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Meet Mark Oberle of Meadiocrity in San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Oberle.

Mark Oberle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I first joined some friends that were doing homebrew beer and mead a few years ago. My background was in winemaking and their background was in beermaking. Together, we played around with mead recipes and brought together a few styles that we all liked. After doing a few test batches, we found that the products we were producing rivaled or out-paced existing meads on the market. A little market research showed that the mead industry was growing at a rapid pace. In fact, it has been the fastest growing sector in the alcohol industry for the last several years. We ultimately formed the business and did contract brewing with a local meadery to test the waters. After our first product was a hit and picked up locally by Trader Joe’s, we expanded production and ultimately moved into a co-op facility in Escondido. We have continued to grow and are now looking at opening our own tasting room in 2018. When we launched in 2017, we were the second meadery in San Diego to have product on shelves. By the end of 2017, there will be 6 in operation and several more at various stages of the licensing process. Our products are now in about 50 bottle shops, restaurants, and gastropubs in Southern California and the demand for more mead increases by the month.

Aside from making the mead, we also started our own beekeeping. We source the honey for our staple products from local beekeepers, but we also maintain nearly a hundred “estate hives” where we are able to specifically place around the county to collect exactly the type of nectar we want to produce our desired honey for mead. We have also offered complimentary swarm captures to those in our immediate town as an act of community service and hope to grow the beekeeping business to be a standalone apiary business.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting our own business has been challenging. Licensing for any business related to alcohol is challenging. Background checks, site location, and permitting were time-consuming and pricey. Additionally, there are inherent challenges forming partnerships and learning how each of us does business. Just like any relationship, we each communicate differently and have different focuses and desires for the business. Part of working well as a team is base-lining the direction of the company and leveraging the strengths of each partner to get a stronger team than any individual could offer. The growing pains of learning this process has been challenging at times, but we now find our ability to work well together a big advantage in our business.

Meadiocrity – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Meadiocrity makes mead, which is an alcohol made from honey. It’s not beer, wine, or cider. It is a separate category. Mead is the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man, but it is only recently having a resurgence. San Diego actually has more meaderies than anywhere in the world. Some meads are made with just honey, water, and yeast. Others add fruit, spices, chilis, or any other edible item.

We specialize in meads that showcase the honey. We source and harvest the best quality honey we can find from our local forage and farmed crops. Our meads are either traditional (just honey, water, yeast) or may contain additional light flavorings that compliment but never overpower the honey.

As a company, I am most proud of the rapid growth we have seen. We have gone from starting a business where no one has even heard of “mead” to suddenly seeing local demand increase rapidly. We have also seen an increase in attention from media. We regularly are featured in articles around the country and even made an appearance on a featured Buzzfeed Food video.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?

San Diego is a great place for a business like ours. Mixed demographics and a desire for craft beverages is a big reason why we have been able to be successful so early. If someone were just starting out, I would recommend finding a mentor in your line of business that can help identify unknown areas of risk or help guide business activities. It can be very overwhelming starting a new business and chances are it won’t be difficult to get connected to an individual or community of people that have gone through the process before and are willing to help.

San Diego could help the meadery scene by making it easier for beekeepers to place hives on county or state-owned land. Additionally, while the county has a reasonably defined tiered winery ordinance, there is no concept of wine being made from non-fruit. This poses a challenge if a meadery like ours wants to open a meadery tasting room in an agricultural area. 

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Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here. 

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