A Honey Wine Like No Other With Brian McMillin of Feisty Brood Meadery


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Jan 4, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast
Carl and Brian McMillin

Brian McMillin and his father run Feisty Brood Meadery, located in Northeastern Ohio. They began this journey after making a batch for a wedding, and the archaic process of brewing honey wine has taken the craft beverage space by storm. Brian has been brewing mead in the US and Australia for over 15 years and brings his expert knowledge to the flavors he creates. He oversees the daily operations of the meadery as well as developing bottling equipment, point of sale signs, paddles, racks, website, and labels. He lives close to the foundation of the meadery and with his do-it-yourself attitude, he is taking the meadery to new heights.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Brian McMillin discusses how he and his father explored the honeycomb of brewing mead commercially
  • Growing a brand through the evolution of a name
  • Brian details how he is changing the perception of the mead industry with varietals for all palates 
  • What is a common misconception about mead? 
  • Brian shares the challenges of producing authentic mead from genuine honey
  • Why the origin of the nectar is crucial for creating unique, powerful flavors
  • How is Brian engaging and growing his audience? 
  • Brain talks about the spirit of friendship in the mead community and fashioning new flavors

In this episode with Brian McMillin

Are you looking for a unique beverage to drink? Where can you find a beverage varietal that offers both delicate sweet or classic dry notes?

Brian McMillin is producing high-quality mead that is taking the craft beverage movement by storm. He has scaled his brand beyond his Ohio hometown to ship 11 different varietals across America. He has brewed various flavors of mead to meet your personal preference — the only restriction is your imagination. 

In this episode of Legends Behind the Craft, Drew Hendricks sits down with Brian McMillin of Fiesty Brood Meadery to discuss one of the oldest fermented beverages known to man: mead. Brian explains the process of brewing the different honey wine varietals, how he overcame several challenges during production, and the steps he is taking to educate and enhance his offered nectar varietals. Are you ready to dive into this honey mead episode?

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.

Drew Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. When that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. I’m super excited to talk to do with Brian McMillin, owner of Feisty Brood Meadery. And I want to give a big shout out and thanks to my longtime friend Koa Rosa for introducing us. Fiesty Brood Meadery is a winery that specializes in high quality mead. Their award winning honey wine is now distributed throughout the state of Ohio. And they’re expanding every day. Welcome to the show, Brian.

Brian McMillin  1:09  

Hi. Happy to be here.

Drew Hendricks  1:11  

Oh, thank you so much for being on and so I gotta I gotta ask for stuff. How did Feisty Brood Meadery come about?

Brian McMillin  1:18  

Well, it’s a bit of a long story. I don’t think we have two or three hours to go into all but uh, you know, the the story answer is that my father and I do this together. And he started making wine in the 80s and then serve as a home brew thing, you know, he got some grapes and made some wine and then had thought all this equipment to do that. When my sister got married. She wanted to do a Scottish themed wedding. And so this is in here. I got actually have a bottle from her wedding. We have one left. Oh geez. Yeah. 1999 here, Elisa. And so, you know, they did this thing where he makes the he made the mead right? Because they had all this all equipment, looked up the recipe said, you know, alright, we’ll make it everybody loved it. They were like, This is amazing. And they gave the little gifts away, you know, that little bottle they did everyone at the there was there to take home as a wedding gift, you know, thing. And, and they thought that was great. Everybody loved it. So then, you know, after that, let’s see here, he started making more. I think I have one of his other bottles that he ended up doing. You know, this one’s from 2000. So he ended up you know, making us mead here. So

Drew Hendricks  2:43  

look around 99 Where you shifted from grape wine to honey wine.

Brian McMillin  2:48  

Yep, that’s right. Yep. And so after he started making the honey wine, he realized that it didn’t have the same aging as grape wine. So like the bottles that he had, you know, like I have one here. From when he made it in 1980s. Right. Mm, bottle, you can’t drink it. It’s no good anymore. You’re Concord grape wine there. Yeah, grape wine, you know, it’ll, it’ll last, you know, whites, you know what they say five to seven years, something like that. Whereas we actually try doing a you know, for our kids, we got one cylinder 18 they can open up a bottle, really hard to find a red wine that will last that long. You know, it’s not very common.

Drew Hendricks  3:35  

You gotta you gotta pay to pay to play with red wine. So

Brian McMillin  3:40  

that’s right. But Mead ages continues to get better doesn’t oxidize in the same way. And so, you know, they say like, 50 years is, you know, top age of mead or something like that. Right?

