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Making Good Trouble

 

“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” — John Lewis, 2012

There are lots of opportunities to reflect on privilege and sacrifices these days. The mere act of me safely being able to sit at the bar at my business and bang away at this keyboard is an example of the incredible privilege I have in my life. I’m sitting here writing a blog post about the importance of exercising one’s constitutional right to vote in the United States. Some people could only dream of spending their time this way.

It’s true that I’ve never really had to fight for anything in my life. I grew up in the suburbs, went to college, started working in my chosen field right out of school and have successfully used my skills to do quite well. I am grateful for all the support I’ve had along the way, being able to safely chart my own course is not to be trivialized. But, many people never get such an opportunity. 

Along my journey I’ve also had plenty of experiences that have shown me exactly how different things can be for other people, and because of this I’ve always been respectful of my privilege, respectful enough to lean in and listen when important lessons about inequity and systemic bias that has stripped my outcome from the hands of others were being told. What I’ve learned has been turned into action. 

From an early age I have volunteered time, and money when I ultimately had some, to the Boy Scouts, Appalachia Service Project, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and more recently to the American Cancer Society, the New Hampshire Food Bank and a number of other organizations that provide services to people who need help with a spectrum of challenges. I have done this for the sole reason that I know how valuable it is to be able to use my abundance and privilege to help others make their own way in this world.

But, change is still needed. Inclusion in all facets of our society for all Americans is still not the norm everywhere. In some places people still hold the bias that skin color alone is something to make a decision based on. That bias is not just one of thought, it is also one of action. Our system isn’t equitable for everyone, because not everyone agrees that it should be and some vote to keep it the way it is. That’s not good enough for me. 

So what do we do? Elect better leaders. Elect leaders that surround themselves with the kinds of people who make things better for everyone, not just themselves. 

At this point I could veer off into a partisan diatribe about the issues and fighting for or against something, but that isn’t going to get anywhere. I’m not the arbiter of thought for everyone, and my take on the issues isn’t something I’m going to push on others. More importantly, most people won’t listen long enough right now to an obviously partisan point to result in any real, meaningful discussion. It’s clear our educational system has failed us magnificently, but that is a post for another day. 

But, I can encourage participation in the process as both an act of nonviolent protest against the status quo AND an optimistic act. If enough people participate in the process (and here’s to hoping more than ever before) the desired changes will come, and maybe sooner as opposed to later. 

So as John Lewis said many times we must “get into good trouble, necessary trouble.”

In his honor we are making a mead named “Making Good Trouble” with proceeds benefiting Rock The Vote, a three decade old organization with a mission to connect young people (primarily) with the voting process so that they can develop a habit of making their voice heard. 

I am registered to vote. I vote. I am reasonably confident that my vote is secure. Once again, I find I have privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. I owe it to every one of fellow Americans to fight to ensure the security of their vote as if it were my own. If I don’t, who can I expect to be fighting for my rights when they have the station to do so?

This year COVID is having its way with our electoral process and the daily (and hourly some days) headlines about the methods by which people can vote, and not, are having a dizzying impact on people’s lives as they wrestle with casting their ballots. It shouldn’t be like this, but remember the systemic bias from above? It’s back in this paragraph.

So, what do we do? 

First, know your options. What voting options does your state offer? In person, mail-in, absentee, early voting, etc. Make sure you know what the options are for your local and state elections as well. Research them with your state and local government resources. Ignore the trolls on social media. 

Second, know when you must act. Elections have different deadlines for different methods. 

Third, pick your method and plan your voting actions. VOTE!

Margot and I recently voted absentee for the NH primary election. We used the state website to complete an absentee ballot application, and our ballots arrived from our town clerk a few days later. This year the State of New Hampshire added COVID safety concerns to the list of disabilities allowed for absentee voting. I believe this was a smart change to ensure everyone has a method available that doesn’t require them to take excess risk during a pandemic. 

