Rohan Rehani and Nitin Vishwas have created an entirely new category between beer and wine and are trying to popularise one of the oldest drinks known to man with a modern touch of course. Ajit John spoke to the duo behind Moonshine Meadery, Asia’s first meadery, set up in Pune
It’s been around for ages and has even been mentioned in a collection of vedic Sanskrit hymns. Mead has been around for a very long time. What is mead anyway? Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage's fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet or sweet. This beverage has now for the first time made its presence in India. The handiwork of Rohan Rehani and Nitin Vishwas, the country’s first honey wine meadery has become a reality.
They are childhood friends thanks to their dads working in the same organisation. They started making beer at home, but that was that. Over a period of time Vishwas went on to work in Mckinsey and Company and while flying across Europe to advise clients, he read about meads in magazines and sent the information to Rehani. He tried preparing it over a period of time without technical knowledge and the first batch tasted like rocket fuel with a very high percentage of alcohol. It needed to be fermented in controlled temperature. This led to research and the subsequent batches were better and thoughts of commercial viability would occasionally cross their minds.
Friends offered to buy and some of them did. With an intention of setting up a business, thus commenced the long trips to the meet with the denizens of the Indian bureaucracy. They learned that there was no category for meads. It could be categorised under honey wine and research revealed wine did not sell very well in India. The alcohol content was reduced to 6.5% and the excise began to ask questions of the category. As per the required protocol, they rented an old cement factory and went back to the excise department. It was all cleared by 2017 and fermentation started in March 2018 under the name Moonshine Meadery. The first batch comprised 60 cases in the Mumbai market.
Vishwas came on board full time in 2018 opened up the Mumbai market by walking from outlet to outlet. They had over 70 outlets retailing their brand Apple Cyder Mead and Coffee Mead. A month later in March they entered Pune. Now present in 350 restaurants in Pune and Mumbai, they are now also in Goa. The response from the market in Goa has been good. Since this is about concept selling, there were several mead tasting sessions. The product is very close to apple cider a product which has an appeal amongst a certain circle.
As Vishwas puts it “Mead is so old, it predates agriculture. We have plans to make this product available in certain specific markets with a certain kind of target audience.” They intend to move into Bengaluru which is home to a large IT industry. Personnel travel extensively around the world and are exposed to products like mead and more importantly have been exposed to the culture of micro-breweries. The target audience is between 21-35 and someone who is wiling to experiment. It is gluten free, and is basically easy drinking. The duo has helped set mead as a new category between beer and wine. They have the freedom to bottle below 6.5 percent or more and they intend to possibly do just that on a small scale.
Moonshine Meadery is committed to staying natural and highlighting local produce in their meads, whether that is through apples from Kashmir, coffee from Karnataka and, of course, organic, unadulterated honey from various parts of India. The driving ethos is to bring together quality and innovation to offer a unique drinking experience - the true taste of Mead - with offerings 'that make you go Mm'.
With zeal to keep experimenting, they are constantly innovating new and interesting combinations of ingredients, as part of their MeadLab Series. True to the ‘Make in India’ ideology, Moonshine Meadery is committed to staying natural and highlighting local produce in their meads, whether that is through apples from Kashmir, coffee from Karnataka or, of course, honey from various parts of India. The driving ethos is to bring together quality and innovation to offer a unique drinking experience. Moonshine Meadery has plans to expand to most of the metros in India and eventually establish their first international presence by the end of next year.
Driven by the philosophy of maximising flavour in every sip, they strive to offer more than just a new drink on the block. With a zeal to keep experimenting, they are constantly innovating new and interesting combinations of ingredients, as part of their Mead Lab Series. Minimalistic in approach, the meads are easy to understand and appreciate for both, a first-timer or a connoisseur. In addition to being a must have on any foodie’s table, the Meadery and its products are doing their bit for the environment as well. By sourcing locally produced honey, they are encouraging apiculture in the country from the grass-root level upwards – and in turn, the conservation of the bees that make it.