Name: 1634 Meadery (we like to be called a “meadery” rather than a “brewery”!)
Year founded: 2015
Founders: Dan and Deb Clapp
Location: Ipswich, MA
TMA: Thank you for sitting down with us! Could you tell us how did you get started with this concept? What was the motivation and the final “push” factor for you?
Dan and Deb: Dan discovered mead on a genealogy trip to Denmark back in 2004. He brought back a bottle as a souvenir gift for Deb (who was left home nursing our newborn twins!). And… Deb was not impressed! We finally had the mead one night at a dinner party, and Dan was hooked. His home beer making hobby was replaced by making mead. Soon carboys and buckets were filling up the basement (and kitchen) in his quest for the perfect mead.
As the years went by, the mead got better and people started clamoring, “You should try and sell this stuff!” Intrigued by the mead revolution that was starting in the U.S., research was started on if it was a feasible idea, until the space at 3 Short Street became available. This forced us into a decision: make the jump, or keep doing engineering for the rest of Dan’s career. We made the jump!
TMA: What does 1634 in your name stand for?
Dan and Deb: 1634 is the year Ipswich, MA was incorporated into a town by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It also pays tribute to the many relatives that Dan has in the area, who came over from England/Europe during the great migration of the 1630’s.
TMA: How challenging was it to open your brewery? What were the unique challenges that you had to overcome?
Dan and Deb: The hurdles were many – permitting being at the top of the list. We had to get approval at every level of government- federal, state and local. Educating officials about mead and winemaking was important. Not many people in Ipswich knew what mead was! Now they do! The whole process took about 9 months, once we rented our space.
Then came on all the normal business problems of acquiring equipment, scaling up production, etc.
TMA: Has your brewery business growth been organic or driven actively by dedicated social media promotion?
Dan: I think both. There is no doubt that social media (and Deb’s dedication to it) has raised awareness about the meadery. Creating a story and keeping customers (and potential customers) in the loop has been essential. We also have been fortunate in the marketing department by being involved in the Chronicle episode on Ipswich that has been aired several times. We also did an episode on “Ask This Old House”, which has brought business from all over the country, but more importantly has provided brand awareness.
TMA: What makes Ipswich special? Why did you start here, and not somewhere else?
Hey, you can’t beat the commute!
Ipswich is a fantastic, beautiful and historic community we are proud to call home. Because of its historic nature, it seems only natural that mead, being the oldest known fermented beverage, should be made here in Ipswich.
TMA: What would you say to the folks who are in Ipswich for the first time and are contemplating to visit your meadery?
Dan and Deb: For a very reasonable price ($6) they can walk through our different style of meads and see the range of tastes that mead can acquire. What makes mead so unique is its versatility, changing honey varietals, adding spices and fruits (and anything else you might want to add!) to make exciting new flavors. Not to mention our expertise in making it!
TMA: What makes you different from others (besides the obvious!)?
We make a range of mead from dry to sweet, where a lot of mead tends to be quite sweet. We make mead primarily from locally sourced honey and fruit, and that is a business decision. We want to work with local farms that work so hard to make great produce.
TMA: Would you consider expanding your mead offering geographically? Why or why not?
The biggest limitation here is meeting increased demand while still using locally sourced honey and fruits. The bigger we get, the more difficult it will be for us to keep this business model. The local suppliers can only provide so much honey.
TMA: What do you think of local craftsmaking in general, not limited to meads? Is it alive and kicking in America?
We love it! Ipswich, a small town, has two distilleries, a brewery, with one more on the way, and of course, a meadery. All these businesses started with a dream of having a local, community-driven model. And I think this has taken place all over the country. It has driven the market to have a wider selection of great quality beverages, as well as great tasting rooms and restaurants to experience a more locally focused culture. And that’s an awesome trend to be having and witnessing!