New Day Craft Mead & Cider – an Indiana Institution with links to Craft Beer

New Day Craft Mead & Cider – an Indiana Institution with links to Craft Beer

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

It goes without saying that Indiana On Tap is dedicated to craft beer….even though I just said it. But there are other things on tap in Indiana that are worth talking about, craft meads, ciders, spirits… these are true craft beverages and the people who make them have much in common with craft brewers. Also, craft beer lovers are, by in large, fans of these other drinks as well.

The processes of production are similar if not exactly the same, and many of the same details, issues, and elements of creativity are present in all of them. Take mead and cider for instance – they are fermented (and sometimes brewed) and they come from Hoosiers that are truly part of the craft community. I speak in this instance of Tia Agnew and Brett Canaday, the husband and wife founders and visionaries behind New Day Craft Mead & Cider in Fountain Square. They have a mead/cider festival coming up, but in terms of history and philosophy – they’re sympatico with craft beer.

New Day has been making and selling mead and cider for 14 years now – yes, 14 years – but people don’t know as much about them as they should. Like the name, where did that come from? Remember, New Day is owned/run by Tia Ag-NEW and Brett Cana-DAY; New-Day, get it? But, Tia says maybe it comes from the fact that it’s hard running a business like this, yet every morning is a NEW DAY. Nah….. it’s the first one.

Meadful Things & OutCiders crowd. image credit: Indy Star

Meadful Things & OutCiders. One of the things many people don’t realize about mead and ciders is that fruits and honey are more expensive than grains and even hops, so pricing them for people who also drink craft beer is difficult, margins are lower. And this makes New Day’s mead and cider festival, called Meadful Things and Outciders, even more amazing. Tia buys all the product from the participating meaderies and cideries at wholesale costs.

Seem like it’s not a big deal to you? It should be, most festivals pay the producers just a bit for their product, or ask them to donate the kegs. That’s hard for a brewery, but it’s a killer for a meadery or cidery. Tia knows this and doesn’t want any producer to lose money because they agree to participate in the festival.

The 3rd Annual Meadful Things & Outciders will be held on Sept. 1, from 3pm – 6pm at the Circle City Industrial Complex, just north of Centerpoint Brewing for you craft beer nerds. Over 150 meads and ciders will be available for unlimited sampling from more than fifty producers from Indiana and around the country. In that respect, Meadful Things & Outciders is a lot like a craft beer festival, lots of product and unlimited sampling. But the Outciders part of the name implies more than just ciders. Parts of this festival are very much outside our normal experience for beer.

Sure there are things like live music and food trucks, but how about Taro Card reading – was that at your last beer festival? Palm reading, henna artists, balloon sculpting of inappropriate hats – these seem to be Meadful Things exclusives. Even better, the cats and dogs will be there again this year!

The charity partner for Meadful Things is FACE, an animal spay/neuter clinic that also takes in animals that need homes. Located immediately to the north of the industrial complex, FACE brings over some puppies and kittens to snuggle during the festival, and to raise awareness for their work. Basically, Tia made a list of the things she loved about festivals and those she wanted to avoid when envisioning Meadful Things, and this party of oddities and out of the box entertainment is what she came up with.

Tia doesn’t wear funny hats. image credit: drink CLTR

The usual things apply – it’s a 21+ event and don’t forget your ID (right Walter?). Even thought the pets are there from FACE, you can’t bring your own animals. There is a VIP hour and you can find tickets here. Importantly, there are no day of event ticket sales, so get them online and early. Meadful Things & Outciders will be a comfortable afternoon for craft beer fans because it feels a lot like a festival with which you are familiar.

Much of that is because New Day feels a great camaraderie with the brewing community, and it’s been that way since Tia and Brett decided to open a meadery. They’ve been doing this for 14 years now, but only a part of that has been in Fountain Square. The whole story is both inspirational and educational – it’s hard to start a business like this on your own.

History of New Day. There’s no better place to start a story than at the beginning, so…… Tia grew up in Lansing, IL and Munster, IN, and she has brought that sense of neighborhood and community from the region to Central Indiana. But along with a concern for neighbors, there is also that “I can do anything, don’t screw with my dream” part of the region too, and Tia’s got that in spades.

Brett grew up on a farm in the Elwood/Frankton area, so he experienced a rural, “we can grow/build/fix anything” upbringing. Between the two of them, they had everything they needed to start and build a craft business. Of course, they didn’t know each other yet. They met at Purdue and loved many of the same things, but were different enough that they could still work together as a team.

