TMA: It’s a pleasure to sit down with you and learn more about your meadery! Could you please tell us how did you get started with this concept – why meads? Why in NH?
SHM: Ash and I grew up in Ossipee. We had done a lot of homebrewing. Ash, in particular, had made a lot of mead. We wanted to do something that would help to revitalize our hometown and be an attraction that would bring in people. The Lakes Region and White Mountains of NH, where we’re located are big tourism areas. We have a lot of campgrounds and seasonal homes on the Lakes. Many of the summer residents and visitors have been coming up for generations and they feel a similar sense of pride and belonging to the area as those of us who do live here. So, we really tapped into a strong movement with out mission to bring Ossipee back.
TMA: How challenging was it to open your meadery, especially in NH? What were the unique challenges that you had to overcome? Where do you get honey for your meads, by the way?
SHM: The strength that we built the company around is also our biggest challenge. Because the region is primarily seasonal and the area is otherwise economically depressed, there was a limited local customer base in the beginning. People were skeptical and most had never had tried mead. We had to supplement the physical location with distribution from the very beginning. We’ve often said, if we’d located the meadery in an already thriving city or a major route, we’d probably have a lot more money in the bank, but the outcome wouldn’t have the same meaning.
We source our honey, and most of our ingredients from Northern New England: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Western Massachusetts, etc. We work with about seven different apiaries and many more farms.
TMA: How did you establish your meadery fan base? Has it been organic or did you actively promote it on social media?
SHM: Luckily, being in a small town, doing something as out of the box as building a meadery generates a lot of publicity so, we’ve benefited a lot from local newspapers, television, and word of mouth. We did invest heavily in social media early on and it has paid off tremendously. It doesn’t seem like that long ago but in 2009 Facebook wasn’t nearly as pervasive as it is now but that’s where we put a lot of our effort because we didn’t have money to buy ads or anything. We also went out into the market and did tons of tastings at stores, restaurants, events, any where. We gave away a lot of mead.
TMA: What would you say to the visitors who are in Ossipee, NH for their first time and are contemplating to visit your meadery (even if you do not offer tours, why should visitors drive by your meadery and try your meads or wine at establishments that carry it)?
SHM: Well, we do offer tours! As well as tastings and a mead pub with food, cocktails, local beer, and events – we think that’s all certainly a draw. We are located in a beautiful area with lots to offer in terms of the outdoors, hiking, fishing, camping, photography, foliage etc. We also know the region in and out and often times find ourselves playing tour guide and recommending destinations and itineraries.
TMA: What makes your meads different from others (besides the obvious!)?
SHM: Our meads tend to be on the drier side, fairly wine-like in their presentation and flavorful and complex. We utilize almost entirely local ingredients and make mead when they are in season. We offer unique but simple combinations of ingredients as well, such as our Cranberry Sage for the upcoming holidays. We really focus on proper fermentation and aging techniques to allow the subtleties of the ingredients and honey shine through.
TMA: Would you consider expanding your mead offering geographically? Why or why not?
SHM: We currently distribute in many states across the country including most of New England, California, Arkansas, etc. We are always exploring new partnerships with distributors in new states.
TMA: What makes the town of Ossipee special? Why did you start here, and not somewhere else?
SHM: Well, it’s an important place to us because it’s our home. The whole idea that the company was built around was to help revitalize the downtown village. We could have located in Boston, the seacoast of New Hampshire or Portland, Maine and certainly had a very different business with a lot more built in customer-base but the meaning and mission would have been different.
TMA: What do you think of local craftsmaking in general? Are you a fan of other crafts/craftsmakers – which ones?
SHM: There are several places that we recommend folks check out if they are inclined. If someone is in our tasting room, chances are they have eclectic tastes and appreciate cool, new things. The following list all are located within a 30 minute drive of us and offer a great cross-section of local craftsmanship in the beverage scene.
We at TMA extend our gratitude to Sap House Meadery for taking their time to discuss with us their meadery and the intricacies of starting a meadery, as well as for awesome recommendations to local breweries, wineries, and cider makers! Please follow these folks at their Facebook/Twitter pages (and do visit them!), as well as us at www.facebook.com/makersalmanac!