The process of completing the ballot was simple, it’s the same scannable one we would see at the polls on election day. We signed the affidavit on the inner envelope and then sealed it and it into the outer envelope. We decided to return then in person to the town clerk, which Margot did. We could have mailed them back, but the post office is about the same distance from our house as the town offices, so this made sense for us. The process was simple, and included an ID check, as well as an affidavit that my ballot was returned by a lawful representative, in this case my spouse. 

Overall it was a very smooth and convenient process. 

When we requested absentee ballots we were able to request both the NH Primary AND NH General Election ballots in one request. This means we have ballots on the way for November, and we expect to use the same process to return them as we did this time. 

I hope the example of what we did helps illustrate the important research and planning work needed to make sure you secure your vote and make sure your voice is heard. 

This is our call to action. Know your options and plan how you will cast your vote. And once you have, keep an eye out here to learn more about how you can help us secure the vote for so many others so that they may safely and securely vote to ask for the changes we all want to see in our world. 

ROCK THE VOTE by Making Good Trouble!

–Jason

Running Ancient Fire in COVID Times

Star Wars is always our go to after a long day.
(Rise of Skywalker screening in Dec 2019)

In two posts earlier this year we shared some of our experiences and plans during these challenging times. Check out What Next? and Finding The Future to see how things went earlier in pandemic mode. Truthfully the challenges continue to mount, and like so many stories from this period, you can quickly see the “perfect storm” in this one.

First and foremost we are very concerned that no matter what we do we may provide a path for COVID through our community. What a horrible concern to have. Reflected in these times where there will clearly be no easy solutions, we must carry that concern with us as we literally do things that increase that chance. 

What are we, and other businesses like us, experiencing? Assume this is a partial list, because like so many of these stories, every experience is at least slightly different. 

  • Rising prices for materials, packaging and supplies; availability issues with existing suppliers causes lost time and money searching for alternatives
  • COVID specific supply shortages (PPE, etc from day 1, but other items consistently and more frequently)
  • Profitability drops (margin decreases) as more distributed product drives sales goals
  • Logistics delays and sharp freight increases
  • Lots of new “rules”, “recommendations” and “requirements” and approval overhead
  • Minimal to no enforcement of or public education about the new State-driven rules with a call for the public to do their part, e.g. helping to create public trust

The integrated nature of our business means that all of the problems in a wide number of supported industries combine in our production and distribution process. Did you catch that? That was the sound of the perfect storm crashing in. Every day is a soupy mess of tradeoffs and decisions, almost none of which are technically good. Everyone is going through these things. We know because we ask our customers, vendors and service providers. 

But wait, there’s more!

These challenges on top of the changes in gathering behavior and events specific to our hospitality business stokes that perfect storm with unpredictable demand, much reduced marketing opportunities and more friction at and resources needed through every customer facing activity. We’ve brought the staff back to help with Take Out, recovery planning with several having been partially deployed on other responsibilities to help us as much as possible right now. 

This is all without raising prices or adding fees, and as of the time of this document being published, without taxpayer funded relief either. 

And again, we aren’t alone or unique. Ask your favorite local restaurant, bar or brewery. You’ll hear a lot of different stories, but the underlying themes will be the same. 

Depending on where a particular business is at in this moment however, the weight of all of this may come at any one of some classically “bad times” and be more comprehensively damaging than they otherwise might be. For a small company that was just reaching a point of having a capable team in place for primarily a taproom driven model, this wasn’t good timing. We were staffed and trained for one thing, and something quite different was required immediately. Our part time staff all had, and thankfully kept, their primary jobs, but for us that meant they weren’t a good fit for any radical transformations we might want to undertake. We asked them to stick with us without being sure when we could use their help again. Assume the part time arrangements and specific hours per week plays a part in how, and how well, “paycheck” minded taxpayer relief works. 

Some people might say “why didn’t/don’t you just hire new people who fit the need?” Good idea, except that in the immediacy of this change having any staff toiling away next to each other (unprotected at the time) was the opposite of what was being asked, and with an abundance of caution, we took it seriously. Our job can’t be done remote, and training can’t either. Now we don’t have the resources to hire, and remain cautious because we aren’t out of any woods yet. 

