farms) and Kahuku Farms (on the North Shore) and Hawaiʻi Island where the bees pollinate lehua blossoms and macadamia nuts. Then, in 2020, the company began producing mead.
Although the beehives are not in Wahiawa, the meadery is. Here, Uzuhashi ferments Mānoa Honey with commercial yeast, local fruit and pristine Hawaiian water to make his mead. In the tasting room, Tongg explains that there are meaderies all over the country making meads that compliment the climate they are in.
“Someone came over from Alaska and was talking about how he was working in a meadery and they’re making mead from all these specific berries that are only in Alaska,” Tongg said. “They like a hearty, thick, strong kind of drink. The logic I heard is it just really warms you up.”
Uzuhashi’s meads, on the other hand, are made in a less traditional, less syrupy style using carbonation to produce a lighter, bubbly and more crisp product. The fruity, low-alcohol libation is better suited for sipping in the warm Hawaiʻi sun.
The tasting room is full of all things honey related – bee pollen, honeycomb and beeswax to name a few. Like many local Hawaiʻi companies, Mānoa Honey & Mead loves collaborating. Kō Hana Distillers, from nearby Kunia, partners with them for its Kokoleka Rum – a rum liqueur made with Mānoa Chocolate cacao and Mānoa Honey. Additionally, Uzuhashi makes a rum honey that he soaks in Kō Hana’s rum barrels. He also does all of the bottling for Kō Hana Distillers.
Every quarter Uzuhashi creates a new mead flavor that you can find either on the Mānoa Honey & Mead website, in the tasting room or in select retail shops and restaurants around the island. He said he began making mead in order to elevate the value of his honey, but also to make people happy.
Tastings are held at the meadery in Wahiawa every Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and if you are interested in throwing on a beekeeper’s suit to volunteer during harvesting season, direct message Mānoa Honey & Mead on Instagram @manoahoneymead.
Mānoa Honey & Mead, Tues-Fri 9:30am – 4pm, Sat 10am – 3:30pm, closed Sun-Mon, 808-927-0501, 930 Palm Pl, Wahiawa, Hawaiʻi 96786, www.manoahoney.com – Walk in or book your reservation online.
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