Two beekeeping craft brewer brothers behind Wye Valley Meadery are buzzing after their take on the world’s oldest drink, mead, won a UK accelerator programme for aspiring brewers, supported by leading UK accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael
Matt Newell, 33, and Kit, 31, keep over six million bees in the Wye Valley, south Wales, and the honey they produce is then fermented and turned into the alcoholic drink at their Meadery in Caldicot.
And the pair were awarded first place in the Brew Accelerator programme, for their Sparkling Mead range, which is a modern take on the historic drink and is infused with natural flavours, in a tough competition with London-based Better World Brewing Company, Flowerhorn Brewery in Cardiff and craft beer firm Fauna Brewing.
They claimed the top prize of a year of mentoring and guidance, valued at £50,000, at the BrewLDN event in Printworks, London, last month.
Judges were left impressed with how passionate the pair were about their brand as well as the quality of its products and its potential for growth.
The brothers are now planning a major expansion in on-trade sales after doubling their turnover during the pandemic due to a rise in online purchases. They have also opened a tap room at the Meadery.
The business plan they submitted to Brew Accelerator will be quickly escalated to focus on their Sparkling Mead range, and to grow production of kegs and cans for on-trade. They have already sold their first keg following the launch at the Brew London event and plan to expand on that regionally, and then grow its sales across the UK.
Further expansion plans in the coming years include opening their own off-site mead bar and exporting the drink to the Far East and Eastern Europe.
Wye Valley Meadery was set up in 2018 by Matt, who had spent 20 years beekeeping as a hobby, and younger brother Kit, who comes from a marketing and product development background.
The pair, who are due to appear on BBC’s The Hairy Bikers later this year, now produce 4000 litres of the drink a month, which has a 4% alcohol content and comes in a variety of flavours.
Adam Hardie, Head of Food and Drink at Johnston Carmichael and a judge of the Brew Accelerator, said:
“Matt and Kit were more than worthy winners.
“We have been hugely impressed with how Wye Valley Meadery has continued to grow throughout the pandemic, despite the obvious challenges.
“The sparkling mead itself tastes first class, and we think their business has real potential for growth in the coming months and years.
“We are already in contact with Matt and Kit, providing tax and accountancy expertise, as well as offering support with their expansion plans.”
Fellow judge Jenny Mary Elliott, a drinks brand consultant, added:
“We could tell straight away Matt and Kit were people we could work really well with.
“They have a great back story and are at a pivotal point in their development right now. We believe we can add real value to help them over the coming months.”
Matt Newell added:
“I’ve enjoyed beekeeping as a hobby for over 20 years and always had a real passion for mead.
“Its popularity has really boomed in recent years because of shows like Vikings and Game of Thrones, and we’ve grown pretty rapidly as a business since starting over four years ago.
“Our turnover has more than quadrupled since our first year, and we’re enjoying getting more in tune with our market and customers.”
Kit Newell added:
“Winning the Brew Accelerator gives us real confidence that our product is strong, and that we can take the business to the next level.
“Working with advisors like Adam and Jenny will be really key in helping us progress and we can’t wait to see how we can move forward the business in the coming years.”
The Brew Accelerator event is all about supporting the growth of start-up drink brands and entrants include a wide range of craft beers to different spirits.