Maniacal Mead Co. co-owners Jeff Fraser and Patrick Echlin grew their business from an online group Fraser established several years ago for those interested in homebrewing mead, an alcoholic beverage made from honey. The two found a location, a former pizzeria at 1497 Ecorse Rd. in Ypsilanti Township, and began renovating it in 2019. The two planned to begin with a focus on wholesaling and mail order and then launch a full-scale bar in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused a change in plans.
The two co-founders had a stockpile of mead ready to go, but very little of it was bottled, making the transition to mail-order and wholesaling longer than they’d hoped. Getting licensing paperwork in order took some time, but vending at the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti farmers markets helped “keep us going and engaged with customers,” Echlin says.
Even when bars were allowed to operate at 50% capacity, that wasn’t much help to a small business with a seating capacity of 15, he says. Now, however, the mead business has upped its capacity from about 200 gallons to more than 600 gallons. The owners of Maniacal Mead can ship to 40 states and have their products in more than a dozen liquor stores and party stores across Washtenaw County.
Maniacal Mead held a “soft launch” for family and friends during Ypsilanti’s Festival of the Honey Bee in September, but the bar won’t be open officially until sometime in early 2022.
“Our hope is that the tasting room will become a hub where people can come try new things, our regular mead varieties, or a one-off,” Echlin says.
Ypsi Cocktail Club opened at 102 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti Sept. 22. Christine Doran, hospitality manager for the Ypsi Cocktail Club and the Ann Arbor Distilling Co. Tasting Room, calls the new Ypsilanti business “a sister tasting room” to Ann Arbor Distilling Co.’s location at 220 Felch St. in Ann Arbor. She says the club will focus on craft cocktails, including “interesting takes on the classic cocktails as well as new standards using house-made and local ingredients.”
The business makes all its spirits in house, and guests can purchase bottles, which will soon include a gin, whiskey, and vodka specifically distilled for Ypsilanti. Doran notes that all the grain and fruit used in the spirits and liqueurs are sourced from Michigan farmers, and Ypsilanti-based Cultivate Coffee and Taphouse roasts the cold brew coffee used in the business’ Spaulding’s Coffee Liqueur.
“Ypsilanti seemed like a natural next step,” Doran says. “It’s a vibrant community with an innovative and creative food and drink scene.”
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Maniacal Mead Co. photos courtesy of Maniacal Mead Co. Ypsi Cocktail photos courtesy of Ypsi Cocktail Club.