by CJ Katz, for the Regina Leader-Post
It’s a phenomenon like no other — a lineup on the first Saturday in December that snakes along the front of the Strathdee building on Dewdney Avenue, around the corner and down Cornwall Street.
Through blowing wind, snow, sleet and biting cold, people wait. Bundled in ski suits and blankets, even costumes, they huddle together on lawn chairs and literally camp out for the night, and all for one thing: The opportunity to be among the lucky few to lay out $150 for just 12 bottles of the Bushwakker’s Blackberry Mead.
“People bring couches and love seats, patio heaters, and card tables. Last year, we saw an ice fishing hut with propane heaters, TVs and music,” laughs Grant Frew, marketing manager for the pub. “There are even people with little Hibachi’s barbecuing sausage.”
And the enthusiasm for the drink runs far and wide.
“It’s not just a Regina phenomenon. People across Western Canada make the pilgrimage,” says Frew.
Last year the first mead enthusiasts — three Manitobans — appeared at 9 p.m. the night before. Clad in fur and leather Viking garb, they set up a fishing hut right outside the entrance to the pub just so they could get their hands on a 12-pack that would not be available for another 14 hours.
Frew says the waiting is now part of the tradition.
“There’s a camaraderie with the waiting all night long in the Saskatchewan winter outside a pub,” says Frew. “It’s really cool.”
Cool indeed. The mercury can plummet into the double digits.
“The coldest was about two years ago. It was about minus 35 (Celcius) and minus 50 with wind chill.”
And still people waited.
But all is not orderly when the doors open. The pursuit for mead is so excessive that until recently people would buy up cases and cases and even jump the queue.
“We had to start setting a limit,” explains Frew. “People would buy 10 cases of mead and it would be gone too fast and then there would be hoarding going on. People were also butting in line. So now we have a mead line enforcement crew. We have to keep it fair.”
Profile: Bushwakker Brewpub