Behind the scenes activity for Ancient Fire has been brisk recently. There are a few different activities in flight including, business planning, the search for a location, a marketing ramp up and of course lots of pilot batch work.
Our business planning efforts have been the biggest focus, and the exercise of putting together a rational plan has already paid off, even if the plan isn't yet complete. It is amazing how much you learn about what you are trying to do when you sit down to document the process. ;)
We haven't found a location yet, but the hunt is on. In Londonderry and Derry New Hampshire where we live there is a vibrant community of craft beverage producers, and ideally we would like to be sited right in with them. We have looked at potential locations in both Derry and Manchester, with more to investigate this week and next. Once we secure a location we can take a big step in filing our paperwork with the TTB.
Marketing to build brand awareness will be a persistent activity. Our new logo (at the top) is being circulated and the feedback has been both interesting and useful. There may be some enhancements coming, but for now we are going with it because we believe it is largely there. I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that it is your brand, that the best brands use the imagery that works for them, and they always assume up front that engaging people to tell the story so that the brand resonates, and better over time, is how you build a successful brand around your graphics. We will be starting to work on a web site, but for now updates and engagement are available at the Ancient Fire Mead & Cider Facebook page. Give us a Like to keep up to date on our journey!
Marketing ourselves before we open is challenging since we can't make product to share and sell. A few weeks back we partnered with Lithermans Limited Brewery in Concord, NH to make a braggot, a style of mead/beer hybrid, and released it from their tasting room. We based the braggot on the Lithermans Tangled up in Bruges, a saison, to which we added wildflower honey, blackberries and black pepper. We named it "Fear of a Black Braggot", and it had plenty of flav and game. On release night Margot and I spent time in the tasting room talking to patrons about beer, mead and our plans for Ancient Fire. It was fun and so worthwhile to help people get to know who we are, as well as build excitement for our launch in 2017. And the feedback on the braggot was exceptional!
Pilot batch and recipe development work is definitely a big focus for me right now. While I've got dozens of recipes from 10+ years of mead and cider-making kicking around, I am shifting around the style and presentation of some of them to go commercial so I need to make a lot of batches to work out some details before I need to do it at scale. We bought two used 7 barrel fermenters last week, so at least I know how big my next leap is going to be. ;) We will be working in 10-15 gallon formats starting next month when we get a sizable amount of cider from a local farm.
Our session meads, the term session for mead meaning 5-8% ABV, have been received very well and ongoing recipe development is slowly honing in on a lineup that will be worthy of a launch. I am also pursuing ideas for hoppy and sour offerings for this product line. We are hoping to sell lots of flights and growlers of these meads in a rotating lineup to be keeping people coming back to the tasting room, which we will be calling the "Meading Room".
On the dessert mead side we have been experiment with all sorts of flavors including revisiting work with chili peppers that has been a consistent favorite. Maple syrup, vanilla, coffee and chocolate are all getting a workout these days. Fruit meads made earlier this year are tasting very well, and should be fun to get feedback on. A new project I did on a dare is a pumpkin spice mead named "Pumpkin Spice Girls". It is coming along nicely and having tried some pumpkin infused ciders recently I can definitely see why if it is done right squash flavored beverages are quite enjoyable. Gotta use real pumpkin though.
All of the pilot work is leading to a round of tastings with family, friends, brew club and co-workers to solicit feedback. This feedback will be useful to help us further profile people's tastes, but also gauge what products might experience less friction to sell and the value people attach to the products and their quality.
So that's the current buzz (bee jokes, yes!) about Ancient Fire.