#EscapeWithNCAg is a year-long series that will focus on agritourism across North Carolina. Many farms, wineries and other agricultural businesses in our state offer events such as tours, yoga, educational classes, pick-your-own events and festivals, to entertain the public and teach them about our state’s number one industry. Each Thursday, we will feature a new site for you to visit with friends or family. Stay tuned and learn how to escape the stresses of life by diving into agriculture!
Are you ready to channel your inner child and forget about adult responsibilities for a day? Then Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro is the place for you! Not only do they provide an award-winning experience with many flavors of mead, but they also offer several events throughout the year to entertain and immerse you in the lifestyle of drinking local.
When Becky Starr and her husband Ben attended their first Renaissance Festival in the 90’s, they tried mead for the very first time and fell in love with both the flavor and the experience. “At the time, there wasn’t much mead available for purchase around North Carolina,” Becky said, “so when we moved here in 2000, we decided to try making our own.” Two years of perfecting their mead recipe led Becky and her husband to enter their very first mead competition where they not only took home the gold medal but won Best in Show for their Spiced Apple Mead! “That was when we decided to fully take this on as a career,” she said. “We opened in December of 2010, and it’s been expanding ever since.” Today, Starrlight Mead offers 16 flavors of mead at their facility, including the Spiced Apple, Honeyed Chai, and Sweet Blueberry.
As soon as the facility opened in 2010, Becky began welcoming the public on property. “We’ve modeled the meadery like a winery,” she said. “Most people don’t know what mead is and many have never tried it, so we wanted to focus on educating the public. The best way to educate is to show and taste, which led us to offer tastings and tours.” For those who don’t know, mead is basically fermented honey. Since honey is 80% sugar, it must be diluted before the fermentation process will take place. So, Ben and his team dilute the honey with water until it is 25% sugar. Once that is complete, it will go through fermentation to create the alcohol. “A lot of people think that mead ends up being very thick and syrupy since it’s made from honey, but not all of our flavors are like that,” she said. “We have several dry meads, that resemble a dry white wine, as well as some that are sweeter like the blueberry.” Starrlight Mead is open seven days a week for tastings. Tours are offered at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only. They also offer a special flavor of sangria every weekend throughout the summer!
Perhaps the most popular event at Starrlight Mead each year is their Mead Fest, which takes place the fourth Saturday in September. “Mead Fest started out as Mead Day when we first opened,” Becky said. “Originally, Mead Day took place the 1st Saturday in August, on the actual holiday, and served as a time to make and share mead with your friends. However, as the event has evolved, we’ve expanded into what is more like a mini-Renaissance Festival.” Featuring 25-30 local vendors, food trucks, sword fights and more. Mead Fest is a highly enjoyed community event that brings in over 1,000 people during the day every year! “It’s such an immersive event that allows you to forget about everything else, like adult responsibilities and work,” Becky said. “We have people that dress up and come out to enjoy the day with friends and family. It’s one of our favorite events because it’s like stepping into a different world.” Mead Fest takes place from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on September 23rd this year and is free to attend. They will also have a variety of other activities, including kid friendly games and events, like face painting.
Starrlight Mead also works with a variety of local non-profits organizations to feature specialty products or events throughout the year. CLAWS, an organization that serves to rehabilitate wildlife and rescue exotic pets, hosts monthly events at Starrlight Mead where individuals can get up close with eagles, owls, hawks, and other winged creatures. “Sometimes they even bring some of the rehabilitated birds and release them here,” Becky said. “That is always a really unique experience to not only see them up-close but to see them set free as well.” The meadery also works with Carolina Tiger Rescue, the Pretty in Pink Foundation, and the Ronald McDonald House. In fact, their Pomegrante Pink Peppercorn mead grew out of a desire to help an employee battling breast cancer. Today, they support the efforts of the Pretty in Pink non-profit.
Becky enjoys sharing her passion with others in a way that not only educates them on what mead is but introduces them to a new beverage that many come to love and enjoy. “People have a lot of misconceptions about mead, but many are starting to become curious on what it is due to its high profile in the media through Game of Thrones and Harry Potter,” Becky said. “We love to get people on property and open their minds to this new idea of drinking local. My favorite part is to see people’s eyes light up when they try it and start to watch their passion for it develop.”
By attending events at Starrlight Mead, individuals can learn just how integrated agriculture is in the process. “We take pride in using primarily local ingredients in our mead products,” Becky said. “For example, we used 5.5 tons of local honey last year. This fact alone opens up the opportunity for us to talk about how essential our beekeepers are, the vitality of keeping our bee population safe and the different varieties/flavors that local honey can present.” The flavor of our state can be found in the wide array of products at Starrlight Mead, so whether you head out for Mead Fest this year or enjoy a relaxing Saturday on-site, be sure to try their products and allow Becky and her staff to teach you all about the world of agriculture through a new and exciting lens!