COBWEBS and dust were to be expected.
But when twentysomethings Tracey Whitehead and her husband, Don, cleaned out the farm shed, they never expected to find hidden treasure. Lurking behind the long-forgotten piles of stuff were oak barrels full of liquid gold.
The barrels contained perfectly aged mead – a honey wine renowned in Viking feasts and medieval debauchery – made by Don’s father, Rod Whitehead, years before on a whim. The discovery led to what is now a burgeoning sideline for the bee-keeping Whiteheads of Milawa and their family’s Walkabout Apiaries business in North East Victoria.
There is an uncanny serendipity to the story of Cellarmen’s that begs to be shared. At one point, all four of the guys were working at B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale, with Radogost-Givens and Petrocik on mead making duty. Between the two of them, you probably can’t find two mead makers with more collective international medals, scooping up awards from highly-respected juried competitions like the Mazer Cup, the Michigan Mead Cup, and the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, in addition to receiving national recognition from the likes of Esquire, Thrillist, and RateBeer.com.
What I’ve learned in one year since opening a meadery… and just a heads up, this might just be the last of this series I’ve been posting up here.
One important thing I’ve learned is, you can’t “homebrew” your way in creating a successful meadery. What I mean by that is, just because you never filtered or sulfited your meads at home, doesn’t mean that is going to be the best practice once going commercial. When a good batch goes wrong in the bottle and starts fermenting again, not only will it get you pretty distraught, but the consumer relations process of rectifying the situation is enough to make you pony up the few grand for a sterile filtration and stabilization solution. Trust me, even though it was only 2 out of 30+ batches I’ve produced, it was enough of a lessoned learned, even though all of our customers were still totally cool with it and understanding. Since then, I had vowed to never let that happen again. (Additionally to original post: this is another reason why I am glad I haven’t began distribution yet. Gave me a chance to better “re-learn” my craft on a commercial scale)