Drew Hendricks  3:52  

So it actually just makes sense, because honey is made from honey. And they always say that honey. Yeah, hasn’t expired. Like they found they find Honey and 2,000 year old catacombs or something that’s, that’s still usable.

Brian McMillin  4:04  

Yeah. Yeah. So once he realized that he started making a bunch of it, okay. And so he got 40 50 carboys, six gallon bottles, and he’s got rows of them. And he’s making all this meat and submitting it to homebrew competitions and winning lots of awards, and everyone’s gonna want to buy it and buy it. And he’s like, Well, I can’t really, you know, sell it illegally, right. And then, you know, around that time my wife and I ended up moving to Australia. And we started making mead over there. We made mead you know, before we left us in 2003 2004, or something like that. We, Australia. I’ll get there. I’ll get there. Okay. We had made mead before we left right. And, and then so we had made 30 gallons instead of this I’ve set off we’ll come back in a year and let have urine, this is gonna be great, right? And it was like nine years later we get back and from Australia, but while we were there, we got to make Australian honey, mead. And so we get to Look, honey, the stringy bark and yellow gum and stuff like that. And we started to see how different the meads were when we made them with different varietals. And, you know, we were going around, and, you know, we saw some meaderies over in Australia and New Zealand and, and other places, you know, that we had traveled to, and we got to see the variety that people were making, you know, around the world. And it was really inspiring. And so at a certain point, we said, well, it’s time to come back to the US. And so we came back in part so that we could do the meadery, you know, with my father said, Well, I think it’s time to do it commercially. Now. And, yeah, so we ended up being there nine years, and really, you know, just loved it. It’s a great country. And our time there. So when we got back, the plan was to make meadery a real reality and have a go for it. And we had made like, some bottles while we were there, you know, in there, we were calling it a mellifera estates, you know, because these are eight this mellifera okay, but nobody got it. You know? Nobody knows. Like, they didn’t make the connection. So we were like, Well, I’m gonna

Drew Hendricks  6:25  

guess it’s gonna really get it and be super happy and ended that though.

Brian McMillin  6:29  

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So we realized, you know, what, we got to work on our naming, right? And so we sat down with some friends, and we’re at a dinner party, and everybody’s like, throwing out names are like this, that that somebody goes, Oh, I see. I see brood, right, because the brood of bees, huh. And, and so we’re like, Yes, that sounds really nice. So we sat on for a while. And we said, all right. Yeah, we did. So that was a good name, we decided. And then, you know, we realized that brood has a bit of a same problem as mellifera nobody knows what a brood is, you know, and they kept thinking was broad, based abroad. Super odd. Yeah. So we said, Alright, let’s just drop brood. Like, it’s still part of the company name. But, you know, when we refer to our mead, it’s spicy Mead, you know, or just spicy. Sometimes it goes into fiesty b. But basically, you know, our bottles, you know, don’t have brood on them anymore. And that’s, you know, just sort of how we’ve evolved sort of learning from our mistakes, you know, as we’re going along, you know, and so it was 2016. We got everything registered. And we had a friend over in Pennsylvania that has a winery, Foxburg winery. And they said, we could use some of their tanks, and make wine over there while we’re getting started up. And so that’s great. So we, we bought 3,000 pounds of honey had it shipped over to Pennsylvania, and started up 1,000 gallons of mead over there. And after a year, you know, we ended up bringing it back to Ohio and we found a place by then instead of our commercial operation and started doing direct to customer.

Drew Hendricks  8:20  

Right now I’m not familiar as much with not familiar really at all with making honey wine. Now, do you add maybe a dumb question? Do you add water to start the fermentation process?

Brian McMillin  8:32  

Yeah, yep, traditional meads or honey, yeast and water, right? So you need to add the water. Otherwise honey, like he said will will last 1000s of years. Once you add the water, then it’ll just ferment naturally. So it’s one of the reasons why it’s considered the oldest alcoholic beverage known demand because it’s one of the simplest snake and that hunters and gatherers could have found a hive of bees or you know a tree that had some honey in it from the bees and water gotten in and out or what a fermented or they get the honey and then they put it in a you know their pouches and add some water to make it go a little bit longer and then find it fermented and then and then they were happy to keep doing it. This is getting better. Yeah. Yeah. And then grapes wine came along later because grapes, you need agriculture, you need to be able to grow the grapes and protect the grapes, right? And you can grow a lot more grapes, you know, then you can harvest honey. So they were able to make a lot more so it became sort of the people wine was the grape wine and Mead because you had to have the hives, you know, became more expensive and it was sort of the drink of the kings, you know, the people that are could afford it. And now we have these modern agricultural practices that allow us to have you know, large quantities of honey at reasonable prices. So everyone gets

Drew Hendricks  9:59  

this Going back to Australia for a second, what now? How Where’s Mead position like in the marketplace there? Is it relatively unknown? Is it a little more mainstream?

