Eat It, Virginia


Bill Cavender makes award-winning mead at Black Heath Meadery in Richmond

Posted at 2:42 PM, Mar 29, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Bill Cavender makes award-winning mead at Black Heath Meadery in Richmond, Virginia. His business in Scott's Addition recently celebrated its eighth birthday. Cavender discussed the beginnings of Black Heath Meadery on the Eat It, Virginia podcast with Scott Wise and Robey Martin.

"We saw craft beer really doing its thing in Richmond. We saw cider kind of filling a niche and we said hey, let's bring mead, aka honey wine, aka the nectar of the gods, into the mix. And through a little bit of market research we felt like the time was right," Cavender said about Black Heath's beginnings. "In 2015, we went ahead and got a little funding behind us, found a cute little neighborhood called Scott's Addition, and were fortunate enough to get our foothold in there. And that was the beginning of it. So yeah, eight years later, Wow."

Bill Cavender
Bill Cavender, owner of Black Heath Meadery in Richmond, Va.

Cavender's interest in mead came about naturally.

His eastern European family roots meant that as a child he had relatives in America who made mead at home.

In his mid-20s, Cavender lived in Austin, Texas, where the climate was not so conducive to his home brewing hobby.

"I was looking around and I knew mead was this kind of archaic weird beverage that people used to drink a lot and it was made out of honey. I had some friends that were beekeepers and reached out to them," he said.

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And with that, Cavender was a mead maker.

"The Austin experience helped me understand that mead was something that I really enjoyed. It was something that I was making and sharing with the homebrew club and with friends," he said. "We moved back to the DC area, living in Northern Virginia after graduate school, still making mead, still kind of loving it and enjoying it and sharing with people. We moved to Richmond [in 2007] and we had enough land that I could start keeping bees again. That was an important moment for me. I was like, we've got bees again, we can do our own honey. There was a passion there. I really loved it. I really was kind of looking for something to do on my own. And with the craft [beer] scene, kind of that second wave of Richmond craft brewing, kind of when we saw all these new breweries opening up and we saw that Richmond was real supportive of that, as well as food, we thought it was going to work."

And boy, has it worked!

Black Heath Meadery recently won seven awards for their meads at the 2023 Governor's Cup.

In addition to making and serving mead, Cavender said he's constantly working to introduce the drink to a larger audience.

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"People need to try mead because it's such a great product," he said. "But more importantly, it's a product that is produced here in the Commonwealth of Virginia and supports the health and welfare of honeybees throughout the Commonwealth as well as lots of small farmers. Pretty much everything we use, if it's grown in Virginia, we buy it from Virginia. So we're trying to keep our money with the Commonwealth with people that we know and that we see you know on a regular basis."

You can talk mead (and music) with Bill Cavender when he works behind the bar on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

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"It's been nice to reconnect with folks. Obviously, we are all aware of you know, the previous three years and some strange things that went on. So there was a lack of in-person stuff. And I'm more of a people person. So it's been nice to be back behind the bar to see lots of familiar faces, and then of course, to interact with lots of new folks," he said. "People really seem to like to talk about mead with me and you know, it's what I do for a living so I'm always happy to share what I know and we get a lot of folks that are making their own mead or have had me different places and want to talk about it. So it's a good place to come and learn more."

Black Heath Meadery
1313 Altamont Ave.
Richmond, VA 23230

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