“Raspberry Unicorn Blood.”
There aren’t many businesses in the world who can say their most popular product is named after the blood of a mythological animal, but Mr. B’s Meadery doesn’t really conform to the usual expectations.
Seattle has a reputation for both the unconventional and the ambitious and Mr. B’s Meadery firmly epitomises that assessment. Officially founded in 2018 by Brandon Eller, it was ultimately the result of a chance gift followed by many years of perspiration and experimentation.
“I was in a band and about 12 years ago, our drummer gave me a bottle of mead that he had made from his first batch. I was instantly blown away by how different it is to any other drink. I asked him how to make it. He just gave me the name of the recipe and just said ‘figure it out’. I researched it online, got all the equipment and started doing it at home,” Brandon explained.
And on the path of figuring it out, he began. He learned about the process, bought the equipment and set about producing his first batches of mead. While he wasn’t quite blazing a trail with an entirely new process, it also wasn’t a well-trodden path and it required a lot of trial and error.
Method To The Mead-ness
“Traditional mead is just honey and water. It has similarities to wine making. To start playing around with flavours a bit, you use different types of honey. Then you can ferment with different combinations of fruit and spices. I like to make every batch different from the last. I do a lot of rotating, small batch experiments. I do dry, sweet, sparkling, still, low alcohol versions. I usually use local honey from around Seattle, but I’ve used Hawaiian honey which gives it a very unique flavor. It takes me between two and six months to make a batch.”
Brandon initially shared his produce with family and close friends, but it had sparked a passion in him and he knew he wanted to take his production to the next level.
“I was making it from home for many years before I decided to throw everything at it and go and get a licence.”
In 2018, Brandon secured a production facility complete with tasting room in the SoDo area of Seattle. It took a year for his liquor license to be approved so with his first batch of mead ready for sale, in October 2019, he was finally ready to welcome paying customers to his facility. But unbeknownst to him and most of the world, there was a large pandemic shaped obstacle coming swiftly down the line.
“I was quite lucky. I had kept my day job working for a mobile canning and bottling company because I needed to pay my bills. I was selling to stores and doing deliveries around the city so the business was able to pay for itself and I was able to cover my personal costs,” Brandon tells us with a calmness that belied those uncertain times.
On A Troll
With demand growing and the restrictions on movement beginning to ease, Brandon started the process of looking to open another location. He settled on a premises in Fremont, a focal point for much of the artistic community in Seattle, a couple of blocks away from the famous ‘Fremont Troll’. Once he found the ideal location, he started the process of turning it into a venue fitting for his unique product and stumbled upon a fantastic method of pre-promoting the arrival of his business.
“One of the first things I did was paint the door yellow. It really stands out and sparked a lot of interest. I would be working away on the inside and people would constantly stick their heads around the door to find out what was going on. The door just gets you. You can’t just stop and look, you have to stop, look and find out what’s inside. I always say ‘the door brings them in and the mead brings them back’.”
From the early days in Fremont, it was clear that it was a good decision.
“Opening up in Fremont has been fantastic for the business. I see a lot more foot traffic than I saw when just had the SoDo location because of tourism and more of a local community feel to the place. It’s really taken off.”
When it comes to choosing point of sale, Brandon explains that he tried other solutions in the past, but talech provided his business with numerous benefits particularly as the popularity and sales increased.
“I’ve been using digital point of sale since the early days. I was using Square. It was very convenient but it was expensive. It also wasn’t easy to use at times, especially with the checking out process. I was looking around and found the Poynt point of sale device through talech and Elavon. It was actually through CostCo. They were offering a promotion on it and it just made sense for a business like mine,” Brandon says about how he made the move to talech.
The impact on his business was immediate.
“Instantly I could see how much better it was. Not just in terms of the savings, but the functionality. The checkout process is much faster and my customers appreciate that. It’s easier to find the products on screen – that improves the accuracy and reduces the chance of me making a mistake by charging the wrong prices. It’s been better in a lot of ways.”
Mr. B’s Meadery also got a financial benefit due to the difference in processing fees being charge between Square and Elavon.
“With my sales increasing the way they were, the lower processing fees meant substantial savings for my business and it was well worth making the change.”
And while visiting a meadery may not have been on many customers radar before he opened his Fremont location, the combination of a unique product and welcoming environment has generated strong interest through word of mouth.
“People really love the feel of the place, tell their friends about us and that keeps us busy. My tasting room only holds 10 to 12 people and I can fit another 10 outside so I don’t take bookings unless it’s a party of 6 or more. People just have to turn up and see if there’s room, but thankfully we’re getting so busy that I might need to consider a reservation system. I hate to see people walking away because there’s nowhere to sit.”
And when it came to making the switch, Brandon found the process to be very straightforward.
“When I got the hardware shipment, I was able to get set-up and start using it that day. I had a set-up call scheduled for the next day, but I was keen to get started. It was very easy to get it up and running without needing to do that call.”
“When I did the call, they walked me through everything to double check everything was ok and make sure I was using all the features that I needed to use. They followed up with me soon after to see how things were going. I had a couple of questions and they have helped me. It’s nice that they’ve been taking the initiative to make sure I’m happy with everything and using it to its fullest capabilities.”
For now, Mr. B’s Meadery is mostly a one-man operation with Brandon doing the production at his SoDo location by day and operating the tasting room in Fremont in the evenings.
“I’m doing everything myself. My wife helps me with my labels and such. She helped me paint the inside of the new tasting room for me which people really love, but from the manufacture and bottling to the sales to the running the tasting room, it’s just me. I have no staff.”
With Mr. B’s Meadery proving to be highly popular, Brandon is looking at how he can further accelerate the growth of his business.
“I want to keep trying out new flavors and improving the product. I want to start doing farmers’ markets and open a couple more tasting rooms around the city. At that point, I’ll definitely need to do some hiring and get a team in place to help run things.”
With its rapid growth from something of a hobby to a thriving young business, Mr. B’s Meadery exemplifies creativity and innovation synonymous with Seattle. Brandon’s ambition and dedication to his craft surely mean he has uncorked the formula for a long-lasting and successful local business.