Brian McMillin  10:11  

Yeah, it is relatively unknown. Australia is really interesting in its alcohol consumption, what their wine is way ahead of us. I think they’re doing stuff over there, that’s just just world class, you know, we have a couple areas in the US that make really good wine, you know, like, just really, really exceptional one with over there. I mean, they just have, you know, 1015 areas that just make incredible wine. And, but their beer, you know, when we first went over there, we were starting to get into craft beer. And, you know, they’re all the big breweries were big craft breweries, crappers, you know, stone and road and stuff like that. We’re coming out of West Coast and, and, you know, all of a good, you know, Sierra Nevada and stuff like that. We’re starting to, you know, make an impression. And you could go into a grocery store and lots of craft beer, you know, these elections. Over there. There’s nothing. I mean, it was enough, there was a handful of breweries, there’s like, feral pig and two metre tall of them, there’s like, I count them on my hand, basically. So beer not so much. Now it’s getting more obviously. So they’re just sort of behind on that it was interesting to see, like, you know, in Australia, they were heading this way, but behind in this way in the US there, so they were ahead with me. You know, we’re more ahead. In Australia, there’s Maxwell’s Mead, and maybe six or seven other meaderies now that have popped up since we started. Looking at meaderies over there. But so it’s nowhere near 4,000. Monitoring

Drew Hendricks  12:00  

the mead to graoe ratios of honey degree ratios with a skewed?

Brian McMillin  12:06  

Yeah, but in the US, I think there’s 500 meaders now. So I did not know that. Yeah. And about five or six years ago, 10 years ago, I think it’s about 200. So it’s more than doubled in the last 10 years. So they say it’s one of the fastest growing segments because, you know, as a percentage, when you look at it, compared to the growth in the other sectors is faster. But you know, the numbers are obviously, you know, there’s like nine or 10,000 breweries.

Drew Hendricks  12:35  

But do you think spurring that growth, that doubling construct? Well, I

Brian McMillin  12:39  

think what it is and your hard work and excellent, yeah, I think that people are starting to see that craft beers really interesting. And Mead is, you know, a craft wine. Right. So it has a lot of interesting things that you can do with it, that you don’t have the preconceived notions, with the grape wine, you know, like, we have one, you know, that we put coffee beans in. And it’s really exciting to people that want coffee beans, you know, that’s really interesting, you can’t do that with a grape wine. You know, like, Hey, kid, this is not gonna be accepted, you know, you’re gonna, you’re just not gonna make the traction that you want, people are gonna go with mead, they’re sort of a little bit more open minded, they go, Oh, that’s really, you know, they’re willing to try new things. And that way we share with a craft beer segment, you know, the, those drinkers are really adventurous drinkers, they’ll try anything, you know, at least once. And so you know, they’re willing to give it a go and see how it is, you know, and the wine drinkers are a little bit more cautious. Once they find it, and they try it, and they stick with it, you know, because this is something I like. So you know, we find, you know, it works to be in the middle.

Drew Hendricks  13:51  

So you find more of the more of like, people stepping up from the craft brew category, then like, wine stuffing over

Brian McMillin  13:58  

to Yeah, we’re in the middle. Nobody knows where to put us. You go in the store, and you’re like, Well, are you a beer? Now? Are you a wine? No. Well, are you go to random section? Well, yeah, basically. And so you go in their stores, there’s a store right down the street from me, right? It’s got four different places where mead is, there’s a place in the local, there’s a place in the beer, there’s a place in the line, like, you know, and then another place in, you know, the non local beer that’s not you know, it’s like,

Drew Hendricks  14:31  

where would you have them stuck it like if you had if you have your best wish,

Brian McMillin  14:36  

right? Well, you make mead a shelf or category and area.

Drew Hendricks  14:42  

But you’d have a Saki shelf, a sock on mead shelf.