So a perfect storm of rising costs, unstable sales and COVID burdens it is. 

Coming back from all of this will be even harder. 

  • We still have lots of uncertainty 
  • Long term thinking is largely off the table
  • Short term thinking can be dangerously reactionary at this point; things change fast

For some of us it is survival not recovery.

This week we are finally re-opening for dine-in, and we hope lots of folks will come see us. Take Out is still a great option, and we also have our quarterly bottle club and the ability to ship to 37 states. You can find us on more shelves and on more taps now than pre-COVID. But we see the challenges reflected in all of these areas. We understand that this is affecting you too, and we are doing what we can to help. As we continue to enhance the engagement with our community we are excited to get the word of mouth working again like it did in years one and two. Thank you so much for all of your support. Your continued feedback has been helpful for us to understand the reality we are all in!

We still need to do all of these and other things we had previously planned so we can understand what the dine-in and other sales channels can actually do for us in THESE times. We need this information because assumptions won’t do it, and this data will feed some very important and challenging decisions that we will have to make at month end. 

The only thing that is certain, and this is typically exciting, is we have a lot to learn with everything coming at us this way.

Thank you for caring enough to read to the end. We want you to know that this is real for us too, and that we understand. We hope what we have to offer can provide you enjoyment for at least a little bit in these challenging times.

 Thank you, and see you soon!

Jason & Margot

Finding The Future

{ Way back machine. 1st birthday party, March 2019 }

It’s amazing what a crisis can do. The opportunity to learn, refocus, exploit new opportunities and to dream are all positive elements to situations that can often just seem so hopeless. My own experience with cancer nearly 20 years ago gave me this same opportunity, and the fact that Ancient Fire even exists is because of what side of that crisis I decided to play on.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been crippling for families, businesses, cities and states. The whole of our country has all been mixed up by it. We are very much at the beginning of our experience with this virus and its impacts, and that is precisely when we need to be looking at where the opportunities are. What can we do differently, and better?

We’ve learned a lot in the last 3 months. We’ve had the opportunity to look at our business model and figure out what worked and what didn’t, and while we were able to pivot to Take Out quickly and easily, everything else we lost definitely didn’t help us to try and continue to grow our brand. Scaling back to a skeleton crew (just Margot and I for the first 8 weeks) definitely reminded us that we’ve grown a bit since we started out that way in 2018, and two people can’t run this business by themselves anymore! We are so thankful to our staff and our entire community for helping us get here, it sure hasn’t been easy!

With re-opening here in NH set to enter phase 2 on June 15th, we’ve ramped up our planning for supporting dine-in again. That said, we won’t be opening for dine-in inside or outside the week of June 15th. We need a little more time to get ready as well as a couple weeks to work on changes from what we’ve learned. Margot and I are also going to take a little break before we jump right back in to things.

So, we are still asking for everyone to be patient with us. We will be back, it will be better than it was before and we really appreciate all of the support we have had with Take Out and Direct Shipping orders up to this point. Folks that really want to help us should continue to use these options. This allows us to put money in the bank, pay our staff and keep the production ramping in the right direction to support all the thirsty mead and cider consumers out there.

So what’s the plan?

We expect to re-open for dine-in both inside and outside the week of July 6th. We will announce more details on what kind of seating and offerings will be available as we get closer. It will be reservation based and there will be all kinds of rules we all have to follow to keep ourselves safe and Ancient Fire in compliance with the Manchester Health Department.

In the meantime we have a number of upcoming releases including, You Cyser, You Brought Her and Leaping Off  The Ledge. At the end of the month, and right before the July 4th holiday, Sweet Burn Dude! and Station 7 come back! So, while we get ready we are still keeping the mead flowing!

Over the next couple of weeks several two person teams from our staff will be making new batches of mead from the Hawaiian honeys so that we can bring back favorites like SHE-nanigans, Orange You Happy and Tai Fighter as well as release new meads from them like Colada Love and some yet to be named! Everyone on the team is rolling up their sleeves to get product moving, re-envision the tap room and make sure we are ready to have you all back!

