Buffalo Beer Week celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and with that celebration, they're opening the festivities up to brewers of all shapes and sizes.

And bees.

Yes, bees. 

Well, mead to be specific. What is mead though?

"We've probably been asked that 10,000 times," said Joe Marshall, co-brewer at Lilly Belle Meads. "In the simplest way to put it, it's an alcoholic beverage made from honey. It is not beer. It is not wine, yet it can be both similar to both of those at the same time."

Like many brewers with established breweries in Western New York, Joe and Patricia Marshall got their start at home. Joe Marshall was initially interested in brewing traditional beer, but Patricia Marshall had a penchant for mead. 

Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages on earth. Ancient pottery in China dating back to 7,000 B.C.has chemical signatures consistent with honey. 

The process is fairly simple — you take honey, water, yeast and let nature do its thing. 

"It's the least known alcoholic beverage," said Joe Marshall. "There are about 500 to 600 meaderies in the United States, there are nearly 400 craft breweries in New York State alone."

Joe and Patricia Marshall are beekeepers, so some of the honey is sourced by their hives. But making mead requires a ton of honey.

"We buy, between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds of honey a year. All from Western New York," Patrica Marshall said. "Bee Country has been wonderfully helpful. They supply a lot of our light spring honey which we use in a lot of our mead.

Bee Country is an apiary in Darien with over 300 hives. Each hive is home to anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 bees.

Lilly Belle Meads just installed new fermentation tanks that can triple their output of mead, which will allow them to scale the company.

"The brewing community is just so great," said Patricia Marshall. "Other brewers are here on their day off, skipping their own brewing responsibilities and helping us install the tanks. We'll help them brew later tonight. It's just an incredible community. 

Buffalo Beer Week continues through Sunday, September 22. 

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