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View Full Version : So new that this post will make the pros cringe, please help



LadyJames
07-24-2015, 04:50 PM
Here goes, brace yourself this could be a long one.

My partner, a wonderful, sweet, sweet, ambitious man has set his sights on investing in and opening a meadery. Tricky thing is, he likes beer and wine, intrigued about the making process, has made small kit wine like once before, knows mead is a honey alcohol, but has only maybe tasted it a handful of times. Are you cringing yet? I have made many wines, kit and from fresh fruit. It was a hobby I have since gotten too busy to keep up with. I have a very basic knowledge of that process.

Remember the part where I said he is ambitious? Its so true. He is very successful in his career in organic farming. He has no issue with hard work. I am a stay at home mom and had a lot of time to learn new skills and further educate myself in things such as business. Between the two of us we have the knowledge, skill and drive to run a business and do it very successfully in farming. But this dream of his. Far be it from me to discourage a dream or a goal especially if it is very attainable. We just need a place to start. I can read all the articles and watch youtube videos till the cows come home (almost a literal statement lol) but for both of us hands on and trial and error will be likely where we get a lot of knowledge from. I am just so overwhelmed as to where to even start.

A bit of background info of where we would like to be headed. Currently there is no meadery within a 15 hour drive to the mountains or jump an entire province to Ontario. Being centrally located in Saskatchewan it would make us a perfect destination getaway. The meadery would be the attraction but also have the bees on site, a restaurant/tasting room, and being the very rural location a bed and breakfast. but getting way ahead of myself here. The mead itself will be organic. His family has farmed organically since 1979. His father an organic rancher, now is an organic distributor for a local meat company. and He himself is an inspector for one of the largest organic inspection companies in North America. Me? I'm just the hippy born in the wrong decade that fell in love with the organic farmer :) so we kind of take this organic thing a little seriously.

so I guesse my question is really this. We would like to see if mead is even a possibility with our own talents and would like to know where we could find some simple ways to just get started. as I have said I have made wine and am currently half threw the process with a Saskatoon berry wine so my equipment is being utilized for that. I do not want to go out and buy a bunch of expensive equipment if this is not going to be something we can do or may not enjoy. Ive read about small batches and mason jars and things like that intrigue me, as we both like the kitschy and niche market items or skills. Mason jars have a significant meaning here on the prairies lol but for now I just want to make an attempt at the mead making process. Any help at all would be appreciated.

Lady J

bernardsmith
07-24-2015, 05:21 PM
Hi Lady J and welcome. I don't have any answers as I have no experience whatsoever in making mead (or any wine) commercially, but I do have a few questions that I think you and your partner might want to consider.
How many gallons of mead would you need to make in order to offer even 1 tasting glass to someone who might buy 1 bottle?
How many bottles would you need to sell each quarter or each year in order to continue making the mead for sale?
How long would it take you take make enough mead before you could offer 1 glass to a potential customer?
How much will it cost to buy /lease enough fermenters and storage vessels to make that volume of mead?
What income do you need each year to live the lives you want to live and how much of that income will need to come from the sale of the mead you make?
How many months could you live without any of that income but with much of the costs before you would need to call it quits?
What are the legal requirements in your part of the world that you need to meet before you can even produce 1 cl of mead designed to be sold commercially?
How confident are you that any mead you make will be good enough for people to pay for?
How likely are strangers and would be customers likely to spend their money on your mead rather than on a wine with which they are familiar?
How confident are you that the you can make a consistently good mead by the barrel?
Do the folk in your neck of the woods prefer dry or sweet wines? What kind of meads would you make - meads that you prefer or meads that your potential customers are more likely to prefer?
How would enough people know you were selling mead and how would those folk spread the word? and what word might those folk spread?
Are there significant differences in making 50 or 100 gallons of mead and making one or five gallons of a similar product?
How different is your emotional response when you are compelled to make something for a living than when you choose to make the same thing for pleasure...?
What would be special about your mead that folk who may never have drunk a mead would buy yours and folk who really know and buy their meads would choose yours?
IMO, when you have answers to those kinds of questions then I would think that you have enough information to decide what you need to do to decide what you want to do...

Squatchy
07-24-2015, 07:35 PM
I concur with Bernard for sure. I would add that you first and foremost need to be able to make exceptional mead in many different categories. You might be able to sell mead in mason jars but, you wouldn't be able to get enough experience making tiny batches like that. It takes such a long time for a mead to come into it's own, that in my mind it's not even worth messing with anything less than 3 gallons. If you wait for an entire year for a mead to start to show, a single gallon can disappear in a couple days and then you have nothing.

If I were you I would become a Patron here so that you have access to all of the best info on this forum. Start reading and then start making some proven recipes for a while until you get consistent before you wander very far from the beaten path. Lots of good people here to help. I think if you have large aspirations maybe you would want to start by making some traditionals , all the same, except for the yeast. Maybe 5) three gallon batches. All from the same must and then divided into 3 gallon carboys, each with a different yeast.