THANK YOU!

Margot & Jason

What Next?

The last couple of months sure have been different. The old adage that you throw the business plan out the day you open can easily be replaced for some of us by throwing the long term plan out the window when a pandemic comes along. Needless to say there has been a lot of time for reflection as well as good old fashioned jam sessions talking about all manner of crazy ideas.

Yesterday I saw the wonderfully written piece by Carl Soderberg from Able Ebeneezer Brewing Company, and beyond how nice and positive the message within it was, we could also relate. Grind on Able!

I will similarly cut to the chase. We aren’t opening our patio on the 18th as NH guidelines would permit. We will be sticking with our Take Out model which has been successful. It has allowed us to keep the business open, running at partial capacity, and given us the time and flexibility to be able to muse over the big question, what next?

Read on and you’ll get it. Oh, and we were open for Take Out on Star Wars Day, May 4th. I was the Jedi bartender. 

In early March we had a swirl of things going on at Ancient Fire. Second Birthday party, prepping for the Made in NH Expo, and I was getting ready to head to Colorado to present at my first Brew Your Own Magazine NanoCon.

By then I had heard of coronavirus, but now I was seeing more and more news reports about this new illness COVID-19, caused by the virus, that it was quickly spreading, killing people and already upending life elsewhere in the world and Western US. I knew something was wrong, and I knew we were going to be in it soon. By the time we opened on March 11th for the first of our birthday party events, we were already doing extra sanitizing and the topic of coronavirus really did consume a lot of the conversation. On Friday March 13th I predicted we would be forced into Take Out mode early the next week and introduced a Take Out menu and ordering process. By the end of the weekend we had worked out kinks with several orders and had already received feedback from customers that they appreciated the option.

We had fun over the birthday party weekend. We really did. We accomplished so much of what we had planned in 2 years, and the love and support from our community was easily felt. When Margot and I locked the door on March 15th to head home I remarked that we should remember this moment because everything was going to be different. I was trying to celebrate the two years that we had just eclipsed in the way they should have been, but my mind was elsewhere. This makes the four years of business planning and operations that led to here seem like a past job already. So weird.

The Made in NH Expo was cancelled, and so was the conference late in the month. Things changed that fast. I’ve subsequently been part of two additional conference cancellations and two more wine judging events that have either been cancelled or postponed.

At least my schedule was clear! On the 16th we opened for Take Out, a rare Monday, but honestly we weren’t sure exactly what would happen in NH, and we wanted to book some sales to at least go down fighting. Over the next two weeks we stabilized our process and hours, and continued to see strong engagement with our community. We didn’t know what to expect, so anything would have been welcome, but what we did experience still feels really special.

Sadly our staff found themselves with no work to do (bar & dining room closed) and an uncertain future. We furloughed everyone that week, but thankfully Ancient Fire is a second job for all of them, so this did not immediately impact them. Margot has been working her full time job as well, balancing time between both as best as possible. As of last week the staff have begun returning to help with Take Out orders and cleaning. It has been a pleasure to have them back, and be able to talk with them from 8 or 10 feet away. We have a fun wheel of social distancing that we practice as we work around the different stations at the meadery.

Because of the Made in NH Expo being cancelled we found ourselves sitting on a sizable inventory of bottled product, more than we would typically have on hand in the winter season. What a stroke of luck. And it immediately started to move. We had a small amount of direct shipping business prior to all of this, but once everyone was stuck at home getting a shipment of mead from us definitely seemed like a realistic option for those outside our pick up area. We are still working from that inventory, but new bottling plans are already on the schedule.

Making a difference in our local community has always been part of who we are, and from the very first week of Take Out we decided to share a portion of our weekly sales with local non-profits who would be struggling to react to COVID related issues in their missions. Since we began we have donated $2000 to several non-profits including: The NH Food Bank, American Cancer Society, local mask makers, American Red Cross, FrontLinesNH, FIRST and the NH Hospitality Employees Relief Fund. We have also made a new batch of Making A Difference, our wildflower draft mead that generates non-profit donations with every sale. This mead will be back on June 7th.

