Ancient Fire Mead & Cider – Award Winning World Class Meads & Ciders in New Hampshire

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What’s At The Heart Of A Good Story?

A lot of new guests at Ancient Fire ask about the story. I usually setup it up with a bit of hype, maybe something like “absolutely, and it is a GOOD one!”, so forgive me for making that assumption as a bit of theater, but you do get to decide if it’s true when I’m done.

A bit more than 15 years ago I decided something was wrong and went to the doctor. Cancer. Yup! Cancer. Not really what I expected, but I had the thought that “at least this is going to be interesting” to keep me going. That thought doesn’t always work though. Sometimes it just sucks.

The initial treatment and testing went very well and I was able to happily say then, and since, that I’ve been healthy. I did undergo radiation for a short time, and plenty of scans and bloodwork (the interesting part) in the ensuing months and years. So for this outcome it really is a great story, and I’ve never lost sight of how amazing of an experience I did have. Going to doctor early counted. Life in the bonus round has been great so far.

Strides in 2003

While I was recovering my wife Margot asked me if I had considered doing something else other than work (with my off time) as I got healthy and back to what we could make of our lives. This is one of those questions people write stories about, a question that changed lives, the course of history and led to incredible experiences that otherwise might not have been.

I replied that I would like to learn how to make my own beer. Getting the green light to buy brewing, and winemaking, equipment I set to work and made two beers before the end of 2003. They were good, provided some good times (strong) and gave me motivation to learn how to do it better. What we didn’t know was how profound of a change in direction for our lives this would be.

One paragraph to capture what then happened up until Spring of 2016. Think I can do it?

Brewing, wine-making, cider-making, reading, fundraising, advocacy, meeting many new people, travelling, entering and winning in home-brew competitions, our fundraising team raising 1000’s of dollars, blogging, so much brewing/making, many miles walked around tracks at Relay, home-brew club, lots more medals, more travel to cool places, writing, teaching, speaking, all the cool people along the way, beer judge certification, mead judge certification, more writing, more speaking, more people and finally planning a new business. Whew! Caught up?

Relay For Life 2011

As a team, and we called ourselves Survivors Rule!, our family and friends raised over $120,000 for a number of different events from 2003 to 2013. We were consistently recognized for spirit and both our team and team member prowess for fundraising. It wasn’t only about the money, but it was always important for us to have that locked in too because cancer sucks and it takes a lot of money to do research to fight it; and your taxes don’t contribute much to the cause. Margot and I still raise money and walk in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, the event we walked at in October 2003 where we realized we had an opportunity to take this story and give back with it. So let’s get to more of that.

As a new business we get a lot of inquiries to help support local organizations with a wide range of causes. Being a producer of alcohol puts a bulls-eye on your business. Who doesn’t like free samples while they check out festivals and events? We would be crass to overlook the impact and importance of all these activities and the programs they support. Most of us would easily recognize a great cause in any of them, and would gladly support them whenever we could. And we encourage people to do just that. Find a cause/event you feel passionate about and put a story behind your efforts when you go out and ask for others to support you. Go make a difference.

With all the inquiries coming in our challenge is that we have taken our own advice, picked several organizations we plan to support, and will never have enough time to respond to every independent inquiry we get. We don’t want to offend, but our team is too small to follow-up on all of them, we just can’t. We sincerely apologize in advance.

We have two programs we will be running this year, and both will provide opportunities for Ancient Fire community members to get involved in fundraising, but also being on the event team if they want. We are going to make an impact, and the in-person experience for both of these programs is going to be so much fun!

The first program is for the American Cancer Society event Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. We will use a series of promotional activities at the meadery to support our team and raise funds. Community members who join the team will also be raising money in their own networks and walking at the event in Manchester on October 21st with Margot and I. This event is held all over New Hampshire on the same day in October every year. It is amazingly powerful to think of all the people marching down streets together all over the state raising awareness and funds to fight cancer!

Jason with Brew Free Or Die (homebrew club) at the Food Bank in 2018

The second program will be to benefit the NH Food Bank, an organization Margot and I added to our charitable work a decade ago. Since then we have donated funds as well as have participated in activities at the Food Bank that further their mission. And once again we are going to help make this experience part of Ancient Fire. This program will kick off in November with a donation of funds we raise being made in December. We will also be pulling together a small group of community members to participate in Fresh Rescue at the Food Bank, an activity that redirects leftover frozen meat to shelters, meal programs and community kitchens. Margot and I have done this event in the past and when you find out how much food you helped pack up and how many meals it will be able to create it is hard not to be emotional about your impact.

We will be launching each of these programs in their own time with a lot more information. There will be multiple ways to support each event that should provide workable, comfortable options for everyone. As a community we are going to stand up, get involved and make a difference. We are also going to have fun while doing it, and that ladies and gentleman was the point to Ancient Fire in the first place.

So is it good story? You decide. But, we are sure the next chapter is going to be even better!

