A Slice of Humble Pie

Every now and again you realize how much you still have left to learn. But you know what, we only learn through experience, and in that light, nothing should taste better than a genuine slide of humble pie.

The Story

The plan for today was to bottle three mead recipes that have been aging for a while (think greater than a year), two in half gallon carboys and one in a one gallon carboy. I wanted to try something differently though. The last few times I have racked or bottled, by the end of the process I am fed up with the time it takes to get the job done. My racking tube has degraded over the years (I’m only on my second one), so I thought it would be a good idea to go pick one up.*

In the dearth of civilization that is Southern Maryland,** there is a single homebrew shop within regular commuting distance, Danny’s Homebrew. Danny is an all-around fantastic guy, and offers great prices through his quarterly truck orders, but I didn’t want to deal with waiting until the shop was open for a simple purchase like tubing. I figured Lowes would have it stocked on the shelves.

It was rather easy to find the plumbing section, and subsequently the plain clear tubing used for racking. Lowes had three sizes available, 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ clear vinyl tubing. In the back of my mind, I knew I had read discussions about ensuring the tube size you get matches your equipment, but I was in a hurry this morning to get started, and didn’t measure what I had at home before leaving. 1/4″ tubing was obviously too small, and 1/2″ was likewise obviously too large. 3/8″ tubing it was going to have to be!

So I get home after purchasing my shiny new $8, 3/8″ tube, and of course it isn’t the same size tube as I have been using. I figured I might as well try it anyway. I usually have to cut off an inch of tube after attaching to the canes in the first place because the fit is so tight I can’t get it off.

So I clean up the brewing space, wash the dishes and clear the kitchen counter, inventory everything I need for the job today, and sanitize away. After attaching everything, moving my bottles into position, and rinsing the bottle caps, I start the siphon.

At first it seems to work, but as soon as I stop pumping, the flow immediately stops. Bubbles are forming around both ends of the tube where it connects to the racking and bottling canes. This of course points to a leak in the equipment.

Not having any nice hose clamps handy (and they’d probably break the canes anyway), I tried to tape the edges as close to shut as I could. No dice. I still can’t rack properly.

So after 20 minutes of fumbling around with the tubes, I finally give up, but not until I’ve already transferred half of the carboy contents into bottles and a spare carboy I used for getting the siphon started.***

Alas, I am forced to pour everything into the new carboy, as I didn’t want to leave massive headspace in the original carboy. And the 1.5 bottles I had didn’t seem like they were worth bottling alone. Now everything is in a new 1/2 gallon carboy, with additional headspace and significant oxidation likely to occur. Oh well, here’s to hoping it takes on sherry notes, and not wet cardboard!

The Lesson

The two most common sizes for homebrew equipment are 5/16″ and 3/8″ tubing, and getting the wrong size can prove disastrous. You can’t shove a 5/16″ tube onto a 3/8″ cane, and shoving a 3/8″ tube onto a 5/16″ cane doesn’t seal properly to create a vacuum inside the tube. Make sure to know your equipment sizes the next time you head to the store to get tubing. It will save you a headache, and ensure you racking or bottling plans go smoothly.


* Over time, vinyl tubing degrades. This increases the drag inside the tubing, slowing the flow of mead through the tube.

** In all actuality, I really like Southern Maryland. But this is a rant, and during a rant, calling the state of industry in Southern Maryland a dearth of civilization seems appropriate.

*** I have made a modification to my racking process to avoid auto-siphon as I find these usually require two people. I’ll note this as another blog post topic for later.

Best Practices for Crowdfunding your Meadery

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The last few months I have analyzed the successful meadery Kickstarter projects, posting separate entries on each of the companies who have successfully secured backing (first post here). The series to me has opened up my eyes on the possibilities to make mead professionally, as the biggest barrier to entry in the market is the up front funding required. Below I have encapsulated some of the best practices that were identified during this initial analysis, specifically focusing on the items most likely to be funded on Kickstarter. Actually managing and running a Kickstarter project is a whole other topic (or series) on its own, and I may tackle this topic later with some updates to the initial guide. And if you haven’t seen it, the entire article series was published in the latest American Mead Maker Journal. Pretty cool!


Best Practices

Comparing the seven successful meadery Kickstarter projects has its limitations, so making direct analyses is difficult. Some of the success may be owed to popularity of the meadery owners, professionalism of the Kickstarter project, or sheer dumb luck at the time of founding. However, there are some important conclusions that can be drawn when looking at the individual projects.

Tickets, tours, and tastings. 

The popularity of Algomah Acres’ ticket invitation is similar to that of Bos Meadery’s tour and tasting, where both of these funding tiers received the most support for their respective projects.

Knickknacks pave the way. 

The Leaky Roof Meadery and Golden Coast Mead projects showed the popularity of stickers, t-shirts, glassware, and honey. Melovino’s project suggests that glassware is more valuable than t-shirts to backers, as many more backers purchased these items.  However the small sample size available cannot definitively say that glassware is more popular. (Anecdotally, I like to collect craft brewing pint glasses. I personally would not make a major push to collect logo-embossed wine glasses. Similarly, most of my beergeek friends collect pint glasses. Thus, for those making low alcohol meads, glassware should be in your Kickstarter project, as I expect the trend to follow for session meads.)

