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Archive for the 'mead' Category

Share your Bed with a Convict

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

The simple truth of our position is we have great ideas and no money. What we do have in spades is an authentic Tasmanian story about convict redemption, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit.

Barriers to entry in the small batch artisan mead market aren’t that great. We’re not talking the keys to your castle. We’re talking realistic funds to implement a non-traditional mead enterprise that is prepared to take on the established order. And it should be apparent to anybody who regularly reads this weblog that my experiences within the Tasmanian prison system greatly increase the legitimacy barriers to Morgan’s Barn Mead entering that marketplace.

But we’re always going to be drinkers at Morgan’s Barn Mead; not quitters.

What we need to do is sit down in a quiet location with tasting glasses and a fast sketched out business plan and discuss what you want out of this investment. Control? Financial returns? Equity in the business? There are thousands of people willing to invest this amount of money on a horse race in Melbourne today.

So the initial financial hump isn’t insurmountable, but at the same time we have no intention of producing huge amounts of mead on an industrial scale. We’ll never be a factory.

In fact, when money comes in the door we’d like that to turn around and employ even smarter people that know a whole lot more about breaking all the rules in liquor production. We have to eat; so does this business. And so does an investor. We just need to figure out the order of priority so nobody starves to death on the way through commercialisation and early growth.

Think about it as you walk up to the betting shop this afternoon. What odds would bring your cash into the adventure of making liquor?

Mead is a Contemporary Craft Brew

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Mead has been experiencing a revival in the last half a decade as craft brewers and smart marketing slowly shifts the public perception away from medieval festivals and into high class bars and restaurants.

The major putsch of this perceptual realignment in the marketplace, from old school towards contemporary beverage, has primarily been driven from within the United States of America. We spend so much of our time paying attention to that market in the expectation that it presumes the direction of the Australian market.

For example, some restaurants now offer signature mead cocktails that may be served in mason jars with sprigs of this and dashes of the other. Fruit melomels and cysers have a propensity to be just about anything the modern mazer and licensed establishment would like to offer so the gate is open in a race to invent the best mead cocktail recipes and ingredients.

And the most interesting part of this new mead paradigm isn’t that mead has been pushed forward as a faux-wine product and found acceptance with the social elite. No. Quite the opposite. Mead has thrown the rule book out the window and challenged the common plod alongside a good old craft beer or cider. Micro brewers on the nimble edges of the industry have opened the once-unopenable gateways by throwing in hops to make hybrid beverages, making tart and sour carbonated beverages, embracing contribution from wild yeasts, shipping in cans and all manner of mead heresy.

Yes, there’s a strong market where traditional meads made well are healthy and growing product lines. But gradually the consumer will become more curious about the mavericks and heretics at the craft brewing fringes where many of these new ideas will eventually chew into the over-saturated and increasingly competitive landscape of the traditionalists. We’re still in the collegial stage of mead (even for those in the United States), but eventually this has to change as competition continues to enter.

Smart marketers know how to tempt and expose a new generation of mead drinkers with non-standard heresies. Simply, breaking the rules is a sexier sell than conforming to them. These mead heretics are about carving out new ground rather than fighting for established empires; they’re making a business choice between entering an established market segment or creating a brand new lucrative niche. Invent a new taste and/or experience and then educate the market to follow.

Meanwhile, we see a global resurgence of previously low key traditional alcohol varieties entering the Western market. It’s like a crack opened in Wonderland and suddenly people realised there were more options for Alice than a finite block of approved drinks our Anglo heritage has hereto dictated. Traditional drinks from Africa, Ireland, China and South America are making their way into our consumer consciousness. We’re individually becoming more open to new ideas and tastes and learning to trust our instincts.

Contemporary mead could easily revamp that old World War 2 recruitment poster – Be All You Can Be [with Uncle Sam’s finger poking you straight in the face]. And, if history has taught Australians anything over the last century… Australia will follow.

Heretical Sour Beer & Natural Wine

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The gentlemanly club of making booze is rarely forgiving to those who challenge the established order. There are the accepted rules; and there is the chaotic worldview of its heretics.

This is where life gets a little more interesting in the brewing landscape. In recent weeks there was a great little story on the ABC’s 7.30 Report about Ashley Huntington’s micro-brewery, Two Metre Tall, that broached the subject of sour beer. These may be the fringe beers in contemporary Australia, but sour beers are mainstream fare in the United States and Europe and sit at the forefront of the burgeoning craft brewing industry.

There is a bit more written about Ashley Huntington’s mouthwateringly colourful wine barrel aged cherry beer on the ABC Rural website. Or if you’re in Southern Tasmania you might attend his popular on-site Farm Bar at Hayes. It’s on our to-do-when-we-have-cash list, so we’ll hopefully get there.

Another group of rule breakers worth keeping an eye out for in the brewing scene are those heretical natural wine geeks.

Natural wine vintners utilise wild yeasts from the environment (as opposed to commercial yeasts) and avoid many of the additives that govern qualities of a commercial wine. They don’t add in things like egg white or sturgeon bladder to clarify wine. And they only add sulphur dioxide right before bottling. Of course, the nature of these wines can be as heretical as their creative philosophy outside the conventional wine paradigm, so be open to a new experience.

The Sunday 13 October, 2013 episode of ABC’s Landline had a great story on natural wines as the second segment (starting at 16 minutes) looking at both sides of this wine heresy.

One exciting quote from Anton van Klopper (an ex-cook turned natural wine maker), Lucy Margaux Wines, South Australia “… but the consumer has changed; people are after more interesting things. We’ve got a more educated consumer and people trust their palates a bit more.”

Again, natural wine is a much bigger thing in Europe and we can only hope, as the Australian palate and confidence grows, that there will continue to be market growth in the heretical direction. It’s nice to see the heretics convert drinkers to a wider idea of what’s possible in a glass.

This heretical direction is the most interesting for us when it comes to making mead, too. Not that we’re throwing away commercial yeast or DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) because honey is a nutrient poor source of fermentables, but we do try to avoid any unnecessary additives. And we embrace the wild yeasts that contribute from added fruit in the fermentation.

We’re looking for something in at least some of our mead that’s not quite the fare of the Fruit Wine Society and sits beyond the accepted mead paradigm. There’s not much excitement for us in becoming the eleventieth traditional mead seller on the block.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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