Brian McMillin  14:45  

Yeah. And they are doing that in places. You know, we do go into stores and you’ll see, you know, here’s a shelf or stand or some sort of display rack or something like that, that has all their mead in it, and they can get five 610 different varieties. have mead and show people, you know, here’s a lot of different producers making a lot of different kinds of things. And so, you know, by doing that, they’re able to get their customers really engaged because they see the variety and they see the difference. And so, you know, they’ll find a lot more success that way. I think they’re for them and for us, so it works both ways. Because, you know, if they get one mead in, and then people are like, Oh, it’s just this little thing, but really, it’s not, you know, there’s a whole lot that goes into the mead world. And, you know, they’ll try one, maybe they don’t like it, you know, like, it’s not for them. And that’s fine. You know, we eight varieties they’re all made really well. But you know, everyone, different people cling to it, right? I get some people they’re like, the blood orange is the most amazing one in the world. And others are like buckwheat there’s nothing any better in the world, right? And so if they go and try one, and that’s not what they want, you know, they’ll just give up. It’s weird. You know, you’re like, Have you ever tried one beer and say, I just don’t like any beer? One wine? No. All right, you know, but that’s what happened with mead. Because I just don’t understand. You know, the variety.

Drew Hendricks  16:07  

Yeah, I’ve got you were kind of just sent send some samples so I can experience these firsthand. What is the difference in the mead making between the blood orange libation? And the buckwheat Mead? Is this I’m in as a novice. Is this blood orange juice in it? Or is this what are puree? Yeah, Ray. Okay.

Brian McMillin  16:26  

Yeah, we take a blood orange puree, and we extract the flavors out of it. And then we mix that in with our traditional mead. And then the buck we it is a variable. So with a lot of our species, orange blossom as a base, it means that these get their nectar from orange trees. Okay. All right. And so the flavors that come from the traditional ones, you know, the first, you know, these ones over here, you know, you’ve got this one, this one, and this one is dry, semi sweet and sweet here. Alright, so we make those varieties so that people can sort of dial in and figure out what are they like, you know, some people are dry white wine drinkers, and they’ll, they’ll find that they like dry meads. And also they’ll go, oh, mead can be dry. I thought, it’s honey, it should be sweet.

Drew Hendricks  17:14  

Nasty, but maybe one of the biggest misconceptions. What would you say the biggest misconception of mead is that people assume it’s sweet.

Brian McMillin  17:21  

Yeah. That people assume as we go, Well, great. Start out sweet. How’s that work out? They end up drying? Oh, yeah, it’s right. That and they go oh, it’s fear. I know. It’s beer. They said, No, no sound here. And we have people that will try ours and you know, the traditionals. And they go I swear there’s grapes in there. No, no grapes.

Drew Hendricks  17:40  

Honey, which one’s the dry one of your line here.

Brian McMillin  17:43  

The citrus inspiration,

Drew Hendricks  17:45  

the citrus inspiration I’m going to now I don’t know what. Here’s my next question. What is your preferred glass for drinking mead in?

Brian McMillin  17:53  

I would say I like a red wine glass, you know, something that’s open at the top that allows you to get more Roma’s out of it.

Drew Hendricks  18:02  

I’ve got no got a Bordeaux stem here. I didn’t have my twisted horn that I think.

Brian McMillin  18:08  

Yeah. So I’d be a great one to do it in as in that you have that. Or you know, one of those ways great Renaissance mugs or something like that. Yeah,

Drew Hendricks  18:17  

we’ve got a meadery down the street from us called the twisted horn and everybody sits around drinking their mead out of their own horns.

Brian McMillin  18:23  

Yep, yep. Yeah. horn of the club instead of mug club.

Drew Hendricks  18:28  

This is nice. It’s really um, from a wine style standpoint, it almost sounds like an eye. Do you ever taste this? And I’m open but to me it has almost like, from a wine standpoint, like aromas of like a late harvest semi on but dry. Yeah, that kind of omens and apricots.

Brian McMillin  18:45  

Yeah, it’s got interesting light floral notes. You know you with the dry me. You get a very delicate flavor. And it’s really difficult to do dry means because you have to hit the fermentation spot on the sugar to hide behind. So yeah, there’s there’s not a lot of people that do those. But we do it. Well, we won a gold medal at the major cup with that one. So we’re pretty proud of that.