Cheers!

Jason

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Of Fruits And Local Labors

As we’ve quickly progressed into the summer season here in New Hampshire one of frequent questions in the tap room has been “where are we getting local produce we are using?” The short answer is lots of places, many of whom we’ve sourced from during our homebrew projects before we opened Ancient Fire. We have local favorites as well as new-to-us farms and orchards from around New Hampshire that we are expecting to get great produce from.

One of our favorite farms to work with is Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry. Only short drive from home, we’ve visited the farm stand and the PYO areas at Sunnycrest many times! Over the years we have picked strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and grapes. When apple season comes, we’ve coordinated with a group from our local homebrew club to buy cider in bulk from Sunnycrest. We’ve also brought home peaches, apples, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, honey, maple syrup and of course, cider donuts!

The recent releases of Wooderson’s Lemonade were made with strawberries from Sunnycrest. Our love for the strawberries from Sunnycrest goes back to 2004 when we first started bringing large amounts of them home to use in fermentation. The local season coincides with the official onset of Summer (June 21), which is also our wedding anniversary. Margot can definitely entertain with stories about picking berries in the early mornings of some of our first anniversaries. We fermented at least one beverage with strawberries every year from 2004 to 2013, and in some years we were able to taste a vertical (consecutive years) of a strawberry wine that we won a lot of medals with!

Earlier this year we sourced fresh dill from Country Dreams Farm, a fellow Derry Homegrown Farm & Artisan Market vendor, and used it in the house-made cheese spread on the food menu. We grow herbs at home as well, but not always dill, which typically gets used to make pickles anyway. Mmmm, fresh pickles. We might need to find some to add to the menu.

But summer isn’t over yet, and some of the best produce has yet to start arriving. So what do we have planned?

Pears – having gotten pears from another great Londonderry destination in the past, Mack’s Apples, we are hopeful we can source them here in 2018.

Wine Grapes – we are working on sources and should have some exciting announcements soon!

Cider – we will be sourcing from several farms including Apple Hill Farm, Gould Hill Orchards and Sunnycrest.

Peaches – we will be sharing peach meads soon, and some will have been made with 2017 peaches from Lull Farm.

Chili Peppers – most of our fans already know we love using chili peppers, and fresh, local, and even homegrown ones are fantastic to use!

Plums – it has been a couple years since we used plums in a wine, but that wine went from a sleeper to all gone once all the medals were counted! We like to use golden plums in particular, and sometimes along with delicious white wine grapes. The plums we made the decorated wine with came from Hackleboro Orchards.  We’ve also gotten golden plums from Elwood Orchards in the past, also right in town for us.

Pumpkin – we’ve already got some pumpkin squirreled away in the freezer, and we have a riff on a cider we made a couple years back in mind for this.

Maple Syrup – we have 2018 syrup from Four Saps Sugar Shack on hand already. We’ve also sourced syrup from Ben’s Sugar Shack in the past as well.

We also expect to work on some herbed mead recipes as we head into the cooler months, and some of these will feature herbs and hops we grew at home.

If that isn’t an exciting list of ingredients to work with we surely don’t know what one would look like!

Keep your eyes on our Facebook page for all of our product announcements so you can catch some of this local produce on tap at Ancient Fire.

Cheers!

Margot & Jason

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We Are Open!

As of Thursday March 15th we are open!

The Tap Room hours will be:

  • Thursday & Friday 4-7 pm
  • Saturdays 11 am – 7 pm

Our tap list will fluctuate, and the best way to keep an eye on what is on tap will be our Facebook page. We will be launching with 7 taps for flights and pints, and 3 taps for growlers to go.

The food menu will be updated regularly and will also be posted on our Facebook page. We have a number of meal options as well as plenty of snacks to enjoy with a glass of #deliciousAF.

We haven’t bottled any product yet, but that is coming soon. We also have shirts, glasses, coasters and stickers for purchase. And hats are on the way.

See you at Ancient Fire!

Margot & Jason

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November Was A Busy Month

With November waning and the holidays in full swing we were prompted to take a stroll back through what went on during the month of November at Ancient Fire, and there has been plenty of action!

We completed our crowdfunding campaign early in the month, and while we didn’t reach our stated goal, we can’t say it was unsuccessful. We raised a little over $15K after fees, which is actually a solid outcome for a beverage campaign these days. We also had a strong average dollar per supporter, beyond the average of the majority of the recent beverage campaigns we surveyed. Thank you to everyone who supported us, we are working on getting swag moving so we can pack and ship perks next month. Once we get a bit closer to having all the pieces in place for opening we will update the entire community on our plans to get the #deliciousAF flowing.

Construction was completed the week before Thanksgiving, allowing us to get in and begin the decorating process. We’ve got a bar to build, tables and stools to setup, bathrooms to finish, a kitchen to outfit and of course painting. We’ve got a great space to work with and we can’t wait to get it completed and show it off both in person and in photos.

