Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

February 15, 2013

Crowdfunding saves the day

BELLAIRE — A “nights and weekends” effort to create to commercially craft a centuries-old alcoholic beverage received the kick-start it needs to launch, thanks in large part to an Internet website campaign.

Jeremy VanSice long dreamed of starting a meadery at his family’s farm on a picturesque peninsula surrounded by Clam Lake, Lake Bellaire and Torch Lake.

“Mead is water, honey and yeast,” said Jeremy, 36, who with his siblings grew up spending summers in Alaska with their father. “It’s the oldest form of fermented beverage known to man.

“Mead is a little different from beer. It takes a little bit to age.”

Longtime home brewer VanSice took mead-making classes through Northwestern Michigan College and began creating it with honey from bees kept on the farm.

He worked as a bartender at Shanty Creek Resort and spent a year in Alaska on cod boats (think “Deadliest Catch”) to squirrel away cash to transform about 800-square feet in an existing pole barn into a processing facility for Bee Well Meadery. Brother Chris, 38, an East Detroit High School teacher, came on board and helped during summers and school breaks.

“The sinks are in, we have a fermentation room that’s actually climate-controlled,” Jeremy said. “We’re starting on a pretty small scale.”

But they ran into a pretty huge roadblock when they learned the farm’s water well wasn’t adequate for their needs.

“Since it’s hooked into my inlaws’ house and into a pond for irrigation, (inspectors) were concerned with backflow issues,” Jeremy said.

Their option was to spend a lot of money to upgrade the current infrasctructure or opt for a more affordable route of building a new, dedicated well and septic. They also needed to make improvements to the heating and cooling system.

But there was no money to do it.

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