Monday, October 5, 2015

As if I wasn't busy enough

October is the busiest time of the year if you are a band parent. Marching contests. Friday night football games. We are 0-5 so far. Not very promising. I'm considering suggesting the marching band and starting lineup change places. Anything would be better.
The wife and I went to Seguin, about thirty miles away from San Antonio. There we spent time at Texas Mead Works. Primarily we discussed starting a business of producing mead.
The informal tastings I've held, friends and neighbors whom I've shared with have been giving me great feedback. Believe it or not, I think I'm getting a following. People are asking me when the next batch is out and what am I making now. That's been a running battle because I want to please people and I want my mead to be the best it can be.
What I discovered was I need to let my product age more. Patience was never my thing. I thought I was being good by letting it age a year. Now a guy who makes mead the way I like to tells me to double that. Age it two years. On the plus side, he likes my Serrano pepper mead.
We crunched the numbers and I'm writing up a detailed business plan to create a stand alone meadery, not part of a winery or brewery. What's funny is that we may have to improve the house before sweet smells start coming out of the garage. The wiring would have to support the equipment and machinery needed. Looks like I'd gut the garage and rebuild it from the ground up. A water line with filtration system. Insulation for temperature control. Air conditioning at the very least. The meadery tour I took had a walk in refrigerator. Sounds like I would almost be better off finding a warehouse to rent. Well, I haven't discounted it. We're looking into business loans. The first one I ran into they said up front the interest rate would be 9%. That's more than my house. Thank you, No.
So let's assume I get a large stainless steel cooker and two-100 gallon fermenting vats into my garage. (There's also a bottling machine, filtration system and label maker, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.)
One thought I had was to get a large shed in the backyard for bottling and storage. I'd also run my test batches out there. Sorry to say, but this 'hobby' is taking over the house. Time for it to move out on it's own. If you drew a triangle from Austin to San Antonio and Houston, there are four meaderies in that area. A few more meaderies exist up near Dallas, but that's not too important to this story. Texas Mead Works grew out of Blue lotus winery. Run by Mike and Melissa Poole, they make mead the way I make it, except on a much larger scale. They're good people and I hope to get to know them better. They are an inspiration to me.
Then there are the other fine mead makers. Enchanted Manor is also a winery that makes the mead for the Texas Renaissance Festival. Rohan Meadery is a winery, apiary, and working farm. I'm itching to go out there one weekend.
Then there is Griffin Meadery out in Willis, Texas, just north of Houston.
I'm sensing a theme here. Several names of what to call ourselves have been bandied about. The one we are leaning towards is Centaur Meads or Centaur Meadery. 

The American Mead Makers Association first annual report states that in 2012 sale of mead was $48,624. In 2013 sales jumped to 112,000. That's a 130% increase!
The 2015 report states there are 236 wineries that make at least one mead. Stand alone meaderies number around 150. The reporting is a little spotty because there are around 42 meaderies in development. I'd like to imagine I'm in that number, but I doubt anyone knows we exist yet. Sales for 2014 increased by 42% which is still pretty impressive and they had a lot more data to work with.
There are finer points to work on. Legislative definitions of what we do and produce. Carbonated/non-carbonated, single digit alcohol levels vs. double digit ABV. 
Once you get the basics down, you can make mead taste like nearly anything. There is a trend among craft brewers to use hops in the cooking process. This makes the mead taste like an IPA. Add to the predilection of craft breweries kegging and carbonating their mead, well, it tastes like very expensive beer. If I want beer, I'll buy or make a beer.
Centaur Meadery will make mead that looks like wine, but tastes infinitely better and about the same ABV as wine.
In my business plan I referred to myself as the Willi Wonka of meads. That's not an empty boast. Sweet, spicy, tart or tangy and anything in between. I suppose I could do sour too, but I'm going to make what tastes good. My first professional batch will be a traditional mead so as not to scare folks off.

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