Orchid Cellar Meadery makes and markets the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage

People are catching onto the “buzz” about honey wine (mead) at the Middletown, MD meadery

Mead is a unique and lesser known alcoholic drink than beer, wine, and spirits. It’s made with fermented honey, which of course comes from some of our most important insects – bees! It’s a quirky, ancient drink produced by businesses like Orchid Cellar Meadery & Winery in Middletown, Md. Dan Kennedy is our podcast guest from Orchid Cellar, and he often describes the meadery and the mead he markets as “delightfully odd.”

Orchid Cellar grows grapes and produces wine as well, but mead made from raw Maryland honey is the star of the show. As for marketing, Dan talks to us about how he uses some community partners, events, and appeals to history buffs and pop culture enthusiasts to get guests onboard the mead train. He’ll also share with us some startling bee facts (and puns), including how many thousands of pounds of honey Orchid Cellar needs every year to produce their sweet and delicious mead.

Community partners and events help spread the word that you’re awesome

As Dan and many others have expressed on our podcast, “A rising tide lifts all ships.” Supporting other local craft beverage companies will grow the industry overall, and you shouldn’t think of the others as your competition. Sure, consumers might have some brands they rally around, but Dan points out that most people are going to several breweries, wineries, distilleries, etc. to experience something different at each one. Your business is likely not the only place they go to enjoy a drink, and that’s okay! The goal is getting them to keep coming back.

Forming partnerships with others in your industry and around your community will help you reach more people who are eager to partake in tasting your products. It can also open up opportunities to be more creative with other producers, creating one-of-a-kind, dual-branded products. For instance, Dan is friends with Monica Pearce, owner of Tenth Ward Distilling in Frederick, Md (listen to Tenth Ward’s podcast episode!). Orchid Cellar actually produces bulk batches of mead to give to Tenth Ward, which is then distilled and becomes their unique spirit known as “Honeyjack.” Wins for everyone, especially fans of mead and those looking for something a little stronger!

Events, too, engage your customers with your brand. Orchid Cellar has a club (simply called “The Club,” since they provide members both mead and wine) that functions similarly to a wine club. Some events at Orchid Cellar are for club members only, but they’re not limited to the number of guests they can bring with them. Dan has said the reason they don’t limit guests is because so many guests of existing members attend an event and end up signing up for The Club themselves!

Learn more about engaging your customers with bottle clubs and Instagram with Catoctin Breeze Vineyard!

Identify niche audiences and where you fit in

For Orchid Cellar, their sales and marketing challenges stem from customers’ lack of awareness or familiarity with mead as a modern beverage. Some people who come through their doors know it as some kind of “Viking drink,” or they might have heard about it in Harry Potter or a video game like Skyrim. Entertaining and further educating these niche interest groups is one of the many jobs Dan and the tasting room team take on all the time. Since it’s such an ancient drink, mead has a rich history that many history buffs will engage with, and those trying mead because it’s referenced in a book or movie they like will probably be intrigued enough to try it and learn about how it’s made.

Of course, Dan says that people who come in with an open mind, looking to try something new and different will be delighted and surprised by mead (that “delightfully odd” descriptor, as he likes to put it). Sometimes, the inbetweeners in the craft beverage industry, those who don’t feel like they totally fit into the beer crowd, the wine snobs, or the whiskey drinkers find their place at Orchid Cellar, enjoying some delicious fermented bee nectar.

About the guest: Dan Kennedy has worked all over the place, including as a restaurant and event bartender, a bike shop operations manager, and a landscaping and plant nursery manager! Currently, he is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Orchid Cellar Meadery & Winery in Middletown, MD. Dan’s educational background is in computer network security, which oddly enough comes in handy wherever he works.

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