As the V1 ordering process stressed from increasing demand we pivoted again and moved to a new web site with integrated payment and a lot more options to include in orders. Two days. That is all it took. I am a retired software engineer, but clearly not completely retired.

In the weeks since we’ve introduced new meads, new honey wines, new snacks, a new Social Distancing T-Shirt and local honey to the store. We lost track of the number of Take Out orders after about 500. As we continue to fit this process and offerings to our audience, it has gotten smoother, and we’ve been able to stay on top of all the other changes.

We are cleaning a lot more now. Growlers are a significant portion of our business, and for the last 8 weeks we have been swapping them for clean glass, and cleaning the dirty growlers in between our open and closed days. It is definitely a crappy job. This is also a great example of a change in costs. We didn’t spend as much time doing this work in the past. Between this type of work, extra cleaning and the cost of cleaning supplies, we definitely are spending money differently today. Food is more expensive to buy, and our supply chain for a lot of ingredients is either still disrupted or has seen cost increases as well. But don’t worry, we’ve got a healthy list of products we can make that won’t break the bank as we try to keep things rolling!

Getting all of this in place, and especially bringing the staff back, has allowed us to plan some short and medium term goals. We hope this will allow us to continue to successfully work through the COVID crisis, but also let us flex into other areas that at a minimum are good marketing, but could also have bigger long term potential.

The cancelled conferences are a hint at other aspects to my work as a meadmaker and are really one of the big reasons why I am where I am. I have been a writer and educator on homebrewing topics since 2010, something I very much enjoy. Getting to share experiences with other people who are passionate about beverage making has got to be one of the coolest jobs out there.

Earlier in the year I turned down a couple articles due to time constraints, but with a newly cleared schedule I revisited the jobs and found some were still open and have subsequently gotten to work. I have more pitches to make. I have conference content that I expect I will finish and use as part of virtual workshops and videos that I am planning to create. We’ve got more ideas like this in the queue, and taking this time to develop them to help engage our community seems like the right choice.

We’ve begun talking about our business model and what the next version might look like. We’ve not made any decisions, but are grateful that we continue to be able to pay all of our bills and can use this foundation to cautiously look ahead.

Honestly, I am consumed by all of this. Margot reaches her limit with me early in most days. I often get up early to read news, share my strong opinions on Facebook, and then set about my day trying to use what I’ve learned to navigate changing State guidelines, consumer sentiment and operational issues all with an eye to “what next?”

I wrote this piece after genuinely realizing that people would be curious. What has this been like for the local craft owners? How are different businesses reacting and making changes based on their unique skills and opportunities? I hope this has been interesting enough to have spent the time.

THANK YOU!

2019: New Opportunities To Learn About Mead & Cider

When we were doing our business planning for Ancient Fire we found a lot of occasions where we could see how our work as authors and educators could be intertwined with the business of making & selling beverages and operating our tap room. Building an engaged community around our brand takes many different tactics, and because the world of mead and cider are still largely unknown to most people, engaging fans with learning opportunities and immersive experiences is an exciting way to share the story.

We agreed that we needed to focus more on the production and tap room areas initially, and work towards expanding the educational mission of the brand as we felt more confident about the business. There were some obvious “quick hits” that we knew we could integrate early on, like the honey tasting bar, but we also knew there was so much more we could do; much of it needing more time to evolve though.

We’ve reached a point where we would like to tackle the next phase of the mission which involves classroom and hands-on activities on making mead & cider, a return to competition judging and more frequent collaboration with other organizations who host educational events.

And we aren’t wasting any time! So far this year we have the following activities scheduled:

WineMaker Live Chat hosted by Winemaker Magazine on Feb. 13th

Survey Of Modern Meadmaking at Ancient Fire – Feb. 24th – SOLD OUT
We are excited to host our first class at Ancient Fire! We will be talking about a wide range of topics in mead and will make a batch of session mead as a group!