I think if you did that, along with buying and tasting several commercial meads, you might then know what the questions are you need to ask yourself to decide where to go from there.

ejcrist
07-25-2015, 01:05 AM
I'm brand new at mead making, and this is just my opinion only so take it with a grain of salt, but I'd take your time and make a few batches first to get a handle on what you're both doing before deciding to do it for profit. You'll have a much better idea if it's a viable business decision that way. I think mead making might be a good niche business since it's not nearly as competitive as wine making. As a general rule though I found whenever I convert a hobby to a money-making endeavor it almost always takes the fun right out of it since I'm trying to meet a customer's needs instead of my own. That's just in my case though and certainly doesn't apply to everyone as it depends on your own situation and goals. One of the neat things about where I'm at in mead making at the moment, which is right at the very beginning, is I can learn at my own pace and I'm free to experiment making whatever I want without having to worry about making a profit or limiting losses. For me that's what makes it fun. My only payback is hopefully tasting a good mead I made or seeing someone else enjoy it and explaining how I did it. I'll get a lot of satisfaction out of that one day.

kuri
07-25-2015, 02:20 AM
I started making mead several years ago with nothing more than the name "mead" to guide me. I found this site and read the beginner's guide religiously. Several times. And then went ahead and made a 5 gallon batch. Before experimenting, I wanted to get an idea of what mead was like. It took a while to find out. Tasting early it was still hot, and not very pleasant, but after 8 months it started showing signs of being good.

I realized that experimenting was going to be a very very long-term prospect at this rate, where you would have to set up multiple experiments at once before getting results from any. Then Loveofrose (a member here) came up with a new approach that turns out an enjoyable mead in one month. Look it up -- it's called BOMM (Bray's One Month Mead). That made it possible to experiment and use results to refine things.

For me, the first two variables I needed to get control of were honey variety and starting/final gravities. I thought I wanted a dry mead. To date, I haven't had a mead that tastes both dry and good at the same time. Some good tasting meads have "gone dry", meaning fermented completely, but they still had a residual sweetness. Having a 1 month turnaround time for getting mead to drink made it possible to figure out what my personal preferences were. Now I'm onto trying different yeasts, and experimenting with different temperatures for fermentation. I'm also starting to branch out from traditionals to metheglins, something that can be relatively easily accomplished if you add your herbs and spices after primary fermentation has finished.

This is just to give you an idea of what you might want to think about. Everyone has their own ideas of what to make and how to go about it. At some point, though, you just have to give it a try and see what happens.

If you can control the temperature of your fermentation and have excellent sanitization, then it is not hard to learn how to reproduce good mead time after time. Good luck with getting started.

JayH
07-25-2015, 02:30 AM
You have a long way to go and what you are looking at with a meadery, tasting room, restaurant, etc. Is a lot of work, must of which you will have to learn on the way. Making good mead is not something you can learn from a book, you tube video, talking etc. All of that just gets you in the door. Then you have years of learning and making mistakes before you should consider making mead professionally. The only difference between a beginning and advanced mazer is the number of good batches between bad. While as a hobbyist we can afford the occasional bad batch, we just don't tell people about them, as a business, you can not afford to have any bad product out there. Either you have to flush it down the drain and that is expensive, or you sell it and turn off your clientele.

Having said all of that and if after sleeping on it, thinking, sleeping some more etc. you still decide you want to do this, my recommendation would be to hire someone to do the actual mead making and run that portion of the business for you.

I have a fair number of friends that over the last 5 years have started their own brewery here in the LA area most had years of experience under their belts. However one of the very best was started on a shoestring by someone like yourself that knew business, but nothing about brewing. What they did is go out and find the very best young brewer they could and talk him into coming to work for them. They run the business, he runs the brewery, it works great and they are making a phenomenal reputation for themselves.

Just a thought


Cheers
Jay

LadyJames
07-25-2015, 12:41 PM
I did forget to mention that this wasn't a get up and go plan, its a ten year plan and we understand that. We are both skilled in business myself in hospitality and marketing, he in production. we have looked into laws, regulations, etc in our area and unfortunately there really aren't any as no one has done this before. I will how ever branch to other provinces to find regulations as that's likely where my province will reference to.

I have looked threw my province and have yet to find a commercial mead on the shelf at any government liquor store and offsales tend to only bring in the popular "convenience" liquors, wines, and beers. Being we are not a restaurant/bar having liquor shipped to our home isn't an option threw post. we will be traveling to Alberta and hope to find other commercial meads on the shelves the closer we get to BC.

we have also thought threw the option of finding a skilled up and coming brewer and that option is still being discussed. we can be a very smart business couple but we want to be able to understand what it is we are in business doing so if hiring a brewer to start (and hopefully keep and learn from) is what is the smartest decision for our business that is what we will do.

