In follow up to my post on National Mead Day, I reached out to Sean Bailey, owner and mead maker at Fat Friar’s, to learn more about his business, mead making in general, and what makes Maine special to him and his family.
While I won’t get to try mead for the first time for about another week (product reviews will follow then!), I’m too enthusiastic about Sean’s business and this post to wait until then to share it.
A Maine native, Sean’s interest in creating alcoholic beverages has its roots in his time as a serviceman – first in the Air Force, and again later in the Army. During those years, he was stationed in Germany and through his enjoyment of German beer, became interested in brewing it – he also met his wife, Dorothy, there, so you could say two loves were found overseas.
He tried a beer making kit of his father’s, but refers to the results as a “crime against beer,” so Sean shifted his focus to wine making, exploring various fruit wines including blackberry and dandelion. These trials met with greater success, and when he first experienced honey wine, or honey schnapps (or mead), during a festival in Germany, his enthusiasm for mead making had him investing in a book, directions, and equipment. With the investment of time and resources, Sean says he became much, much better at the art of making mead.
After leaving the military, Sean and Dorothy moved back to Newcastle, Maine. Sean began working in corrections, and following a particularly challenging work day, he popped open a bottle of his homemade mead and thought, “Gosh, I wish I could do this for a living.” At this point in our conversation, Sean told me about the military motto that originated with the British Special Air Service – “Who Dares, Wins.” He said this was the motto that sprang into his mind that evening – and so, he dared.
He began the laborious, time-consuming process of obtaining licenses and navigating red tape, and upon completion, made his first sale to the Country Store in Newcastle. He says he was so excited, he left without receiving payment – and had to go back for it.
Officially in business for three years, Fat Friar’s began with production of their Classic mead, and have since added two more flavors. Last fall, they added a fourth line with a holiday twist, which was Sean and Dorothy’s daughter’s idea. Today, they work with Mariner Beverage as a distributor and Sean remains involved in local sales and distribution. He is still a company of one (plus family members) – and he continues to maintain a full-time job in corrections. Dreams and dares take time and hard work!
Perhaps my favorite part of the Fat Friar’s Meadery story is how they got their name. Sean describes himself as something of a dork – and one with a passion for history. One year for Halloween, he dressed up as Friar Tuck to take the kids trick-or-treating in town, and many of his friends jokingly called him the “Fat Friar.” As he and Dorothy struggled through the license application, particularly the business name, she recalled the moment and suggested Fat Friar’s – it stuck.
Sean describes the sweetness of mead as similar to riesling, but it isn’t alike in acidity. When you smell it, the scent is very much of honey, but the flavor is dry (he aims for a semi-dry mead). It won’t be like anything you’ve had before – so take several sips before making up your mind!
Please stop by Fat Friar’s some day soon and enjoy their new tasting area and outdoor space!
39 Meadow Ridge Lane
Newcastle, Maine 04553