PENDER COUNTY — Coming off a recent crowdfunding success, a mead brewing company with a retro theme and foothold in Pender County is now looking to start a backyard operation as the next step forward.
Founded by a group of friends who successfully experimented with the drink of the Vikings, Retro Meadery infuses fruits from local farmers into some of its recipes, which require weeks of fermentation. The age-old formula is centered around honey, water and yeast, co-founder and Rocky Point resident Michael Fields said.
Along with co-founders Daryl Benitez and Matthew Clemmons, Fields pushed his product out to tasting parties at bottle shops and local spots, like Panacea Brewing Company and Fox & Hound. As its name suggests, Retro Meadery goes for a nostalgic angle.
“You got your Bob Ross, which is our Bob Rass Berry,” Fields said. “You got your Pac-Man, which is our Pac-Gria, which is a take on a white sangria.”
Other flavors include the Viking Breakfast Club and the sweet traditional wildflower.
Mead, an important substance in mythology that dates back thousands of years, has a range similar to wine, Fields said, with flavor spectrums spanning from dry to very sweet.
“It just depends on the amount of honey or the amount of natural sugars that’s added to the fermentation process,” he said.
On the crowdfunding platform Mainvest, where users can invest into local start-ups, Retro Meadery raised $45,300 in a campaign that recently ended. The immediate plan is to fashion a meadmaking shed with five fermenters in Fields’ backyard, and the long-term vision calls for a tasting room in downtown Burgaw and later a possible outpost in downtown Wilmington.
Setting up an alcohol production facility, even a cottage industry, comes with plenty of red tape. As part of the federal permitting process, Retro Meadery has to show it has the necessary equipment and local government permission on hand. Fields applied for a special use permit in Pender County, and convinced the board of commissioners to approve his request on Oct. 18.
Detailing the process to county leaders, Fields said their traditional flavor of mead takes about one month to age, and that his product’s average alcohol volume is around 13%.
The company also sports an environmental initiative of using recycled glass for its bottles.
“It’s not something that somebody will just go out and, I’ll just put it plainly, get drunk off this,” Fields said, adding they’re marketing to customers in search of something “more on the natural side of an alcoholic beverage.”
Five-gallon buckets of blueberry or blackberry honey can cost up to $500, Fields said.
“Another honey that we’ve played with, which is a more rare honey, is raspberry blossom honey,” he added. “It’s actually the bees, they go out to the raspberry blossoms of the plant and bring back the nectar — that gives you a different flavor to that honey.”
After the permitting process, Retro Meadery can move production out of its head meadmaker’s Raleigh apartment and into the new facility.
“We decided to take a step back, and that way we could start smaller and build up our profits, then we can get a tasting room,” Fields said. “We’re looking at doing that year one, year two, depending on how fast we grow. With the interest that we already have from local restaurants and cafes and bottle shops, we expect to grow pretty quick.”
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