Judging at the 2019 Winemaker Magazine International Competition in April

Speaking & Hosting Bootcamps at the 2019 Winemaker Magazine Annual Conference in Michigan in May. I’ll be speaking about Adding Fruit to Mead and hosting two bootcamps on cider and mead-making.

Attendance, Speaking & Judging at the 2019 National Homebrewers Conference in Providence, RI in June.

Later in the year we plan to host additional classes (more topics too) on site at Ancient Fire as well as at locations such as Musto Wine Grape in Hartford, CT

We won’t be limiting our activities to just content and topics of interest to home-brewers or home mead-makers, but will also include more on honey, food pairing, cocktails and who knows what else we think will be fun!

Merry Christmas to the Ancient Fire Community!

Thank you all for coming to see us these last two weeks, the incredible gifts and for taking all the #deliciousAF home to share! We can’t wait to hear all the holiday stories next weekend.

And we must also thank you for all the great feedback on our new products, including Lavandula Limonatta, Iced Tea Break, Local Action and of course Sugarwood. We are humbled by your excitement and happiness.

We will be closed until Saturday December 29th now. We hope everyone gets a break over the next few days, and thoroughly enjoys the time with family and friends.

Our New Year’s Weekend hours are:

December 27th – CLOSED
December 28th – CLOSED
December 29th – 11AM to 6PM (closing 1 hour early)
December 30th – 12PM to 5PM
December 31st – 12PM to 5PM (New Years Eve!!!)

Growler fills are 10% all weekend.

We will have the last keg of Local Vitis I running on New Years Eve.

Be Safe. Have Fun!

Mead: The Libations, Legends and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink

When Fred Minnick’s new book on mead, Mead: The Libations, Legends and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink, was released back in June we excitedly shared the release both because it is a very interesting book, but also because we had helped with a number of aspects of it. It was a fun project, and something we are proud to have been involved in.

We’ve been back talking with Minnick recently, and specifically for an article that was published on Forbes.com last week. Check out Mead: The Return Of The Sweet, Ancient Flavor to learn more about the resurgence of mead.

Jason will be posting again next week with interview material that hit the cutting room floor as well as some new things the interview inspired us to get moving in both our taproom and several local restaurants. Stay tuned for some exciting news!

Back to the new mead book.

We don’t claim to be mead historians, and we often tell people how we literally stumbled into making mead and that it is now very much a 21st pursuit of ours. In Mead, Minnick takes on the task of discovering the mead lore that exists everywhere in our history. Every region of the world, and every civilization has at least dabbled, and some even turned it into “a thing.”

After a spin through these different regional histories Minnick brings together the themes of honey and mead he found in each area and shares cocktails inspired by both the stories and meads. This latter part (cocktails) is one of the great frontiers in mead, and something we will be talking a lot more about soon.

What have others said about Mead: The Libations, Legends and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink?

Learn to Brew ‘History’s Oldest Drink’ – NY Times

Books: Fred Minnick Breaks Into Mead  – Alcohol Professor

Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink by Fred Minnick – Bourbon Guy

Authority and Author Fred Minnick – Drinkhacker

Sipp’n Corn Book Review—Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink by Fred Minnick

We will have copies of the book for sale in our tap room very soon. If you would like to peruse our in-house copy over a flight or a pint, come for a visit!

Margot & Jason

What’s At The Heart Of A Good Story?

A lot of new guests at Ancient Fire ask about the story. I usually setup it up with a bit of hype, maybe something like “absolutely, and it is a GOOD one!”, so forgive me for making that assumption as a bit of theater, but you do get to decide if it’s true when I’m done.

A bit more than 15 years ago I decided something was wrong and went to the doctor. Cancer. Yup! Cancer. Not really what I expected, but I had the thought that “at least this is going to be interesting” to keep me going. That thought doesn’t always work though. Sometimes it just sucks.

The initial treatment and testing went very well and I was able to happily say then, and since, that I’ve been healthy. I did undergo radiation for a short time, and plenty of scans and bloodwork (the interesting part) in the ensuing months and years. So for this outcome it really is a great story, and I’ve never lost sight of how amazing of an experience I did have. Going to doctor early counted. Life in the bonus round has been great so far.

