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Londonderry's Moonlight Meadery secures investment as sales expands

Union Leader Correspondent

December 02. 2012 6:04PM
Michael Fairbrother, founder of Londonderry's Moonlight Meadery, shows off some of the company's various honey wines. The company, which was formed in Fairbrother's Londonderry basement several years ago, has grown tremendously over the past two years, with the company's products now available in 50 states. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

LONDONDERRY - Two-and-a-half years after Michael Fairbrother began whipping up small batches of mead in his Londonderry garage, business is sweeter than honey.

Now in its current home on Londonderry Road, Moonlight Meadery distributes its products to all 50 states, with the capacity for producing up to 30,000 cases of the sugary, intoxicating brew each year.

In late November, the company received an initial investment from Vested For Growth, a Concord-based firm providing risk-tolerant capital for owners of small- to medium-sized businesses.

"We saw growing sales and an excellent management team," Senior Investor James Key-Wallace said of the meadery. "This company is poised to accelerate and offer high-quality jobs to the community for many years to come."

Over the past month alone, Moonlight Meadery has had two new, full-time hires: The company now has 15 employees, according to Fairbrother.

"We've been non-stop busy," he said, noting that business has more than doubled over the past year.

The company offers 66 different mead varieties, ranging from tart cider brew "Blossom" made of locally harvested apples from Sunnycrest Orchards, to the spicy "Scorn," made from zesty chili peppers.

Most of the flavors cost around $20 per bottle, though Fairbrother said he's already sold around 40 cases of the special "Utopia" variety.

At $75 per bottle, the limited edition Utopia brew is unique as it's been brewed in single-barrel Samuel Adams "Utopia" casks and tastes similar to fine cognac or aged sherry.

Mead making is an extensive process as it takes anywhere from three to eight months for each beverage batch to ferment.

Last summer, the local brewery signed a distribution agreement with St. Killian importing company, thus expanding its product distribution well outside the parameters of New England.

"Basically, they're bridging the gap between us and distributors in each state," Fairbrother said.

Over the past month alone, the products have been introduced to markets in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, Washington state and Washington, D.C.

Company officials said they're anticipating the sale of around 100 cases of mead sold in each of those states every month.

A former software executive, Fairbrother grew up in Kingston and has lived in the Derry/Londonderry area for the past several decades.

His wife, Berniece Van Der Berg, serves as the company's vice president of sales and marketing.

In July 2010, Fairbrother resigned from his day job, and since then more than 3,000 people have toured the 4,000 square-foot facilities.

These days, he works at his meadery just about every day, but he's not complaining.

"This company is all about following a dream," Fairbrother said. "All of the flavors we offer were made based on my own enjoyment."

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