Try Mead this weekend. Ancient fermented alcohol made from honey is making a comeback in India – BusinessToday

Quick, what do Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Vikings have in common? It’s mead (rhymes with need), an ancient fermented honey-based alcohol that’s slowly making a comeback in India with a handful of players producing it. “Mead is not beer,” says Rohan Rehani, 38, co-founder of Pune-based Moonshine Meadery, India’s first-ever mead which began production in 2018.

Rehani and her childhood friend Nitin Vishwas (38) read about mead in 2014 in an article that talked about how London was getting its first mead in 500 years. Having only read about mead in The Lord of the Rings (Gandalf takes sips) and Harry Potter (Hagrid orders four pints at the Three Broomsticks pub in Hogsmeade), they had thought of mead as something mythical thing that had been lost over time. “We were fascinated. Mead is probably the first known alcohol. It finds a mention in 7000 BC in Chinese pottery. The Vikings drank it before going into battle. Mead was also part of ancient Indian culture. The word mead comes from the Old English ‘medu’ which comes from ‘madhu’, which is honey, then there is ‘madhushala’, which is a place where you drink alcohol,” says Rehani.

Both Rehani and Vishwas are engineers by training and have gone on to corporate careers. In 2016, Rehani quit her job to make mead full time. What started as a cooking experiment eventually moved to a real factory on the outskirts of Pune. However, since mead had not been made in India before, there was no provision for it in the Excise Act. “You could brew beer and ferment grapes to make wine, but you couldn’t ferment honey,” says Rehani.

Cerana’s Pinot Noir Pyment (made with honey and grapes) has a 12 percent higher ABV

Rehani and Vishwas decided to meet with the excise minister of Maharashtra to amend the excise law and obtain a license.

Meanwhile, Yoginee Budhkar (39) and Ashwini Deore (39), two friends who respectively completed their PhDs in biotechnology and bioprocess technology in Mumbai, also decided to make mead. After almost a year of trying, all four finally met the excise minister. “It was hard to meet him, but once we did, he was very open to us making mead and we got permission instantly,” Budhkar says.

While Moonshine hit the market in 2018, Cerana (named after the Indian bee) started producing mead in 2020.

. No Label, a Bored Beverages brand, has raised Rs 2.5 crore in seed funding

Currently, Moonshine produces two types of meads: flagship year-round meads, such as Apple Cyder, Coffee, and Traditional, and a MeadLABs series, which includes small-batch, experimental, and seasonal meads. Salty kokum, grilled pineapple, which is Rehani’s favourite, guava chili, hoppy mead, Thai ginger and kaffir lime, all at 6.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), are best-selling items from the MeadLABs series. Moonshine is available in Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Assam, Rajasthan and Silvassa, and is priced at Rs 140-250 for 330ml. Production has grown from 200 cases in the first year to 5,000 cases per month today, and they plan to increase capacity to 3x by the end of the year. “Mead is made with all natural ingredients, honey being the most important. We now monitor our honey supply to ensure we have the best quality,” says Rehani.

Nashik-based Cerana emphasizes local flavors. For his main meads, which include Jamun Melomel, Pomegranate Melomel and Chenin Blanc Pyment, priced at Rs 180 for 330ml, he sources the jamuns, pomegranates and grapes locally. Its limited-edition seasonal meads, which include varieties like Yule Spice (made with honey and spices) and Pinot Noir Pyment (made with honey and grapes), typically have a 12% higher ABV and are priced from Rs 450 for 375 ml. Currently, Cerana is only available in Mumbai, Nashik and Pune. But it plans to increase its production and will soon be available in Bangalore and Goa.

. Stump, Karnataka’s first mead, is available in two flavors: coffee and apple cider

Childhood friends Anant Gupta (26) and Vinayak Malhotra (27) are fascinated by all things alcohol. They discovered mead during their travels abroad and thought there was a market for it in India. “We have seen this huge space in India in the alcobev sector. The younger generation was looking for something tastier in the ready-to-drink segment,” says Gupta, co-founder of Bored Beverages. Initially, they thought they would make wine. “Our idea was to simplify wine. Right now, in India, wine is considered so fine that most consumers are turning away from it,” says Gupta. However, they realized that not only was making wine a very expensive proposition, but also seasonal and that they would have to depend on someone else to do it. Mead, on the other hand, could be made year-round, had a long shelf life, flavors could be played with, and most importantly, Gupta could learn how to make it. Their No Label brand with 7% ABV was launched in November 2021 and is currently available in Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai and Pune, priced at Rs 150. They produce nearly 1,700 cases per month. Currently, they only have one flavor and will launch another one by the end of the year. They recently raised Rs 2.5 crore in seed funding from Inflection Point Ventures and other private investors.

Like wine, meads come in a variety of rich to sweet flavors and can be still or effervescent. Indian mead producers work hard to develop new varieties of their product to suit the tastes of their customers. Take, for example, Stump, Karnataka’s first mead, which comes in two flavors: coffee and apple cider. Founded by Himavanth Hasaganur Jayanth (26), Chandrakanth (33) and Thejaswi (43) in February this year, their coffee mead has an ABV of 8.5% (Rs 180) while apple is lighter with 6.5% ABV (Rs 160). Currently only available in Karnataka, they plan to increase production to 10x by November and then target Goa, Maharashtra and Hyderabad. Jayanth has a coffee plantation and the coffee comes from there.

Arkä of Hill Zill Wines, based in Maharashtra, produces three high-quality dessert meads: Wildflower, Rose and Jamun. The meads are packaged in specialized icewine bottles and corks to aid the aging process and are made from local, fresh ingredients such as honey obtained from wildflowers, dried rose petals and Konkan jamuns. Meads are available in Maharashtra, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka. They are priced at Rs 1,075 for a 375ml bottle.

Although mead is still a small market in India, with producers spending a lot of time informing customers about it, it is a growing market globally. Global Mead Drinks Market is expected to grow from USD 487.9 Million in 2021 to USD 1.62 Billion in 2028 with a CAGR of 18.71% between 2021 and 2028, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights , a market research company. It’s time to toast mead.

@smitabw

About Michael Brafford

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