Strides in 2003

While I was recovering my wife Margot asked me if I had considered doing something else other than work (with my off time) as I got healthy and back to what we could make of our lives. This is one of those questions people write stories about, a question that changed lives, the course of history and led to incredible experiences that otherwise might not have been.

I replied that I would like to learn how to make my own beer. Getting the green light to buy brewing, and winemaking, equipment I set to work and made two beers before the end of 2003. They were good, provided some good times (strong) and gave me motivation to learn how to do it better. What we didn’t know was how profound of a change in direction for our lives this would be.

One paragraph to capture what then happened up until Spring of 2016. Think I can do it?

Brewing, wine-making, cider-making, reading, fundraising, advocacy, meeting many new people, travelling, entering and winning in home-brew competitions, our fundraising team raising 1000’s of dollars, blogging, so much brewing/making, many miles walked around tracks at Relay, home-brew club, lots more medals, more travel to cool places, writing, teaching, speaking, all the cool people along the way, beer judge certification, mead judge certification, more writing, more speaking, more people and finally planning a new business. Whew! Caught up?

Relay For Life 2011

As a team, and we called ourselves Survivors Rule!, our family and friends raised over $120,000 for a number of different events from 2003 to 2013. We were consistently recognized for spirit and both our team and team member prowess for fundraising. It wasn’t only about the money, but it was always important for us to have that locked in too because cancer sucks and it takes a lot of money to do research to fight it; and your taxes don’t contribute much to the cause. Margot and I still raise money and walk in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, the event we walked at in October 2003 where we realized we had an opportunity to take this story and give back with it. So let’s get to more of that.

As a new business we get a lot of inquiries to help support local organizations with a wide range of causes. Being a producer of alcohol puts a bulls-eye on your business. Who doesn’t like free samples while they check out festivals and events? We would be crass to overlook the impact and importance of all these activities and the programs they support. Most of us would easily recognize a great cause in any of them, and would gladly support them whenever we could. And we encourage people to do just that. Find a cause/event you feel passionate about and put a story behind your efforts when you go out and ask for others to support you. Go make a difference.

With all the inquiries coming in our challenge is that we have taken our own advice, picked several organizations we plan to support, and will never have enough time to respond to every independent inquiry we get. We don’t want to offend, but our team is too small to follow-up on all of them, we just can’t. We sincerely apologize in advance.

We have two programs we will be running this year, and both will provide opportunities for Ancient Fire community members to get involved in fundraising, but also being on the event team if they want. We are going to make an impact, and the in-person experience for both of these programs is going to be so much fun!

The first program is for the American Cancer Society event Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. We will use a series of promotional activities at the meadery to support our team and raise funds. Community members who join the team will also be raising money in their own networks and walking at the event in Manchester on October 21st with Margot and I. This event is held all over New Hampshire on the same day in October every year. It is amazingly powerful to think of all the people marching down streets together all over the state raising awareness and funds to fight cancer!

Jason with Brew Free Or Die (homebrew club) at the Food Bank in 2018

The second program will be to benefit the NH Food Bank, an organization Margot and I added to our charitable work a decade ago. Since then we have donated funds as well as have participated in activities at the Food Bank that further their mission. And once again we are going to help make this experience part of Ancient Fire. This program will kick off in November with a donation of funds we raise being made in December. We will also be pulling together a small group of community members to participate in Fresh Rescue at the Food Bank, an activity that redirects leftover frozen meat to shelters, meal programs and community kitchens. Margot and I have done this event in the past and when you find out how much food you helped pack up and how many meals it will be able to create it is hard not to be emotional about your impact.

We will be launching each of these programs in their own time with a lot more information. There will be multiple ways to support each event that should provide workable, comfortable options for everyone. As a community we are going to stand up, get involved and make a difference. We are also going to have fun while doing it, and that ladies and gentleman was the point to Ancient Fire in the first place.