Drew Hendricks  19:13  

Yeah, sounds delicious. You probably sir. What would you what would you pair this with for dinner?

Brian McMillin  19:19  

Yeah, with fish. Poultry. Yeah. Yeah, we typically, you know, pair the lighter style needs with you know, lighter dishes.

Drew Hendricks  19:32  

Grilled Salmon, I think would be real nice. This.

Brian McMillin  19:35  

Yeah. Yeah. With that you think you know, the pero dry white wine.

Drew Hendricks  19:40  

It’s got a little more viscosity though. Like it’s good to describe it. It is dry, but it does have some glycerol qualities, which is really nice.

Brian McMillin  19:48  

Yeah, so it’s actually off drying. We do leave you know, a small amount of sugar in there. So we don’t permit it totally dry. It’s not bone dry. We need to do one this bone dry. And we like Okay, sounds good. Yeah. Now,

Drew Hendricks  20:05  

one other question, do when you produce your wine, your wines? How do you aged them before bottling? For him?

Brian McMillin  20:13  

Well, that’s one of the things that differentiates us, we do all ages. So just like with a grape wine, you know, if you get a couple years on it, you find that it’s a little bit more well rounded, a little bit more integrated. That’s the same thing with me. And so all of ours are aged for a minimum of a year. Some of them are two to three years old. And so we do what other people would sell as reserve wine, reserve me sort of things. We do that at our regular price.

Drew Hendricks  20:41  

Yeah. Okay. And are they aged in neutral barrels or new ochre barrels, or

Brian McMillin  20:47  

me them in high density polyethylene that we coconut oil? Yeah. So when we do that, the aluminum foil reduces doshas and permeability on the plastics, they have these food grade plastics, so it doesn’t impart any flavors, there’s less expenses and savings, by doing it that way. And that’s how we keep one of the ways that we keep our prices down. So we’re able to sell these, you know, at a very low price point relative to other meaders, because we really focus on, you know, how do we do this without making these so expensive? Because that’s one of the problems that you’ll find in a lot of meads. They’re very pricey, you know, they do limited quantities, which allow, which, you know, with the equipment they have, and the brands that they have, I mean, the cost is add up, and no, they have to charge, you know, 30 $40 a bottles.

Drew Hendricks  21:41  

And where did you guys come up with the idea of aluminum lining the polyethylene?

Brian McMillin  21:45  

My father is a scientist, so he got

Drew Hendricks  21:48  

proprietary, proprietary secrets here.

Brian McMillin  21:52  

Yeah, he’s a material scientist, you know, and my father, and I do this together, and he does a lot of material science for artificial body parts, actually. And so whenever we have questions about chemicals, or you know, the, you know, the chemistry of wine, you know, is really intricate, he knows all of that stuff. That’s his, okay.

Drew Hendricks  22:16  

He’s, we can overcome the challenges, what are some of the challenges that you guys have had to overcome over the years, bringing this to market?

Brian McMillin  22:23  

Well, you know, you find a lot of challenges in starting up any business, you know, just getting your product out there getting it known, you know, deciding what your brand name is going to be, you know, with us, our labels have been, you know, a work in progress, let’s say, and, you know, we’ve improved and so, you know, in a very conscientiously persistent manner, you know, so, you know, we started out printing our own labels, and then we moved up to getting them printed for us. And every time we’ve done something new, it’s, it’s a little bit better. But the problems that we run into, you know, is that we go into a place and they go, Oh, I mean, it’s just too niche, you know, oh, we only get, you know, a couple of people interested. And I said, Well, that’s great, but we’ll come in and do tastings, and then they sell, you know, cases on this. It’s just a matter of like, the education that you have to do for me, is a big part of the job. It’s a constant thing to educate people, you know, what is mead? How is it different, you know, and we go through all this all the time, and everybody that we, you know, educate is one more person that, you know, gets to see the vast world that is mead, right?

Drew Hendricks  23:39  

So, education be one of the bigger challenges. As far as what some of the kind of production challenges as you’re scaling up your production into so many different kinds? Well, what are some of the challenges that you face there?

