Bushwakker customers raise a glass to Mead Day

On Dec. 5, Regina’s Bushwakker Brewpub kicked off the Christmas season with its annual Mead Day. This year, the tradition looked a little different. Photo illustration by Mattea Columpsi.

Mead Day looked very different this year as Regina’s Bushwakker Brewpub took its Christmas kickoff tradition curbside.

For years, the first Saturday of December marks the day Bushwakker unveils its infamous blackberry mead. Usually, people assembled from all over to line up down the snow-covered blocks of Dewdney Avenue.

Arriving early, customers would set up barbeques, propane tanks and pitch tents overnight just to get their hands on the beverage.

“I heard [the mead] was a big deal and something you needed to line up for,” said long-time mead enthusiast Mike Wong who moved to Regina in 2012 and has been going ever since. “Having moved from Edmonton I was curious about all the hype.

“So, I got up and lined up at 6:30 a.m. the first year and it became a tradition after that.”

Unfortunately, this long standing tradition changed to ensure public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of lining up down the street, customers ordered their mead online in advance and had it delivered directly to their vehicles.

Wong, along with many others, missed the excitement of lining up on mead release day.

“It was so different this year, “said Wong. “You picked your time – I ended up going at 2 p.m. in the afternoon versus going at six in the morning.

“There is less ability to mingle this year. I remember the days lining up when it was minus-40 to -45 and how cold it was and we were out there. One year they put in a porta-potty, it was hilarious and a ton of fun.”

Bushwakker’s bar and marketing manager Grant Frew believed the new tradition went incredibly smooth for the mom-and-pop shop not used to e-commerce, as they completely sold out of mead and cheesecake.

“On Saturday we had cars come to the loading dock,” said Frew. “We would get their name, give them their order and they would zip away.

“I was looking at a lot of comments on our Facebook page and our customers said it was very well-executed. I am happy to see that because it was an incredible amount of work getting the orders and processing them.”

In previous years the brewpub would normally bottle and sell 6,000 bottles of mead. This year, only 3,600 were bottled due to the suspension of operations.

“When we were locked down the brewery was out of commission for a few months,” said Frew. “Right now we are bottling some more [mead] because we are so slow in the restaurant.

“We normally have an entire tank for people to have it on tap but we are going to bottle a sizeable portion out of that as well. With people not coming out we will have mead on tap until July. We’ll have more bottles in our off-sale cooler possibly today.”

Although customers were not able to enjoy the excitement of the lineup and meeting new people, Wong still managed to keep the tradition alive and enjoy the mead he purchased on Saturday.

“It was really good,” said Wong. “It is good every year. Mead is something that ages fairly well over time. I have some in my basement from 2013-2014 and they are really smooth by now.”

Hoping there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by 2021, Frew added that Bushwakker will likely continue to sell curbside next mead season.

“We heard from people on Saturday that they never had our mead before,” said Frew. “They never bought it because they didn’t want to stand for hours on end outside. So I think we will continue to offer this again next year.

“We want to maintain as many of our traditions as we can and give people a sense of normalcy, but we are hanging on for that vaccine.”

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