Smile Politely

A taste of Brocton’s TreeHive Meadery

TreeHive bar with four samples of mead.
Alyssa Buckley

In Brocton, Illinois about 45 minutes from Champaign-Urbana, TreeHive Meadery opened a honey-themed taproom last September, but TreeHive has been making mead from honey since 2019. The fermented honey drinks have won (multiple) national awards the last three years: 2024, 2023, 2022.

The meadery’s owner Corey Mason is an alumnus of BUZZ Club, C-U’s organization of homebrewing aficionados, and he invited Smile Politely to come check out the new Brocton bar.

The exterior of TreeHive Bar in Brocton, Illinois.
Alyssa Buckley

Brocton, Illinois of Embarrass Township has a population of 300 people, and TreeHive has a huge mural along the side of the building, so the place was extremely hard to miss.

An empty wooden table with matching wooden chairs
Alyssa Buckley

Inside the taproom, there were several tables plus seats along the bar. I kind of liked the mismatched tables, a casual ambiance — as if it were someone’s house for a party and they’d pulled tables from around the home for more seats. The chill vibe felt like an escape from any sort of hustling and bustling. Across the taproom, there were jars, buckets, and baskets of LEGO bricks in addition to board games. TreeHive serves a wide selection of drinks but only Butch’s Pizza for munchies; outside food is allowed.

All the drinks I tried for this article were on the house, but I’ll be real about the taste.

A rocks glass with an old-fashioned cocktail, a large ice cube, a slice of orange, and a Luxardo cherry on a bee toothpick.

I know the bar’s main thing is mead, but I don’t want to bury the lede. The owner said he made the best old-fashioned in all of Central Illinois, and since I love an old-fashioned cocktail, I had to try it. Starting upside-down over a smoking pear wood plank, the glass had a definitive smokiness that transferred to the drink, adding smoky drama to the presentation and interest to the whiskey drink without overpowering. The strong bourbon and honey simple syrup flavors dominated — as they should for a good old-fashioned. Though it was the lovely, subtle honey notes from the housemade simple syrup that made this a uniquely delicious old-fashioned.

The details — an adorable bee toothpick (a perfect choice for a honey-themed bar) spearing the good kind of cherry, a Luxardo maraschino, plus the ice cube branded with TreeHive’s logo — were delightfully more than I expected from a small town bar.

Mead flight at TreeHive; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

TreeHive’s mead flight could include any four of the 25+ meads, but I sampled 1, Jar Lunch, Grape Happens, and Strawberry Nuptials. The first called 1 was exactly the color I expected for a honey drink and had a soft, warm sweetness. Inspired by peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, Jar Lunch brought a big, sweet concord-grape flavor layered with honey and slight peanut butter notes. Mostly, JL served that classic grape jelly taste.

A winner of gold at the 2024 Valkyries Horn and Mead Competition, Grape Happens was a barrel-aged dark fruit mead. Accented with hints of wildflower honey, this one’s concentrated grape flavor tasted smooth and extremely sweet, like an artisan version of Welch’s concord grape juice. The fourth was Strawberry Nuptials, which the owner said was the most popular mead. I can see why. It was my favorite, too, of all TreeHive’s meads because of its more complex flavor profile. I loved how the berry’s bright fruitiness hit with the grape and honey.

A glass jar with a label of "Strawberry Nuptials 8%" on a bar at TreeHive.
Alyssa Buckley

I liked it so much that I bought a bottle of Strawberry Nuptials to take home ($16 + $5 for the refillable/returnable growler). I didn’t know it would come looking straight out of Alice in Wonderland, but that was rad.

Honeychello liqueur in a bottle beside a fluted glass with a sample poured.
Alyssa Buckley

Lastly, I tried honeycello liqueur. The honey-themed bar’s version of lemoncello, TreeHive’s honeycello was totally delicious. I loved the sweet, tart flavor of the booze, and that glass felt so elegant to hold.

Bottles of cider and mead for sale.
Alyssa Buckley

In addition to the many meads he brews himself, the owner also makes his own amaretto, honey simple syrups including one infused with tea, mead slushies (currently spinning a grape-mead with lemon slush), and root beer soda from-scratch. TreeHive also offers a selection of guest meads and ciders, a beer list that includes both Triptych and Riggs, and three pages of craft cocktails — at small town prices: $2 bourbon and rum pours, $6 martinis, $7 mules made with green tea-ginger mead, and a $5 espresso martini with chocolate on the rim and a hit of the bar’s signature honey simple syrup. There’s even something called A Corey Creation on the drink menu. That’s a $6 custom cocktail the owner makes based on whatever alcohol and flavors the customer likes.

Jars of honey for sale on a wooden table.
Alyssa Buckley

I would be remiss not to mention the honey for sale at TreeHive, very on brand.

Jars of honey on a table for free honey tasting.
Alyssa Buckley

There were free tastings of more than 20 kinds of honey, each a different bee nectar.

A blue sky with fluffy clouds above farmland.
Alyssa Buckley

Is TreeHive worth the drive? I’d say sure. We don’t have anything like this small town meadery in C-U, mostly because Champaign-Urbana is a city, and Brocton is very much a small town.

The exterior of TreeHive bar.
Alyssa Buckley

Between Central Illinois fields of farmland, there are real treasures for us to explore like TreeHive Meadery. A place that’s just a person passionate about making some mead — and doing a damn good job making it — and now he’s got a place for people to sip his locally-made mead.

Check out the meadery’s website here.

TreeHive Meadery
115 West Third St
F+Sa noon to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 6 p.m.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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