If a loyal fan base and strong community support is anything to go on, Cellarmen’s mead, cider, and beer brewery promises to be the sleeper hit of Hazel Park.
What started with humble beginnings has expanded to its first official line of canned products with ambitions to sell outside of Michigan. Co-owner Dominic Calzetta, also a Hazel Park resident, says the company owes its continued success to the support of friends, family, and the Hazel Park community.
“Our regulars are completely diehard, devastatingly committed, and we couldn’t be happier with that,” Calzetta says. “That’s where it all started, and you always want to keep those people happy. You always owe it to those original people.”
Cellarmen’s began as experimentation with home brewing. Calzetta would often partner with co-owner Andy Zelewski on mead making, and later met co-owner Ian Radogast-Gvens while working at B Nektar Meadery. The trio bonded, and after gaining several years of experience working in the industry, decided they wanted to run their own business.
Calzetta says they were able to make this decision because they all shared a vision: they wanted to make mead with a specific emphasis on serving a community.
The three always wanted Cellarmen’s in Hazel Park, but finding the right building was a challenge in the beginning. For this dream project, they needed a building that could house both their production and tap room in one location.
Early in their search, Calzetta found an old lumber office down the street from where he lived that was perfect. At the time, the building was spoken for, but Calzetta was drawn to the location and kept checking back. The original business proposal fell through, and Calzetta and partners wasted no time making an offer.
“We only knew one thing to do, and that was to go make alcohol,” Radogast-Givens says. “We said if you know anybody more talented than us, then give them the building.”
Co-owners Ian Radogast-Givens (left) and Dominic Calzetta (right). Photo by Terry Lakins.
Getting the building ready for business would take another six months of preparation and production. Once they had the setup down, they began to produce their own creations, with the goal of only releasing products with the highest quality.
During production, the individual partners’ strengths became distinctive. While Radogast-Givens and Zelewski excelled in working in the back making the mead, Calzetta was out in the world promoting their products and spreading the word. Radogast-Givens adds that their roles are often shifting so much that everyone is always wearing seven hats, all the time.
Describing the operation of Cellarmen’s as a literal three-man-job would not be exaggerating, especially when they first opened their doors in October 2015. Though now they occasionally hire outside help and have proper bartenders working the tap room, the trio did everything themselves in the beginning. Calzetta said those first few months had some extremely long days, but it was worth it because they quickly established their fan base amongst the Hazel Park residents.
Cellarmen’s products use real fruit and honey and never used refined sugar, concentrates or flavorings. Calzetta said they have put out a total of 120 different meads, ciders and beers within the last few years. Many of these releases were exclusives for special events such as mead day, Kentucky Derby day, tastings, anniversaries and holidays. In total, the company visits around 60 mead festivals a year.
Despite always trying something new, Cellarmen’s has some regular products that have become staples. The current lineup goes as follows: Moscow Miel, Pineapple Cider, Razzgar, Handsome Dan, Coffee Cider, and Le Goose. This lineup, however, is subject to change. While it isn’t likely that Pineapple Cider or Moscow Miel are going anywhere (due to popularity), certain drinks, such as Le Goose, have only been brought into the main lineup by popular demand. Sometimes the lineup also depends on the availability of specific ingredients.
“We like to make not only things that are approachable for everybody, but we like to have fun too,” Calzetta says.
Calzetta knew from the beginning that they wanted to move into canning their product. During their first year anniversary, they started canning in 32-ounce cans called Crowlers. While this proved to be popular in its own right, the larger than normal cans were a tough sell for newcomers or light drinkers. Calzetta knew they would have to start canning in a smaller size to be more marketable and accessible. The following year the Crowlers were replaced by smaller 12-ounce cans, which allowed select products to be canned on the spot and bought straight from the tap room.
With the tap room sustained and the locals happy, the next logical step was to branch out. To start, Cellarmen’s has canned retail versions of Moscow Miel and Pineapple Cider, sold in four-packs.
To date, Cellarmen’s has canned 188 cases of Moscow Miel and 210 cases of Pineapple Cider. These drinks, along with select barrels of their products, are now sold at beer bars, restaurants, craft beer stores, and party stores across Michigan. While this step was huge for the trio, their ambitions go much further.
Calzetta says they have recently purchased a canning line. This means they will no longer have to wait on deals with other companies; now their limited runs will become semi-frequent small runs, with the ability to push more of their main staple products. Their biggest goal, Calzetta says, is to get their products sold out of state.
But that won’t mean Cellarmen’s will ever forget their roots in Hazel Park.
“We always want to be here in this city,” says Radogast-Givens.