Brian McMillin  23:54  

Well, the problem with honey, is that like grapes, every season is different. Right? Every variety, you know, we use varietals, and in that it allows us to get some reproducibility in there. You know, we use national suppliers that have our True Source certified, so they guarantee that it is real honey, which is a problem in the industry. They

Drew Hendricks  24:20  

would it would take honey bee,

Brian McMillin  24:22  

oh, there’s all this sugar, you know, high, high fructose corn syrup that will get passed off, they blended in, you know, or blend, you know, cut it into honey or something like that. Most of us come from China for a while. So that became a problem. Know that there is this? Yeah, fake honey, basically. So it’s one of those things that we needed to make sure that we were getting the varietals that we want to have the flavor profiles that we’re looking for. And by getting them the way we do, we’re able to get them with a consistent flavor every time so we can reproduce it, because a lot of people will use wildflowers Honey, and each batch each hives can be different. Okay? So you know, how are you going to make a product? And then if someone tries it, you know, and then another year later they come back and they’re like, oh, this doesn’t taste this. And they end up getting one that’s more like buckwheat and one that’s more like orange blossom. Right? So, you know, you don’t have any control over it in that way. So we did find that was one of the issues, you know, in dealing with honey. You know, the other issues that we have, is really like, with distributors, they’ll say I have I haven’t mead any other mead. Alright, we’re gonna let you have one beer, you know? Yeah.

Drew Hendricks  25:41  

It all tastes the same.

Brian McMillin  25:43  

Yeah, that’s it, they don’t really understand, like, the vast variety, you know, I mean, we make a certain segment of meads, you know, all of ours have a sort of niche that they fall into their age, traditional meads, you know, really interesting, high value meads, basically, but they’re all done in a still wine fashion. And then you’ve got other ones that are done insider styles, you know, and you’ve got, you know, every mead maker will take the same ingredients and come up with a different mead, essentially, I mean, the different yeast, they use different conditions, they ferment in, you know, just sort of their style gets imparted on it. But, you know, what you generally find is, you know, the mead makers will, you know, specialize into certain kinds of making and they’ll do mostly the lower ABV ones, or they do ones with more different kinds of flavors, you know, you’ll have like, you know, how to, you know, with avocado or something here, they’ll just

Drew Hendricks  26:42  

have a cut of mead,

Brian McMillin  26:44  

or just come up with like, a craft beer, you know, mix in whatever they want, whatever it feels right. And, you know, and then they’ll make a go, right. So,

Drew Hendricks  26:54  

I just, I’m trying to buckwheat one right now, and it’s noticeably darker than the others is that color come from the the buckwheat bees, I mean, the bees from the buckwheat, right?

Brian McMillin  27:04  

Yeah, yeah. So buckwheat is a really interesting one. You know, the color, the flavor, the aroma all comes from the honey. So in that, you know, we make that one to highlight. You know, how the varietals source where the bee gets it nectar from, you know, makes such a huge impact on the end result. So with our orange blossom ones, the bees get their nectar from orange trees, mostly in Florida. Yeah, with the buckwheat, you know, they’re getting in from Poppy plants, mostly in Iowa.

Drew Hendricks  27:32  

And this is a really deep I’m it to the people that are listening that can’t taste this. It is wonderful. It it reminds me of a boxer sized sweet wine, like a bit try to semicolon or something like that. With that kind of just rich. There’s a tropical nuance, there’s a little bit of a nuts, deeper, more like a component there.

Brian McMillin  27:55  

Yeah, you get these multi molasses out of it. That one has so much complexity in it. It really surprises people like the different layers that are there. And how much you get out of this. Some people so compared to like a honey whiskey, and then thing, drink that you would sort of take apart and an app and analyze.

Drew Hendricks  28:17  

You know, I’ll be sipping this tonight I think it’s a real treat. Now. This is a different colors come from the varietals and then you do infuse it some of some of your wines you infuse it with with citrus pallbearer or coffee.

Brian McMillin  28:32  

Oh yeah. And one we have with cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice. So that one like this time of year with all the Christmas spices sort of thing. That one fits in really well. And people do that warmed up to they’ll do like a hot party. It’s a really interesting,

Drew Hendricks  28:48  

it sounds like you’re experimenting a lot. What? Tell me about it? Is there any experiments that just didn’t work out? Like Nope, we will not be making that again.

Brian McMillin  28:58  

Yeah, there’s a couple that are real difficult to do. We actually did an avocado one that was we didn’t are like no.

Drew Hendricks  29:06  

Not gonna happen. I can’t even envision you just mash up the avocado. And

Brian McMillin  29:10  

so no, it’s avocado blossom.

Drew Hendricks  29:12  

Oh, avocado blossom. Oh my gosh, I was thinking.

