Kendra Stanley-Mills | Muskegon ChronicleSteve Haystead, 54, the owner of Bardic Wells Meadery, sanitizes a barrel before racking a peanut butter cup Clurichaun. Clurichaun is the company’s carbonated mead with hops.
MONTAGUE — A unique business venture built on honey, mead and entertainment may become a hive of activity in downtown Montague when it opens early next year.
Steve and Jan Haystead, the owners and operators of a mead-making business in southern Oceana County, are preparing to open a store in downtown Montague where customers can sample the Haysteads’ various flavors of honey wine, buy bottles to take home and, essentially, learn how the unique alcoholic beverage stemming from medieval times is made.
The Haysteads, along with community leaders, said they also envision the business as a potential attraction for tourists to visit and experience Montague’s business and recreational offerings.
The downtown venue for Bardic Wells Meadery, with its slogan “Party like a bard,” is designed to incorporate retail, entertainment and a meadery under one roof.
The Haysteads are working with local contractors to remodel the former Montague Foods store at 8744 Ferry for an early 2012 opening. Steve Haystead said the couple is working with state officials for the necessary licensing and said he expects that at least the tasting room will be open by Valentine’s Day.
“what we’re trying to sell here is fun. That’s all it is is fun,” Steve Haystead said. “I want this to be unlike anything people have ever experienced.”
Amy VanLoon, executive director of the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said the business will be a welcome addition to downtown Montague.
“It’s something unique,” VanLoon said. “as it does catch on with locals and people from other areas, hopefully it will bring them in. It’s another asset to our community.”
Montague City Manager John French said the planned opening of the meadery comes at a pivotal time for the city. he pointed out that several longtime Montague businesses — including Todd’s Pharmacy, Powers Outdoors, Beth I’s Pies and Utopian Marketplace — recently have closed.
“obviously, we’re happy to have a new, innovative meadery here,” French said. “It’s a unique business with some people-drawing power.”
The Haysteads have been operating the business out of their home in Oceana County’s Claybanks Township since 2007, when Bardic Wells Meadery became the state’s first licensed commercial meadery.
They focused on strictly developing and producing their various flavors of honey wine, bottling it and distributing wholesale to select retailers around the state. They decided recently to move forward with plans to expand and move the business to the downtown venue.
Haystead, a beekeeper who still runs hives in Muskegon and Oceana counties for the honey used in the mead, said he hopes that the expanded business in the downtown location will have a positive effect to the other downtown businesses and the overall community. he compared it to being similar to bees working together for the overall good of the colony.
“I just felt it was something that deserved a larger stage,” Haystead said of expanding the business into a tasting room and direct retail sales.
The Haysteads signed a five-year lease for the 8,000-square-foot space at the rear of the building on Ferry Street and are renovating it with the help of a $60,000 loan from the Montague Downtown Development Authority.
Haystead said new bathrooms, drywall and flooring have been completed and the layout for the building includes wine racks and a retail area near the entrance; a tasting room with a bar for sampling meads; and a mead producing and bottling area. Steve Haystead said he likes the idea of welcoming customers into the production area to show they how the manufacturing process works.
Haystead said there are no plans for a large, open area at the rear of the building, but a microbrewery operated by another party would be an ideal business, he said.
Haystead, who has a master’s degree in business administration, said he believes the business will create four or five jobs to operate the tasting room and production area, plus additional employment opportunities in the retail operation, which someone else may run.
Bardic Wells Meadery was “wooed” by Mt. Pleasant for the expanded operation, but the Haysteads decided to remain in the Montague area, he said.
“I get so excited thinking about how much sense this makes,” Haystead said. “I want people to find Montague, find out where we are and take a trunkload of things home.”
Mead, referred to as “the ancestor of all fermented drinks,” in “A History of Food” by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat as well as other sources, is fermented honey served in its traditional state or mixed with fruits or other items to generate different flavors. The honey wine is described as a sipping desert wine.
Kendra Stanley-Mills | Muskegon ChronicleBardic Wells Meadery, a home-based business that uses organic honey to make honey wine called mead, is set to open a larger facility in downtown Montague. The start of a mural by artist Ginny Morse is underway inside the meadery.
Jan Haystead, who has a background in chemistry, is influential in the various mixtures, while Steve Haystead handles the honey through his beekeeping operation. Bardic Wells Meadery distinguishes itself from other meaderies with its organically-managed honey.
Meaderies are growing in popularity in the country, but still are unique, the Haysteads said. When Bardic Wells Meadery was licensed in 2007, it was one of only about 60 in the country. That number has swelled to about 200, including five in Michigan.
Bardic Wells Meadery continues to produce and sell its honey wine in 375 milliliter bottles. The mead comes in 13 varieties, including Traditional, Cherryberry and Lumberjack.
The business also added a new line of beverages called Clurichaun, a naturally-carbonated mead with hops. A beverage closely resembling beer, the Clurichaun, which comes in various flavors, currently represents 65 percent of Bardic Wells Meadery’s sales.
The Mead Maker (2008)
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