Superstition Meadery owners awarded top small business person in nation
Company distributes its original creations internationally
From a starter’s kit to top small business honors in the nation, Jeff and Jennifer Herbert, founders and owners of Prescott’s Superstition Meadery, are opening people’s eyes — and taste buds — to an ancient type of fermented drink. Along the way, they are racking up awards.
This past week, the Herberts earned the honor of U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2019 Small Business Person of the Year award Monday, May 6, in Washington, D.C.
Acting SBA Administrator Chris Pilkerton praised the SBA’s financial and counseling assistance that helped the Herberts grow their business, increasing their revenue by more than 160 percent between 2015 and 2017. Staff expanded from nine to 20 employees, and the company is reaching international markets.
“Jennifer and Jeff truly represent the best of our nation’s small businesses,” Pilkerton said.
SBA works with entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses. Jeri Denniston, director of Yavapai College Small Business Development Center, nominated the Herberts for the statewide SBA award, an honor they received May 2 in Phoenix.
In speaking with Jeff Herbert Wednesday, his excitement and enthusiasm were obvious.
“Representing Prescott, out of thousands of small businesses, I can’t believe my wife and I were up on stage in Washington, D.C., receiving the highest honor in the nation for small businesses,” he said. “Our staff really believes in our vision.”
The home mead brewery kit arrived in 2007, and the Herberts’ business production started in 2012 when they collaborated with Juniper Well Ranch in Skull Valley. The first year, they produced 300 gallons of mead and cider. Today, the yield is nearly 30,000 gallons.
Mead’s basic ingredients are honey, yeast and water; it is considered the oldest alcoholic drink going back 7,000 years. The Herberts add a variety of other ingredients and age the mixtures in French or American oak, bourbon, port or Madeira barrels.
Date Night Mead, for instance, uses Medjool dates, coffee and Belgian Dark Candi Sugar. Marion Mead consists of a blackberry, blueberry and raspberry mixture. Deep Field North is a Mandarina Bavaria hopped tart cherry cider.
What inspires these different concoctions? As one example, Herbert said he was motivated after tasting a pina colada cocktail two years ago in Colorado. Another mead using Kahlua liqueur is fermented in a rum barrel. He opened a new concoction Friday, May 10, in Denmark that uses cherry juice “grown by the best cherry orchard in world” from Denmark. “No one has ever had it before in this combination,” he said.
Another, with a working name of Hit the Silk, is made with coconut, lemon and vanilla that will go into the barrel. When it comes out, Herbert said he will assign it a different name because “it’s become a different product.”
Even the staff is involved in the creation process, asking that they be able to make up their own test batch. “We kick ideas around. They each have a list of things they want to make,” he said.
This could become a monthly event depending on how these turn out. He won’t interfere in the process, he said, but he does reserve the right to name the new beverages.
What happens when a new venture bombs?
“When we make an error in the process or if something doesn’t turn out, we try blending with other barrels, or add more fruit juice, or put it into different barrels. There are things we can do along the production process. So we are adaptable,” Herbert said. “We don’t carry spoilage insurance and don’t generally dump anything down the drain.”
The company also uses the best techniques and processes available to maintain the safest sanitation in the production facility.
Superstition Meadery also collaborates with other meaderies in the United States and Europe to design new and unique products. Staff from Mumford Brewery in Los Angeles visited the Prescott meadery two months ago, then Herbert visited the LA meadery.
“We share techniques and try out with what we’re doing. From a business perspective, we introduce our customer base to them, and theirs to us. It’s one of the ways to spread the word,” he said, adding that he has worked together with others in 50 or 60 instances. “The spirit of cooperation with friends in the industry is outstanding.”
So much so, that the Herberts are in discussion with a meadery in Sweden to start up an international distribution company. Their mead already is sold in Scandinavian countries, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Singapore and Thailand.
“We (meaderies) are on the cutting edge of introducing a whole new type of beverage. It’s coming back. So we’ll take a risk and see what we can make out of this. If it’s successful, we will establish ourselves as forefathers of modern mead in Europe.”