Mead the bee's knees in apiary show section

JUDGEMENT DAY: Apiary section judge Penny Kaempff tests mead at the Ipswich Show.
JUDGEMENT DAY: Apiary section judge Penny Kaempff tests mead at the Ipswich Show. Rob Williams

THE APIARY section of the Ipswich Show is a honey pot of goodies in every sense.

Walk past the produce on display, thanks initially to the work of the remarkable bee, and there is much to tantalise the tastebuds ... the creamed honey for a start.

But what caught the QT's eye was apiary section judge Penny Kaempff taste testing the mead.

Ms Kaempff said the first mead, basic though it would have been, likely occurred when a wild yeast got into a bees nest and fermented it by chance. A creation of fermenting honey with water, mead has a rich history.

"It is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man," Ms Kaempff said, before explaining why it has often been associated with monks.

"In Europe, the monks would have been the people who had the bees, because they used honey as the basis for most of their medicines.

"They probably had the free labour to look after the bees, which is why alcohol tends to be associated with monasteries - because alcohol was also used as an antiseptic."

Ms Kaempff is the "mead mistress" at the Ekka where she does all the tasting of a drink that varies between around 12 and 20% alcohol.

"A nice mead will be very gentle in your mouth, have a very nice aroma and make you feel good afterwards," she said. "If it is not a nice mead, it will give you an acrid taste on the back of your tongue."

Ms Kaempff taste tested the mead first as she did the judging rounds of the apiary section, and with good reason.

"That's because I've got to drive home," she grinned.

So how did the Ipswich meads measure up? "Overall, they were quite nice," she said.

"A couple were very vinegary, which can happen, and a couple could have been a bit clearer."

The apiary section included fully-sealed frames of honey, cut-up honeycomb and pollen. Ms Kaempff said the pollen was judged on its appearance, taste, hardness and freshness.

Creamed and crystallised honey was on show including clear honey, which varies from white, light, golden, medium-golden to dark. Ms Kaempff said one of her favourite exhibits, "products of the hive", was of a high standard.

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