A former North Wales author who has written his own success story by becoming a key producer of the ancient drink of mead will make a guest appearance at this year’s Llangollen Food Festival.
Tony Cornish, who used to specialise in penning historical books, was fascinated by the many mentions the honey-based tipple receives in the Mabinogion, the legendary collection of stories detailing life in 12th century Britain.
He recalls being so inspired by them that he immediately bought a bottle from the local supermarket and this led him to start up his own mead-making business which has since gone from strength to strength.
Tony is among an array of food and drink producers and experts from across North Wales and beyond who will be appearing at the one-day Llangollen festival on Saturday October 15 when he will offer visitors a chance to try his range of lovingly produced mead.
He said: “It was in 1990 that I first developed the ambition of making my own mead after reading the stories about its popularity centuries ago.
“I did lots of preparation and research and began fermenting my mead in demijohns at the place where I then lived in Llangollen a couple of years later.
“Unfortunately, I had to take quite a long time off through ill-health but I re-established the business in 2018 and moved into a purpose-designed meadery in Wrexham.”
From there 60-year-old Tony operates the burgeoning Stone Circle Mead with the help of his wife Beth and has the capacity to produce up to 750 bottles of mead a day using mainly hand-operated machinery.
Many of the super-fresh ingredients he goes foraging for around the local countryside in places such as the Panorama near Llangollen which he particularly favours for the edible gorse flower growing there.
A range of fantastic Stone Circle flavours includes Old Sarum Apple, Litha Rhubarb, Mabon Plum & Damson, Yule Spiced and Stánhenge – named after the famous stone circle – which he supplies to major customers such as the National Trust and Portmeirion Village.
When his business was hit by the pandemic a couple of years back he was thrown a financial lifeline by the Welsh Government’s Covid Recovery Fund through which he was able to join the SMART Recovery project run by Aberystwyth University.
Its AberInnovation laboratory facilities have enabled him to become involved in a fascinating project researching the health-giving properties of the honey on which mead is based.
While Tony has previously only visited Llangollen Food Festival as a visitor he is well aware of its high reputation within the foodie community and he says he can’t wait to be a first-time exhibitor.
“It’s the perfect place to showcase my mead and to give people who come from such a wide area of the UK the chance to sample it,” he explained.
“Most people’s experience of mead seems to come from the stuff they tasted at a medieval banquet back in the 1980s when they found it much too sweet for their liking, so they should really try mine which is much different.”
This year’s Food Festival will be coming from a variety of venues in the centre of Llangollen and is open to the public from 10am-5pm.
An array of around 40 stand-holders are waiting to display their products – ranging from the best in home-grown Welsh artisan delicacies to Bolivian street food – at the Town Hall, in the main entrance to Llangollen Steam Railway and at Gales Wine Bar, where Tony will have his mead stand.
There will also be some exciting hands-on workshops on offer, including local experts giving the kids – and adults too – the chance to test their skills at decorating cupcakes or creating a clay masterpiece on a real potter’s wheel.
Gales Wine Bar will be playing host to a mini beer festival in its garden area and throughout the day there will be dishes on show from top local chefs.
After the main daytime event, people are invited back to the Town Hall from 6pm to challenge their senses with a special one-off tasting event from the experts of Wales’ own Penderyn Whisky for which there will be a charge of £15 a head. Ticket are available via Ticketsource.
During the day there will be a selection of live outdoor entertainment in Llangollen’s centrepiece Centenary Square, including selections from Corwen ladies’ choir and local bands.