Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Drink Up! At Fat Friar’s Meadery

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

207-563-5382


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Mead: Made in Maine

National Mead Day was celebrated over the past weekend on Saturday, August 3rd.  Unfortunately, I missed getting this post out on that day (due to furniture shopping… which was pretty fun!), but I would still like to capitalize on the opportunity this week to talk about mead and a couple of companies in Maine that are making it.

What is mead, and why would you want to enjoy a glass? Mead, also known as honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting a solution of honey and water.  It is generally regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks (which is a good enough justification for me to try it!).

I have always had a passion for history; I suppose on some level, it goes hand-in-hand for any English major.  We do read an awful lot of classics.  As a result, researching this post was fascinating for me and I could go on about the history of mead at length.  Instead, I’ll provide the cliff notes version.

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, but the earliest known archaeological evidence for the production of mead dates to around 7000 BC.  Pottery vessels containing a mixture of mead, rice, and other fruits along with organic compounds of fermentation were found in Northern China.  Much later, mead is referenced in the Old English epic poem, Beowulf, as being consumed by the Danish warriors.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Beowulf throughout the course of my education).

The alcohol content of mead can range quite widely, from 8% ABV to 18% (this stat courtesy of Fat Friar’s Meadery website).  In addition, it may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, and may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling.  Flavors may change depending on local tradition or recipes, and it may be flavored with spices, fruit, or hops, which produces a more bitter, beer-like mead.  I had no idea mead could be so varied, although I suppose it shouldn’t come as a big surprise – it seems most fermented drinks have wide-ranging styles and flavors.  I hope to try a variety of styles of mead very soon.

I particularly enjoyed this infographic on the Maine Mead Works website, which takes you from bee to bottle – check it out!

As you likely know, the great state of Maine is home to a number of craft brewers and wineries (check out the Maine Wine Trail here).  It is also home to at least two makers of mead – Fat Friar’s Meadery and Maine Mead Works.  Today, my mission is to call both of them, learn about their businesses, what makes their mead unique, hopefully be able to procure some mead (depending on shipping permits and regulations to NC), and then, sometime over the next week or so, report back to you on my findings so that you might venture out to visit them!

Is there anything you’d like to know about mead that I should ask?  Questions for the businesses?