“Millennials are experimenting more with their alcohol and this has resulted in innovative alcoholic beverages”, said Rohan Rehani, Founder, The Moonshine Meadery.
Founded by two childhood friends Rohan Rehani & Nitin Vishwas, Moonshine Meadery was born out of a curiosity for historical beverages. It is the oldest fermented beverage known to man, evidence of which goes back to 9000 years back with many mentions in culture through the ages.
Mead has found its place as a popular drink in the world of fiction as well, quaffed by various characters – Ron Weasley in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Gimli the dwarf in JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth and by the royalty in George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.
They came across mead on their travels having only read about it before in books. While Rohan & Nitin were employees in their previous jobs, with extensive research on Mead, and the process of fermenting honey, they started this journey by applying for a license collectively.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Nitin and me, with the understanding that entrepreneurship immediately implies donning multiple hats simultaneously. Setting up a new business is not only incremental advances, but managing timelines and projects simultaneously. Between applying for the license and getting our bottles to market, we have had to liaison with the government, set up our equipment, work on our recipes, build the look and feel of the brand and develop a retail, restaurant and loyal customer network. When it came to licensing, the Maharashtra government was very helpful and progressive. It took us a bit of time but eventually got mead registered as a separate alcoholic beverage with its own license. We got our license in September last year and made some experimental batches with pop ups where people tried our product and gave their highly constructive feedback.
Our bottles hit the market in February. We currently have two different styles available -the Apple Cyder Mead &the Coffee Mead, in Mumbai and Pune. A third variant, the Traditional Mead, will be available in both markets soon.
Initial Trials &Tweaks in the Business
When we spoke about what we wanted to do, nobody had actually heard about it. It’s hard for a new player in an established space, but it’s another battle to establish a whole new category in the industry. Meads themselves have a wide range. They can be still like a wine or carbonated like a beer. They also range from 3% to up to 20% ABV. Our biggest trial phase was arriving at the right formula for the recipe and finalizing the product in a manner that stays true to the beverage and also delights the consumer.
The Response so Far
As with any new product, we were anxious that first day when the bottles hit the retail shelves, despite positive initial feedback. But, we were very happy with the initial response and the way our loyal customers connect with us today still amazes us. It’s been a little over3 months and we are now available in over 100 retailers and restaurants between Mumbai & Pune. It’s good to see our efforts bearing fruit but this is only the beginning. We will work continuously to bring a craft beverage from thousands of years ago to our modern consumer.
The Fermentation Process
Meads can be broadly placed as a new category between Beer & Wine. Our meads are made from 100% pure honey and do not contain any added flavours, colours or aroma. We ferment locally sourced honey procured directly from farmers and local apiaries and use the best ingredients possible, as should be the case with any craft beverage. The taste of the mead is completely dependent on the type of honey used. Some examples of honey varieties are lychee honey, ajwain honey, multi floral honey and berry honey. Our meads are filtered and have a declared life span of 10 years for every bottle. Trust me; they only get better with age!
Apple Cyder Mead: This is semi-dry, with apples on the nose and palate. The apples are sourced directly from Kashmir. Taste-wise, it resembles traditional cider, but the honey adds a layer of complexity with a refreshing, well-balanced taste.
Coffee Mead: The artisanal roasted beans from Karnataka lend an instant rush of familiar coffee notes on the nose, while the multi floral honey adds delicate floral notes. From what we’ve seen, coffee lovers can’t stay away from this one!
No Quality Compromise
The beauty of mead, according to Rehani, lies in the fact that the diversity of nature is reflected in the versatility of meads. The defining characteristic of the beverage is that all its fermentable sugars are naturally derived from honey and using that as a base, it can be paired with a variety of flavors that include fruits, spices, herbs and other natural ingredients. The meads can range from light and refreshing to rich and complex. Quality control in this setting is critical – there are no short cuts and even the idea of sub standard ingredients or ‘replacements’ are not entertained.
We are currently at a stage where we are about to double our current production capacity. As the category gets established and Moonshine Meadery grows, we will be very excited to enter new markets. Key among these will be Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Delhi and Kolkata and maybe one day, our Indian meads will see rapid international consumption as well.