So is it good story? You decide. But, we are sure the next chapter is going to be even better!

Cheers!

Jason

Of Fruits And Local Labors

As we’ve quickly progressed into the summer season here in New Hampshire one of frequent questions in the tap room has been “where are we getting local produce we are using?” The short answer is lots of places, many of whom we’ve sourced from during our homebrew projects before we opened Ancient Fire. We have local favorites as well as new-to-us farms and orchards from around New Hampshire that we are expecting to get great produce from.

One of our favorite farms to work with is Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry. Only short drive from home, we’ve visited the farm stand and the PYO areas at Sunnycrest many times! Over the years we have picked strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and grapes. When apple season comes, we’ve coordinated with a group from our local homebrew club to buy cider in bulk from Sunnycrest. We’ve also brought home peaches, apples, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, honey, maple syrup and of course, cider donuts!

The recent releases of Wooderson’s Lemonade were made with strawberries from Sunnycrest. Our love for the strawberries from Sunnycrest goes back to 2004 when we first started bringing large amounts of them home to use in fermentation. The local season coincides with the official onset of Summer (June 21), which is also our wedding anniversary. Margot can definitely entertain with stories about picking berries in the early mornings of some of our first anniversaries. We fermented at least one beverage with strawberries every year from 2004 to 2013, and in some years we were able to taste a vertical (consecutive years) of a strawberry wine that we won a lot of medals with!

Earlier this year we sourced fresh dill from Country Dreams Farm, a fellow Derry Homegrown Farm & Artisan Market vendor, and used it in the house-made cheese spread on the food menu. We grow herbs at home as well, but not always dill, which typically gets used to make pickles anyway. Mmmm, fresh pickles. We might need to find some to add to the menu.

But summer isn’t over yet, and some of the best produce has yet to start arriving. So what do we have planned?

Pears – having gotten pears from another great Londonderry destination in the past, Mack’s Apples, we are hopeful we can source them here in 2018.

Wine Grapes – we are working on sources and should have some exciting announcements soon!

Cider – we will be sourcing from several farms including Apple Hill Farm, Gould Hill Orchards and Sunnycrest.

Peaches – we will be sharing peach meads soon, and some will have been made with 2017 peaches from Lull Farm.

Chili Peppers – most of our fans already know we love using chili peppers, and fresh, local, and even homegrown ones are fantastic to use!

Plums – it has been a couple years since we used plums in a wine, but that wine went from a sleeper to all gone once all the medals were counted! We like to use golden plums in particular, and sometimes along with delicious white wine grapes. The plums we made the decorated wine with came from Hackleboro Orchards.  We’ve also gotten golden plums from Elwood Orchards in the past, also right in town for us.

Pumpkin – we’ve already got some pumpkin squirreled away in the freezer, and we have a riff on a cider we made a couple years back in mind for this.

Maple Syrup – we have 2018 syrup from Four Saps Sugar Shack on hand already. We’ve also sourced syrup from Ben’s Sugar Shack in the past as well.

We also expect to work on some herbed mead recipes as we head into the cooler months, and some of these will feature herbs and hops we grew at home.

If that isn’t an exciting list of ingredients to work with we surely don’t know what one would look like!

Keep your eyes on our Facebook page for all of our product announcements so you can catch some of this local produce on tap at Ancient Fire.

Cheers!

Margot & Jason

We Are Open!

As of Thursday March 15th we are open!

The Tap Room hours will be:

  • Thursday & Friday 4-7 pm
  • Saturdays 11 am – 7 pm

Our tap list will fluctuate, and the best way to keep an eye on what is on tap will be our Facebook page. We will be launching with 7 taps for flights and pints, and 3 taps for growlers to go.

The food menu will be updated regularly and will also be posted on our Facebook page. We have a number of meal options as well as plenty of snacks to enjoy with a glass of #deliciousAF.

We haven’t bottled any product yet, but that is coming soon. We also have shirts, glasses, coasters and stickers for purchase. And hats are on the way.

See you at Ancient Fire!

Margot & Jason

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