Making Meads, The Moonshine Way!
Co-Founder, Moonshine Meadery
Co-Founder, Moonshine Meadery
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey along with various fruits and spices. Moonshine Meadery marked their territory as Asia’s first meadery right here in Pune, India, by opening their doors in August 2017. Rohan Rehani & Nitin Vishwas, in an exclusive chat with Divyesh Patil & Sonika Choudhury, PKSBE.
How did it all start?
We have always been fascinated with craft fermentation and gravitated towards brewing for a long time. While travelling in Belgium for work, Nitin came across an article on meads in an in-flight magazine. He found it really interesting, took a picture and sent it to me as soon as he landed. In a way, this was Moonshine’s genesis. Nitin and I have been friends for over 30 years, as were our dads. We have done our entire schooling and college education together. When we started working, our corporate careers took us to different cities and countries for more than a decade and this is how we got a peek into homebrewing and the craft culture abroad. When we came across meads, we started experimenting and by our fifth batch, tried some bottles that Nitin’s wife carried back with her from the US. This gave us perspective and I then went to intern at Colony Meadery in Pennsylvania, which really helped us understand the latest mead making techniques innovated in America. I also did a bee keeping course from the Central Bee Keeping & Training Institute, Pune to get an in depth understanding of honey production. All these experiences coupled with our never-ending love of pushing the envelope by experimenting with new flavours and styles has brought us to where we are today.
Why a meadery and not a microbrewery?
To put it simply, the answer would be our fascination with the history and diversity of the beverage. Mead has found mention throughout history from antiquity – Indian ‘Som Ras’ from the Vedas is said to be mead, the Vikings drank it before battle, even literature references it from Shakespeare and Lord of the Rings to more recently, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. We also feel that meads are not pretentious but very straightforward. An Apple Cyder Mead will smell and taste of apples and our Coffee Mead has a lovely coffee aroma with a balanced coffee profile. Add to this some floral notes from the honey and you have your tasting notes for a beverage that is making a huge comeback. Meads can range from 5% to 20% ABV and can be dry, semi dry or sweet and can be still or carbonated. Sitting at the intersection of art, craft and science, meads fit squarely in the space between beers and wine. The very diversity of nature is reflected in this versatility of meads.
Where do you source your materials from?
Most of our honey is locally sourced in Maharashtra, with some special varieties coming from apiaries in North India. All our equipment is also locally manufactured. Certain ingredients, like the apples for our Apple Cyder Mead come from Srinagar and the coffee that we cold steep in our Coffee Mead is an Arabica and Robusta blend that we source from Chikmagalur. We eventually plan to cultivate bee hives on our property to move honey production in house and who knows, even plant and grow some fruits and spices to use!
Why the name Moonshine?
When we first applied for a license, meads were not officially recognized and with a fair amount of help and support, we got the regulations changed. The process reminded us of Moonshiners from some decades ago – creatively experimenting at a time when there were no footsteps to follow and blazing their own trail till they were (re)accepted. This, coupled with our small trial batches at the start, embodied all that was good from Moonshiners back in the day and is a badge we proudly wear today.
What’s your production strategy?
Having participated in numerous festivals and pop ups, customer feedback has led us to confirm Apple Cyder Mead and Coffee Mead as our first two styles at launch. Production equipment at our meadery includes 10 hL tanks for this.
We also work on a more experimental, quirky, small batch series called the MeadLab. Examples of this include a tart Strawberry Mead, Pinacolada Mead (made with pineapple and toasted coconut), Gooseberry Mead and a Guava Chilli Mead. MeadLab batches are available at some of our partner restaurants, currently Gateway Taproom, BKC and The Looney, The Lover & The Poet , Khar (both in Mumbai).
No one in India had earlier applied for a Mead license but the Maharashtra government has always been open to promoting new ideas that benefit not only consumers but also local farmers, production and employment.
Who is the mead maker?
At the start both of us were brewing but as we have grown, Rohan predominantly handles the mead making while I (Nitin) focus on business development and finance. Recipe formulation is still always a combined job. Our brewers also have complete freedom to express their creativity and they do try out new recipes, adding to our MeadLab batches. The Strawberry Mead was one such idea and it sold out in 3 days!
Where are you serving currently?
We are currently available at 16 restaurants and 12 retailers in Mumbai and are now making inroads into the Pune market too. A list of all locations is available on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
How was your experience of getting the product listed under the excise laws?
No one in India had earlier applied for a Mead license but the Maharashtra government has always been open to promoting new ideas that benefit not only consumers but also local farmers, production and employment. They were the first to allow craft breweries and also the first to allow kegging. After the initial meetings between the government and the fraternity, we worked together and in a few months, got meads listed and then Moonshine’s license was also approved.
Are you planning to come up with your own taprooms?
We would love to have our meads served at our own taprooms too! It’s an area that we are discussing and a very possible growth vertical for the future.
Is it a bootstrap venture or you have an investor on board?
At the moment, our friends and family have not only been supportive of the idea but have also helped us set up.
Any tips for people who are looking into getting in this industry?
We are fortunate to be part of a fraternity that is incredibly helpful and close knit. As some of our friends who are in the process of setting up will also confirm, it’s a great time to join us for this journey. After all, referring to the words of Isaac Newton, if Moonshine Meadery has seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.