Following on the heels of the booming craft beer movement, there's now a new option for unique libations in Sussex County: mead.
After years of planning and construction delays, Brimming Horn Meadery, on Route 9 east of the Cool Springs Road railroad crossing, opened its doors to the public July 4.
Brimming Horn's journey began in 2013, but head mead maker Jon Talkington has been making honey wine for about two decades. He dubbed his homemade mead with the Brimming Horn name in 2001, inspired by the drinking horn of ancient Greeks and Vikings.
“The name back then was just a horn overflowing with mead – the horn brimmeth over instead of my cup brimmeth over,” the award-winning mead maker said. Now the name is embracing the communal idea of enjoying mead with friends, he said.
“We want to teach people about the old traditions,” said Talkington's partner J.R. Walker. “Jon and I have been into Norse mythology for 20 years. It's our lifeblood. It's who we are as people. This isn't a gimmick.”
The bright orange interior of the meadery's tasting room offers a modern twist, while an antler-adorned chandelier, Viking-inspired wall art and a Viking ship bar with a dragon head pay tribute to the ancestors who stumbled upon mead tens of thousands of years ago.
Talkington said mead likely came about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, when primitive man would collect wild honey and place it in leather bags or pottery filled with water to keep the bees from following their treasure. When honey is left in water, the wild yeast in the honey begins fermenting on its own, creating the honey wine that's now catching on in a similar fashion to the recent boom seen in the craft beer industry.
Brimming Horn's opening marks Delaware's second meadery – the first, Liquid Alchemy Beverages in Wilmington, opened in 2016 – but Talkington said the craft mead industry has grown by about 130 percent in the last three years.
It's not just the trendy thing to do for Talkington and Walker, they said. “We want people to understand there's a love going into it,” Walker said. “Jon is an artist. His art is just fermented.”
The partners plan to use 500-gallon tanks to make large batches of mead, which will then be flavored in smaller batches. Talkington and Walker said they plan to start with some flagship flavors: A dry mead called Golden Tears; a semi-sweet traditional mead called Freya's Kiss; mead flavored with hops and juniper called Wolf Woods; a blackberry mead called Bjornbar; a lime- and basil-flavored mead called Basilisk; and one flavored with lemon, orange and colored by hibiscus flowers called Blushing Goddess.
“We should have a mead for everybody,” Talkington said, adding that it's an easy switch for wine lovers and craft beer fans alike.
The minds behind Brimming Horn also have a few beehives out back, in hopes they'll be able to harvest their own local honey, too.
“Without the bees, there's no mead,” Talkington said. He said it takes 1,250 to 1,500 pounds of honey to make one 500-gallon batch of mead. They hope to host beekeeping classes in the near future. Other ingredients, such as aronia berries, blackberries and figs will also come from local growers.
Because mead's basic ingredient is honey, it is a little more expensive to make, explained Talkington and Walker. “We use high-quality ingredients and Jon's got 20 years of experience,” Walker said. “So it's like taking a five-star chef and giving him the ingredients to make amazing food; you're not going to expect boiled hot dogs. You're getting the best of the best.”
He estimates prices will be around $7 to $15 for an eight-ounce pour, while tastings will be priced at $5 for four one-ounce pours. Tours and tastings, growlers and bottles also will be available. The meadery also will offer fruit wines and cider.
Brimming Horn plans to spruce up the backyard area to feature a long, Viking-style table with couches and fire pits where storytellers, bands and songwriters can perform, and invite local food trucks to serve customers.
Brimming Horn is located at 28615 Lewes-Georgetown Highway and is open from 12-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12-4 p.m. Sunday.
For more, go to brimminghornmeadery.com or call 302-664-1188.