I will be doing the patron membership and hopefully learn lots more from all of you experienced pros :)

mannye
07-26-2015, 01:32 AM
Well then I suggest this:

Read the newbie guide. It's chock full of great information.

while you are reading the newbie guide, make a gallon of JAOM. If you don't like that process, you will save a lot of time and money. JAOM doesn't need any special equipment or ingredients and it is very tasty. Very sweet, but 90% of the people that try it do that thing where they raise their eyebrows and open their eyes a little wider because they are surprised it was good.

Consider taking a tour of a successful operating meadery. Ask the owner questions. Many times, they are happy to share information, especially if you are going to open a few hundred miles away. I would also taste meads at these places and if you really like what they make, ask about contracting your first few batches to them. This could get you jump started. You will have lots of mead to sell while your first batches bubble away in the background. You will have expert quality mead to serve until your own skills get to the level they need to be.

bernardsmith
07-26-2015, 08:35 PM
I did forget to mention that this wasn't a get up and go plan, its a ten year plan and we understand that. We are both skilled in business myself in hospitality and marketing, he in production. we have looked into laws, regulations, etc in our area and unfortunately there really aren't any as no one has done this before. I will how ever branch to other provinces to find regulations as that's likely where my province will reference to.

I have looked threw my province and have yet to find a commercial mead on the shelf at any government liquor store and offsales tend to only bring in the popular "convenience" liquors, wines, and beers. Being we are not a restaurant/bar having liquor shipped to our home isn't an option threw post. we will be traveling to Alberta and hope to find other commercial meads on the shelves the closer we get to BC.

we have also thought threw the option of finding a skilled up and coming brewer and that option is still being discussed. we can be a very smart business couple but we want to be able to understand what it is we are in business doing so if hiring a brewer to start (and hopefully keep and learn from) is what is the smartest decision for our business that is what we will do.

I will be doing the patron membership and hopefully learn lots more from all of you experienced pros :)

If we assume that one way or another you will be able to make an excellent mead and make it consistently between now and 2025 then the one thing that is missing is ... the business model. If you were to hire a mead maker , for example, then you will need to be able to pay that expert a salary and you will need - presumably to make enough money to pay yourselves...and any other people who will be involved in the process - And that suggests the sale of a significant number of bottles. Your own business experience will tell you how crucial it is to have a realistic business model in place before you spend a dollar. The fact that mead is a niche product may not in fact be to your advantage if you want to open a meadery where there are no other meaderies close by... I am not a business person but I don't know whether many folk will travel hours on spec to visit your meadery. That is not to say your idea should be trashed. Absolutely not. It is, however, to emphasize the importance of a really good business model

Chevette Girl
07-27-2015, 07:52 PM
Well, if you listen to our podcasts, the interviews with all the meadery owners so far have indicated that the business side of things is almost as important as being able to make good mead. If you can make wine, you can make mead (I started with wines myself).

I don't know what Sask. rules are but in Ontario for me to open a meadery I have to be a licensed beekeeper with over 100 hives in operation at all times, so it's not something you can go small with. Do your research. The application forms here include your water useage and your effective business plan, so be sure you develop a business plan once you've done your research and know what they want to see. I've got my suspicions that you need to have each recipe approved separately, so don't rush madly off in all directions... When I eventually get my farm, I will probably get registered as a winery and make mead (one of the loopholes) but they don't let you go small time into wineries in Ontario either. Again, do your research, figure out what you already have, what you're going to need and what changes you may need to make to conform to legislation...

Then get your hands on some honey and make some mead. Even if what you start with isn't organic (you didn't mention beekeeping and keeping the bees away from your neighbour's sprayed fields is impossible). If you're going to have your own bees, get to know what the varietals will taste like if you have them polinating your own crops, make traditional meads out of all of them and see how they taste.

At the same time you can also start making some batches including some of the fruit you grow into your meads, as that will likely be your starting points when you go for recipe approval. Up to you whether you want to do this concurrently or wait until your traditionals are consistent, but this is the preparatory work you can do before you have any kind of business plan - make mead, get it reviewed by people who know what they're doing. Also buy and drink as many different types of meads as you can get your hands on. Try making BOMM, try Joe's Ancient. Sit down and taste them all so you can compare them to each other. Age them six months and try them again so you'll have an idea about shelf life.

Once you're making repeatable, consistent traditional meads, enter some of them in the Mazer's Cup, the feedback will be very useful. I'm just repeating what I've heard from the pros...

Your business plan (the one in your files, not the one you submit) may also have to take into account some of the realities of upscaling to bigger batches, like temperature control and how on earth do you mix honey into a 300 gal fermenter.

Good luck with it, and I hope it's easier in SK than in ON!!

hobbitfu
07-28-2015, 08:02 AM
Can't add much to that already said. I just moved from SK to east coast! I'm an all grain beer brewer and just am in process of making first dry mead. Having a brewing background has helped. This forum is great but nothing like a little hands on experience!

To go commercial with this you will need to know where you can source honey in quantities locally to make this feasible.

Wish you the best in pursuing this. Read lots and practice lots!