Equipment has also started to arrive. The picture above shows Jason smiling next to the 10BBL Brite Tank. Our 7BBL fermentors have also come home and are being cleaned up so they are ready to use. All the other goodies are coming in day by day.

Jason also attended the first NH Craft Brew Conference which brought together the craft brewing industry at UNH for a day of seminars and networking. Consuming the seminars from the business track, Jason immersed himself in topics like story telling & marketing, tap room experience development and prepping your sales team for success. For anyone thinking about opening a craft beverage business an event like this is a must to help you plan and strategize.

As we were thinking that November was busy we quickly realized it will likely be nothing compared to the coming months when we eclipse all the milestones we have in front of us as we speed towards our opening in Q1 2018.

Cheers!

Margot & Jason

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Cider Style Guide from the USACM

Paralleling other cider style references like the BJCP and GLINTCAP, and our own web site, the United States Association of Cider Makers recently updated their Cider Style Guide. The new version is very approachable and presents a series of categories and sub-categories to help people understand the different types of ciders and how to perceive them. A guide like this is a great resource for curious consumers. We’ve added it to our Resources section!

 

Earlier in 2017 I attained the Certified Cider Professional Level 1 certification from the same association. Their commitment to educational activities and materials on cider is definitely helping us spread the word about a beverage that we love!

Cheers!

Jason

 

 

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Channeling Our Passions Into a Complete Brand

Jason teaching a class about cider and cidermaking.

The word brand has been on “speed dial” in conversation between the members of the Ancient Fire team as well as the larger team we are working with during our startup. We don’t profess to completely understand all of the aspects of launching and managing a brand right now, but we do expect to learn.

When we’ve been talking about the mission behind our brand, we’ve been looking at what the total brand experience will be. We aren’t just a beverage producer, nor are we just alcohol salespeople. We are also evangelists, educators, connectors, pioneers, explorers and at the end of it all,  we are people craving connection, engagement and fun.

Two of the pillars of our mission are evangelism and education about craft beverage, and most often mead and cider. This is not a new role for us, but just like we are taking our hobby making the beverages pro, our education game is getting a bump too.  What will this mean for the Ancient Fire community?

  • Ancient Fire will be a resource for people curious about mead and cider, and more than just enjoying a glass or two. The Education & Resources section of our web site is the beginning of a Mead-o-Pedia of sorts to help people learn more about the beverages we are champions for.
  • Members of the Ancient Fire team will pen educational articles and blog posts for our own and other periodicals/web sites to publish. Further down we announce the newest article Jason authored about Session Meads just reaching readers now.
  • Sensory Training Thursdays – Once the tasting room gets into full swing Jason will be hosting a short primer on wine/mead/cider tasting every Thursday evening at the tap room. The goal is to help you better identify the beverages you like and arm you with the tools to find craft beverages that fit you everywhere you go.
  • Interactive and Hands-On Classes – Jason recently taught an introductory class on cider and cidermaking. This course, and a companion course on mead, will be hosted at Ancient Fire on a schedule to be determined in 2018.

We are excited to announce that in the most recent issue of Brew Your Own magazine, hitting newsstands and mailboxes shortly, an article on making Session Meads explains what these beverages are and provides tips on how to make them yourself at home. {When the article is posted on the web site for public viewing we will share the link. For now only subscribers have access. }

So, you can come and have a tasty beverage with us, but there will be so much more you will be able to experience as part of the Ancient Fire community. We hope our “total brand” will offer exciting opportunities for everyone!

If you are interested in helping launch these activities consider supporting our crowd funding campaign The Mead Must Flow. Thank you!

Cheers!

Jason

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Launching the Ancient Fire Brand

Margot and I have been working on quite a few different things for Ancient Fire in 2017, but one of them has been our visual branding. As we honed in on our logo design our excitement continued to grow. We are so happy to finally be able to debut our new visuals to our entire community!

The image at the head of this post is our primary logo, and one you should expect to see on all kinds of Ancient Fire branded materials. We went with a retro font, but a very straightforward representation of apples and honey, our two primary ingredients and basis for our products. Nobody should have trouble figuring out what we do! We have full color as well as black and white versions of this to use in the many different ways we will want to project our brand.

Elsewhere on the web site, social media and swag you will see this same image but you will also see other images that we will be using in different ways. 

To the right is a small format logo that we think will make a great sticker and might also show up on glassware. It is tight and focused, but no less expressive of goals of our brand.

Another image you may see will be the one below. This one re-organizes the elements of the core logo above and gives us some flexibility when horizontal space is tight, something that might be really useful for product labels.

In the coming weeks, and coincident with our crowd funding campaign, we will continue to debut usages of these designs. We look forward to community feedback as we work to get our brand out there.

We’d like to thank our designer Steve Lee for all of his consultation and effort to make this work what it is. Putting an exciting image to our vision is definitely going to be a vital part of our success.

Cheers!

Jason