According to Wikipedia, mead is defined as, “an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops.” That is exactly what owners, Jon Talkington and Robert Walker, of the new Brimming Horn Meadery in Milton, DE, plan to make. We sat down with co-owner, Jon Talkington, to learn about this exciting and different new watering hole coming to Sussex County Delaware.
Talkington, currently a brewer at Dogfish Head for the last 13 years, has been making mead for over 20 years. He found a recipe for a type of Finnish mead, known as Sima, in a Scandinavian cookbook when he was 16-years-old and decided to give it a try. The rest, as they say, is history. Talkington had first dreamed of opening a meadery over 10 years ago. “At the time, there was nothing about mead in the books; only wine. No one knew how to go about doing it, so we gave up.”
But, Talkington didn’t let that stop him. He decided to keep focusing on homebrewing, winning awards for his creations, and honing in on his craft. Three years ago Talkington and Walker, also having worked at Dogfish Head for the last 8 years, decided they would take the leap and open a meadery. Walker enjoyed mead and Talkington enjoyed making mead so it seemed like the perfect match. Walker had previously tried to open a bar and an ice cream shop, but both business ideas never got off the ground. A meadery was the perfect fit.
After receiving approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in only 30 days, when others say it can take up to six months, it seemed like smooth sailing. Though, after 7 months of construction delays on their facility, it wasn’t exactly a breeze. The pair also ran into a few hiccups with licensing from the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) because they aren’t technically a brewery or a winery. With some help from the commissioner of the ABC, they got their license and were, once again, on their way.
The pair plans to craft two different types of batches: small, experimental batches in the 15 to 30 gallon range and large batches of 500 gallons. The smaller, experimental meads will be made with local, handpicked fruits, local honey (some even from the beehives they have right on their property!), and other local herbs and spices whenever possible. Talkington and Walker really want to give back to the community and keep as much money right here in their own neighborhood.
500 gallon batches will be used to create their core mead brands. Some of these core meads will be a dry traditional mead, semi-sweet traditional mead, Blushing Goddess (brewed with hibiscus, lemon, and orange), Basilisk (brewed with basil and limes), and Wolf Woods (brewed with hops and juniper berries). Fruit meads are also on the plan, featuring an Aronia berry mead made with Viking Aronia berries from a farm right outside of Georgetown, DE. In fact, many of the fruits (cherries, hops, blackberries, aronia berries) will come from the farm of local farmer, Jim Passwaters.
The honey will be as local as possible, most of it coming from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. While the guys would love to only use honey from lower Delaware, the local suppliers just don’t harvest enough honey for them to use. Talkington told us that a 500 gallon batch can use anywhere from 1,250 lbs. to 1,500 lbs. of honey depending on the sweetness of the mead! We also learned that because of the large quantities of honey needed for production, mead costs 300% more to make than comparable amounts of beer or wine!
Core meads will have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 11-14% so the pair plans to craft a line of session meads, as well. Session meads will be slightly lower in alcohol (weighing in around 8% ABV) and slightly carbonated, making them easier to drink. Talkington told us that, “the carbonation gives the mead a zesty, quenchable characteristic.” The session meads will be offered in flavors like Sima (Jon’s original mead recipe), orange cardamom, and forage Norwegian spruce tips with ginger and lime.
Onto our next question: What does The Brimming Horn Meadery and the tagline “Drink Like a Viking!” mean? Talkington told us that, traditionally, people think that Vikings made a lot of mead. He went on to say that it was actually the Germans and Slaviks that made the mead, the Vikings just drank it. The Viking territory was too cold for bees so they just traded for their mead. Hence the tagline, “Drink Like a Viking!” Historically, ancient Slavik, Greek, and Norwegian people ritually drank out of large drinking horns. The sharing of beverages from the horn was a sign of wealth and community. So, similar to the “my cup runneth over” phrase, Jon told us that a brimming horn means that the horn is always full of mead.
The Brimming Horn Meadery had their soft opening this past weekend and plans to be open officially in the very near future. The pair does not plan to distribute outside of the mead hall initially but you can come in to buy mead by the glass, in tasters, growlers, cases, and bottles. Make sure to visit them at 28615 Lewes-Georgetown Hwy, Milton, DE 19968. The pair will also be able to ship their meads to 36 states. Follow along on their website and on Facebook for the official grand opening date!