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Drinking honey: how the cikera is brewed and why honey brewing can become a promising business in Ukraine

Honey brewing: how to make money on honey. Photo: Unsplash.

Honey brewing: how to make money on honey. Photo: Unsplash.

Cikera is an alcoholic beverage based on honey and fruits. It is a natural product of untreated fermentation without additive spirits or sugar that has a strength of up to 15 degrees. One bottle of drinking honey (this is what sikera is also called) costs about 198 UAH.

Serhii Lypko, a historian by profession and a beekeeper by vocation, founded the first industrial mead brewery in Ukraine, where he now produces honey wine. Lypko told The Page's business partner, the program Persha Shpalta, about the production specifics, the possibility of additional earnings for beekeepers and the prospects for the honey brewing development in Ukraine.


Drinking honey in Ukraine: a western trend or a long-forgotten tradition

Cikera is not a modern invention of marketers and is by no means a tribute to the naturalness trend. The drink has a long history that is more than 5,000 years old. It comes from the Sumerians. Moreover, cikera is mentioned in one of the oldest literature of mankind, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Honey beverages have long been consumed in the territory of modern Ukraine. The Scythians were fond of them long before the appearance of Kievan Rus.

Quote"For Ukrainians, honey brewing is a traditional craft, albeit a forgotten one," Lypko notes.

Despite the fact that Ukraine is a massive exporter of honey, it is its product that is one of the cheapest in the world. But with the help of cikera, beekeepers can add profitability to their business.

For example, a jar of honey is sold abroad for $10—just like a bottle of a ready-made beverage. The only difference is that you can get 13 bottles of cikera from one jar of honey.


How honey wine is made

Lipko’s enterprise produces 200 tons of the beverage per year. To make one ton, about 300 kg of honey are needed. To produce it, first of all, honey is put into a pasteurization kettle. One such tun is designed for 1,600 liters. Then, with the help of a pump, the honey is transported to another workshop, where the second stage begins—fermentation. For 15 days, the product obtained is pumped into the maturation room. In general, the cikera production lasts about a year.

However, Lpko admits that this technology is new for mead brewers.

"It's a cross between wine production and beer production. But it is closer to the wine," he compares.


Tastes differ: what are the types of honey cikera

Honey beverages are becoming more popular in the world, and honey brewing is becoming more promising. More than 100 enterprises producing cikera are opened in the USA every year. More than 50 mead breweries have already appeared in France, which is traditionally considered a wine-making state.

Lypko notes that Ukrainians have also joined the trend towards the consumption of natural products.

"Already today Ukrainians have seen the advantage of our product and we notice that we have a serious dynamics of increasing sales," meadbrewer says.

Today his company produces four types of drinking honey. White cikera is made on the basis of linden honey. In addition, there is also dark red cikera—with additive rowan and cherry juice, as well as pink—with red currants and apples. Another type is a beverage with additive gooseberries.

Lypko’s mead brewery produces dry and semi-dry products. And recently they launched a new line—semisweet cikera. The beekeeper says that although everyone is used to thinking about honeys as something very sweet, this is the first time he took the risk of making them dry. Therefore, his cikera can be consumed not only as a digestif, that is, after a meal, but also at dinner instead of wine, with meat or fish.

Lypko's business is still young. However, the entrepreneur and beekeeper is sure: he was not mistaken when he chose authentic honey brewing.

Quote"I would like to make a worthy product that would become a Ukrainian brand. So that foreigners come here and ask where they can buy cikera," the mead brewer says.