The Black Fox Meadery is housed in former accountant turned mead-brewer Bob Lasseter’s Palm Harbor home. Nearly every space is filled with bottles and jugs of mead. There are 12 full containers, or carboys, their contents in various stages of fermentation, near the window.
This is more than Lasseter’s hobby; it’s a fledging business looking to expand into a licensed meadery with Lasseter’s St. Bartholomew mead. But first, he needs more investors, and he’s turned to Kickstarter to see what crowd-funding can do for his business plan.
“I’m used to kind of boot-strapping,” said Lasseter. “If I can find a small place, start making it commercially, sell whatever I can make, get a following, then I can convince other big-time investors to come on board. I don’t have to have a room full of stainless steel fermentation tanks. I can make it in these five gallon carboys for that matter,” he points to his current setup, “and then grow it from there. So that’s kind of my plan. It’s depending on what my investors will do. If they want to ante up more money, we can make more mead quicker.”
Using Kickstarter (through February 13), Lasseter hopes to fund the opening of a facility and tasting room, producing a greater quantity of mead than his current operation can sustain.
Despite its ancient roots, Lasseter believes a wider of appreciation of mead was lost with time as sugar gained in popularity and honey became more expensive.
“When the average person hears the word mead, they’re thinking of some probably overly sweet beverage that tastes like honey. But see, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Because mead could be dry, sweet, medium. You can make a traditional mead with just honey but typically you have other things with it,” said Lasseter.
Those other things include a wide variety of fruit-and-spice combinations.
He points to the labels on various jugs, “This is a grape chipotle; blueberry coconut; blackberry-blueberry-cinnamon; cherry chipotle; coconut-pineapple; mint; jalapeno-lime; cyser, which has apple cider; juniper berries – which you make gin from. So you have such a wide variety that it should have a broad appeal.”
Black Fox will bring two kinds of mead to the market: full-bodied and short. The full-bodied meads will ship under the St. Bartholomew brand, named after the patron saint of the honey crop. These meads are aged between 10-12 months, with an ABV of 14 percent.
The short meads – made with less honey – have a lighter ABV of around 5 percent, and need to age for only two months. Lasseter believes his “Bart’s” brand of lighter meads will tap into the rapidly growing hard cider market.
“I can find something that will appeal to most everybody,” said Lasseter.