Avoid all inclusive funding levels to spread support. 

The Leaky Roof Meadery and Melovino Meadery mix and match options (funding tiers were not inclusive of prior levels, but instead specific items were offered) may be worth considering for future projects, as it spread support across a wide range of funding levels and provides improved options for a backer to purchase exactly what he or she wants.

Consider mead club membership options.

Bee Well Meadery’s concept of an exclusive membership option was unique to their project. It is important to note this idea received the greatest number of backers and most funding in Bee Well Meadery’s project. If a meadery is considering having a wine club in its future, providing an enhanced membership option to crowdfunding supporters may be a great idea.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 

The Vanaheim Gold projects show that even if a project is unsuccessful in its first go around, that does not mean it cannot find supporters in a subsequent project. A willingness to test the market seek crowd-sourced funding builds a sense of community from the project’s backers, and can only help with early promotion of the meadery.

Design your project with tiers for all funding levels. 

When designing a Kickstarter project, the range of funding options should be considered. Although some of these projects benefited from large donors purchasing the most expensive items, a large amount of support comes from low priced items. In addition, those who purchase low priced items might be the ones who shared the project with the donors purchasing the higher priced options. Therefore it is important to remember that providing funding options that all potential backers may be necessary to garner extensive support. Also note that according to the successful project owners, funding tiers less than $50 may not cover the distribution costs, but are fantastic for raising awareness and building a community to advertise your product for you.



The seven meaderies showcased in this article series present the only successful crowdfunded meadery project data points currently available. Further analysis of the unsuccessful projects may shed additional light on what items truly are most popular among backers, but are not included in this analysis for brevity. Additional research in winery, brewery, and distillery projects may also yield important trends between the beverage markets. Nonetheless, the crowdfunding concepts presented here may not guarantee success for a new crowdfunding project. However, they are worth considering if a small amount of funds are needed to bring your new product to market.


Crowdfunding your Meadery, Part 8: Bos Meadery

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This is a continuation of our Crowdfunding your Meadery series, examining the funding tiers of successful mead Kickstarter projects to identify commonality between funding levels and determine what items are most likely to be purchased by a project’s backers. For a list of articles in this series, see the first article here. In this article, we will examine the Bos Meadery Kickstarter project, which can be found here.

BosMeaderyLogoColleen Bos, a medieval historian and homebrewer for more than 9 years, started Bos meadery in an effort to provide the meads she likes to drink to the local Madison, WI market. Madison is a hotbed for local food and beverages, including at least 11 breweries, many local bars and eateries, and the Old Sugar Distillery. Madison is even well known for the largest producer’s only farmers’ market in the US, the Dane County Farmer’s market.

Bos started her meadery close to downtown Madison to ensure foot traffic when they are able to build out their tasting room. Prior to the Kickstarter project, Bos had already secured the space and equipment necessary for the meadery, and needed the last bit of funding to purchase the materials to bring Bos Meadery to market. This included honey, yeast, fruit juices, bottles, corks, etc., with any remaining funds going to help furnish a tasting room.

The Bos Meadery Kickstarter project sought $11,000 and offered 15 funding tier options. The funding options started at $15 for a tour and tasting, up to $3,000 for the opportunity to consult with Colleen on creating a mead recipe, being a VIP at the Bos Meadery Launch Party, and lots of swag that included a t-shirt, drinking horn, wine glass, and travel corkscrew.

The Bos Meadery Kickstarter project was available for 32 days. During this time, 166 backers provided $15,767, beating the funding goal by 43%.  Details concerning the funding tiers, number of backers who supported the funding tiers, and the total amount of funding per funding tier can be found in the figures below.

Raw data of Bos Meadery’s Kickstarter project.
Raw data of Bos Meadery’s Kickstarter project.
Analysis of the backers and total funding received per funding tier for Bos Meadery’s Kickstarter project.
Analysis of the backers and total funding received per funding tier for Bos Meadery’s Kickstarter project.

Bos Meadery received backers for 12 of the 15 funding tiers available. The most popular item by far was the $15 option to receive a tour and tasting with 48 backers. The second most popular item was a funding tier for $45 that included a Bos Meadery wine glass and a personal tour and tasting, with 19 backers. The third most chosen option received 16 backers, and added to the second most popular item, with the backer’s name listed as a founding supporter on a plaque at the meadery, a t-shirt, and a travel corkscrew for $200.

Even though the first tier item received the most number of backers, it only accounted for 5% of the total funding received. Rather, the two tiers contributing the most funding to the project were tier 11 receiving 23% of the total funding and tier 9 (the third most popular described above) receiving 21%. Tier 11 included everything in funding tier 9, with the additional of a quality drinking horn.

And that covers the last successfully funded meadery Kickstarter project. Check back with us next week as we wrap it all together and provide some recommendations for your next Kickstarter project, specifically focusing on the items that are most likely to be purchased if you start a beverage related crowdfunding project.