Brian McMillin  29:16  

Oh, no, no, no, we didn’t know sorry. Sorry to get actually it’s interesting. You know, well, you know, people do a blueberry Mead. Right. And I think one of the things two things will happen one it’ll be blueberry blossom and they’re like, it should taste like blueberries. Like no, it’s it’s the honey that comes from blueberry three or plants. You know, it doesn’t taste like blueberries. And it just like ours is orange blossom honey does not taste like oranges, their citrus notes to it. But you know, it doesn’t taste like oranges. Not like the blood orange. Now that one’s got a really nice orange board flavor we put in there for that reason, you know, and that comes from the puree. But the honeys don’t taste like the fruits. Right? And you know, so you end up getting a lot of confusion about that. The other thing that we find a lot of newsmakers We’ll find troubling is it let’s say they want to make a blueberry. They’ll take all those blueberries 600 pounds of it they throw in and they ferment it right then left with nothing that says it doesn’t say like blueberries anymore. They fermented it fermented blueberries doesn’t taste like blueberries you get you get some but then lose a lot.

Drew Hendricks  30:19  

It Yeah, he does this a lot, but it was surprising. There was a local winery by us. Hawk Hungry Hawk Hungry, Hungry Hawk winery, and they made a dry blueberry wine, then blind taste exactly like a Pinot Noir. Yeah, you would never guess it was blueberries it but it, it actually aged, it was only 7% Alcohol. But I kept one for about four years. And it got better and better. They said they never making another one. I wish they would. But I get what you’re saying about it not tasting back the actual blueberry?

Brian McMillin  30:52  

Yeah, yeah. It’s disappointing to a lot of people and they invest so much to get to that point and then go out. I find what I wanted. But it’s good anyways, you know, so it works out.

Drew Hendricks  31:02  

Getting back to kind of the distribution for exempt for right now. So you’re really centered right now in Ohio. But you’re available in those states? I can see on your website.

Brian McMillin  31:10  

Yeah, yeah, we use vino shipper, like most wineries around the states, they deal with a regulatory compliance so that we’re able to ship to different states to them. We just got word that will probably be turned on in Pennsylvania, on the e-commerce site soon. So awesome. That’s going to be a good move for us. And we’re getting a lot of positive feedback from different Renaissance festivals around the US. And we’re working on this plan to get into the festivals to then convince the distributors because distributors are notoriously difficult to get signed on onboard, you

Drew Hendricks  31:49  

know? Yeah, now there’s there’s I hear those there’s challenges quite a bit on that. As far as the country’s distribution of me drinkers were how would you paint it? Is it central central United States specific? Is it spread out? Equally or?

Brian McMillin  32:05  

No, there are states where it’s much it’s a much bigger population. So if you look at Dino shipper, and you break down the the number of states that have eateries and we sort of extrapolate from that, well, they have X many meters is probably enough interest from the customers to be buying the need to justify their existence, you find that there are seven or eight big states let’s call. So Ohio is actually up there, Pennsylvania is as well, California, New York. Colorado’s really big, a big need seen there, too. And there’s a couple other smaller states. But yeah, Michigan, there, they’ve got a lot going on there, too. So there’s a couple of states that have quite a few. And then there’s, you know, half of them that have one or zero, right, so they’re just not getting it there yet.

Drew Hendricks  33:14  

Yeah, what um, so what’s next for Feisty Mead?

Brian McMillin  33:16  

Hmm? Well, you know, we’re growing quite a lot. So in that we’re getting out to new states. And we have new varieties that were ready to go out, basically, you know, so we’re getting ready to release one that’s done with mesquite. Doing interesting.

Drew Hendricks  33:39  

What’s second, that? I think that’s gonna taste

Brian McMillin  33:42  

really good. Yes. Got notes of Teach, that come through that a really interesting, the mesquite that we’ve held on to it for a while. It’s actually three years old now. And we’ve been in discussions with like, how do we market this? Right? It’s a delicious meal. It really tastes really good. But people have an association with smoke things and you eat right. And just like with the various you’re like, well, this isn’t wood that smoked, honey, smoked, you can do smoke, honey, for sure. But that’s not what this is. So we’re just we’re want to make sure when we release it, it’s we’re doing it in a way that people aren’t having this experience of buying it hoping it’s a smoke, you know, thinking they’re going to get these smoky flavors out of it. When it’s the mesquite trees that the bees getting nectar from right.