Tia is a trained wildlife biologist who worked quite a bit in environmental consulting, and the couple dated long distance after Purdue while Brett worked for different companies as a food scientist and then as a consultant. He moved for jobs; she moved for jobs. Finally, they decided that perhaps they should try living in the same state, ending up near the Canaday family farms in Central Indiana. Along with all sorts of crops, they started an apiary – not just one beehive, but ten. Because that’s what they do, they dive in way beyond what’s prudent.

New Day has an uber-comfy tasting room. image credit: twitter

Ten hives results in a lot of honey, and there’s only so much honey mustard you can use in a year. In 2004, Brett and Tia started selling honey, but also considered selling the mead they had been making from their honey (with lots of fresh fruits added). They opened a small tasting room in Elwood in 2006, while still selling mead and honey at the local farmers’ markets with the help of friends and family.

In 2008 they started making ciders too, taking took turns with the business. One would work full time on the ciders and meads while the other would support them with a full time job, then they’d switch. Finally, they decided that selling in Elwood would never amount to an expansive business, so they should go all in or give it up and move overseas (overseas was legitimately in the running).

Either choice would have made them happy, but didn’t feel they could give up on the business just yet. But going all in mandated a move to Indianapolis, coincidentally the place that Tia was working at the time. She had a consulting job in Fountain Square and the owner of the business just happened to have some space on the first floor of their building. This became New Day’s tasting room.

New Day Tasting Room and Business Expansion. By the time Brett and Tia decided to move the tasting room, Fountain Square it was on the way back, and they are so grateful for those people who started the resurgence of the neighborhood. Needless to say, Tia and Brett fell in love with Fountain Square. It’s not a bunch of strip malls and the vast majority of the businesses are independent with a neighborhood feel.

Fountain Square didn’t have a location that could accommodate the tasting room and the production facility, so they kept the production in Elwood for the first couple of years, and then in 2012 moved down to Circle City Industrial Complex. That’s why Meadful Things and OutCiders is held at that particular location.

Breakfast Magpie and variants. Cellar staples if ever there were such a thing. image credit: pintrest

So that’s how things are set now, Brett and Tia make the mead and cider just northwest of downtown, and sell it in Fountain Square (and in the Midwest). New Day has several years left on their lease in both places, and have no desire to change either location. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things they would like to see altered.

In Indiana, mead and cider are produced on farm winery permit as we discussed above. One of the drawbacks of that kind of permit is that you can only sell your own products in your tasting room; therefore, there are no guest taps at New Day Craft. Tia really wants to get this changed, not so she can sell wine but so she can do beer from her great friends in the craft industry. One thing Tia was able to get changed was the law that prohibited wineries, cideries, and meaderies from filling growlers, as breweries have been able to do for years. Tia is grateful for the support provided by her representatives Dan Forestal and Justin Moed, whose help was invaluable in getting the corrective legislation passed.

Tia is completely in tune with brewers, even if she and Brett don’t brew. She said, “If you show the brewing community something new, they say great, let’s try to get that to work for us.” It’s that kind of spirit that brings New Day much closer to the brewing community.

Look for New Day meads and ciders in expanded distribution. They’re going to take over the world. image credit: Keyhole Marketing

New Day is now a member of the Brewers of Indiana Guild and Tia and Brett feel quite at home with brewers. It’s the creativity that drives Brett and Tia. The fresh blackberries in the Breakfast Magpie or using only Madagascar vanilla beans when vanilla can add to the flavor or body of a product. In fact, they have found that only kiwi doesn’t seem to work in their beverages, but anything else that is purely natural is fair game. They include everything in their tool box and everyone in their philosophy – inclusivity is New Day Craft’s core value as a business, inclusivity in society and in mead and cider innovation, making a product that all can get behind and feel good about.

All this innovation and the caring about their neighborhood and patrons has resulted in great growth for the company, but with growth comes challenges. New Day needed to increase their distribution footprint to keep the company moving forward, so after many sleepless nights Tia decided that she must back out of the tasting room and do more of the things need to grow New Day. This was especially hard because the tasting room is still the face of the company and is the best way to create those personal relationships with their customers.

Tia says it was easier though because she has a great crew working for her. She says she is privileged to have such a great group, people that pull together and push all in the same direction. So, this past year Tia spent ½ time in sales and ½ time running the company. It certainly made a difference being out there talking to people instead of relying just on the distributor; consequently, this year they took the dive and hired a full time sales manager, Holly Cole.

Holly directs sales for the three states now – Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and has Tia and Brett’s unvarnished trust and thanks. The success of the expansion has been big enough that they are looking to expand distribution to additional states in the near future. Inside the tasting room and out, there is a lot of R&D going on at New Day for new products and new ways to get their beverages to their patrons.

A great history, and great future, and a great festival – New Day Craft Mead & Cider is an Indiana institution that is reaping the rewards of years of hard work and dedication. Give them a visit and include yourself in their growing legion of fans.

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