As a former corrections officer, Sean Bailey handled his job’s more difficult days by finding solace in brewing. “I was always fascinated with doing something both artistic and scientific. In that line of work, you see a lot of horrible things. It was therapeutic for me to go down into the cellar and brew. It took my mind off the day.” Sean had been passionate about brewing mead, or wine made from honey, since he tried it decades ago on a trip to Germany. Sean wanted a job where he could create something to share with others, to introduce to the public a product they would love just as much as he did.
Sean opened Fat Friar’s Meadery in 2010 as a storefront beneath his own home in Newcastle, Maine, only several miles from where he grew up. As his business began to expand, Sean turned to Ascendus. “I was getting a new product ready and I really wanted to do it right. I knew I needed some funds to get it launched and rolling properly. I went through the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program and took out a small loan to cover the cost of the product’s new labels.” It was not only the loan, but the entrepreneurial guidance Sean received that enabled him to launch the product successfully. “I spoke with several Samuel Adams staff to learn more about marketing and legal issues, particularly how to handle different laws in different states.”
Today, Sean is not only able to share his own products with customers, but build meaningful relationships and connections through his passion along the way. “I get to fulfill my customer’s needs and socialize at the same time. You don’t come to my meadery to just buy – we’re going to have a conversation. I want to know who you are, I want you to tell you who I am. It’s like a social gathering of strangers.” Sean also joined the Maine Winery Guild, an association of 21 local wineries, and was pleasantly surprised by the strong sense of community he instantly felt. “Everyone is nothing but supportive and nurturing. Our goal is to promote the industry in the state and help each other out.”
As the meadery’s popularity grows, Sean intends to expand his distribution as well as his presence at farmer’s markets. In the meanwhile, Sean continues to appreciate the sense of purpose he has created for himself, within his community and beyond. “I’ve got a lot of customers who have been coming back for years, since the winery opened. To be able to give them something they’re hesitant to try and see that they love it, it’s very satisfying.”