Drew Hendricks  34:35  

So I would think that would go awesome with a, you know, a mesquite smoke rib.

Brian McMillin  34:39  

Hmm, I’m sure it would, because it’s a delicious mead. We just want to make sure that people are expectations, right. We got to meet their expectations. If people buy stuff and it’s this isn’t what I wanted, then they’re not happy. I want to make people happy. And that’s why we got into this business is to make people happy, right? Sure. So that’s our goal.

Drew Hendricks  35:01  

Now how would you? How would you smoke the honey just like it’s smoke anything? And then make the mead after that,

Brian McMillin  35:07  

sir? Yeah, there are people that, yeah, they’ll take the honeycombs, and they’ll smoke it. And then they crush up the combs. There are other needs, there’s a mead called a boo Shea. And in that you carmelize the mead the honey, sorry, before you make me. Yeah, so you’ll heat up the honey and and turn it a couple of shades darker, right. And then when you ferment it, you get these caramelized honey flavors in it. Those are great meads, if you can find one of those are excellent. And it just, you know, again, goes to show you the sort of vast world that is mead, you know, like, what we make is basically a little educational experience for people. Without these basic ones, you can add things to them. There’s different varietals, you got the one on over here, that has grapes. Alright, that one right there, grapes, and honey, you know, that’s still a payment. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sure becomes what people can get. So we’re really once people start to explore soon,

Drew Hendricks  36:13  

can totally see it being at that just kind of the ground floor will not be it’s been around for 2000 years. But being at the kind of the ground floor now with modern day meaders in the United States. And it’s growing and doubling. And really competition right now is a good thing. Because the more meaderies that are out there, the more shelf space will be dedicated to mead. Yeah, what advice would you give like a, maybe a, a brewer that maybe wants to just make the leap over to mead or just someone that wants to get off the ground with selling their own mead?

Brian McMillin  36:43  

Yeah, so meaderies are actually very helpful with each other. It’s a it’s a small community, really. But we have sort of a very helpful feeling everybody feels like a rising tide lifts all boats kind of thing. So you know, there is that sort of sense of community, we do actually help homebrewers make better meads, or will often do little educational seminars, to help homebrewers make better made. And when we find a commercial meadery That is doing something where we think they could be doing it a little bit better, we would tell them, you know, we tell them how, you know, it’d be better if they tried a couple of different things, right? And see how it goes. Because our biggest thing is, make the best mead you can with people and mead and the way they’ll approach it, they try one bad mead. That’s it, you know, you get one one chance, right. And then they make up their mind on a whole category. So in that we say make your best mead you can write everything is it’s a long process, right? Start any winery or brewery, just the process of getting certified with the TTB. And with your state, and all the rules and regulations that you have to follow. It’s a it’s an endurance race, let’s say. So, you know, they have to be prepared for that there’s a lot of resources for people doing meadery and planning. There’s the American Mead Makers Association. And they have a lot of documents that they provide to people who are looking at doing meadery and looking at what sort of space they’ll need, what sort of equipment they’ll need sort of financing they’re going to be looking at. The other thing is, you know, a lot of people will enter homebrew conferences and that’s great because they’ll learn the judge, Meads and judge beer and develop their taste profiles and learn how judging is done. So there’s a mead judge certification program that people can join and become mead judges and in that you learn about the different honey varietals and the different styles that people make. And it’s really useful to do that and also to connect with their local homebrew clubs because you’re having a community nearby will give you people to give you honest feedback and help

Drew Hendricks  39:21  

sure No, that’s that’s an excellent advice and some excellent associations there that we’ll put in the show notes for everyone that they can go find those those different organizations. Now Brian is wrapped down where can people find out more about you and Feisty Mead

Brian McMillin  39:35  

Hmm So on our website feistymead.com, they can buy our mead and have it shipped right to the door we do free shipping on cases. So it’s very trying to make it easy for everyone. Vina shippers really easy to use. We have a mead club they can join and they’ll get the small release stuff that we don’t release, you know, to the whole state or the country. And you know, On our website, they’ll find our contact information or Facebook page and all the information they can get all the latest news and what we’re doing.

Drew Hendricks  40:07  

Awesome. Well, Brian, thank you so much for joining us today. This was a real treat and it’s very, very educational. I learned a

Brian McMillin  40:14  

lot. Great. Yeah, it was very nice to talk to you.

Drew Hendricks  40:18  

Have a great day.

Outro  40:26  

Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.