Shared love of Norse mythology inspires business partners
J.R. Walker’s favorite Norse myth is that of Kvasir, who was killed by two dwarfs. The dwarfs mixed his blood with honey, creating a mead that caused whoever drank it to become wise and poetic. The beverage became known as the “Mead of Poetry.”
Walker, 39, of Milton, and his business partner, 40-year-old Jon Talkington of Seaford, share interests in Norse mythology and mead. The latter is integral to the former.
“Odin, the main god in Norse mythology, he doesn’t eat food. He just drinks mead,” Walker said. “Mead is a pretty pivotal part of the myths.”
Talkington, who has been making mead since before he was legally allowed to drink it, found a fan in Walker, his co-worker at the Dogfish Head Brewery. Eventually, they started to consider opening a business together. The Brimming Horn Meadery, at 28615 Lewes-Georgetown Highway (Route 9) in the Cool Springs area, opened Sept. 2.
Humanity has been drinking mead for tens of thousands of years. According to mead expert Mark Beran, it originated in Africa and was, at one time, a common drink throughout Eurasia. Its prevalence waned after sugarcane outpaced honey in popularity, but now, mead is experiencing a renaissance in America.
As beer is made from grains and wine from grapes, mead is made from honey. Water is added to the honey and then yeast, and other ingredients, like fruit, spices and grains, are added for flavor.
Mead usually ferments for two or three weeks, and most, but not all, is also aged before consumption. However, certain modern techniques can speed up the process to just three or four months.
“And we do some lower-alcohol meads, which we call session meads,” Walker said. “We can get those ready in three or four weeks.”
Mead usually has an alcohol by volume – or ABV -- between 11 and 14 percent, as compared to around 5 percent in mass-produced light beer. Session meads run lower at around 8 percent. Like alcohol content, the taste and texture of mead can vary.
“You can have a dry mead if you add less honey, or a sweeter mead if you add more honey,” Walker said. “It can be wine- or port-like, sparkling like a champagne, or it can be beer-like, depending on the ingredients you add to it.”
The Brimming Horn’s mead is produced and served in a 1,800 square-foot building with two parts, one for production and bottling and the other for a tasting room and merchandise shop. It fits about 30 drinkers at any one time.
“We do hope to grow, but slowly. We want to keep it small and community-based,” Walker said. “We have a lot of things we’re talking about – a fire pit, couches and a long table. I hope to do some mythology nights, read over some of the old myths and relive that storyteller-type of atmosphere.”
At the moment, the Brimming Horn is serving 10 different types of mead, including dry, semi-sweet, apple, blackberry and cherry. There’s also a lime and basil mead that won Talkington a gold medal at the Mazer Cup International in 2011.
Walker’s favorite Brimming Horn mead is called “Svartalfar.”
“It’s a specialty mead because it uses black currants,” he said. “They’re very expensive, but it tastes amazing.”
The Brimming Horn sells its meads both bottled and “on draught.”
“We have them on tap, in a keg,” Talkington said, “but there’s no carbonation. We use nitrogen to push it out.”
Brimming Horn mead is available for buyers exclusively at the brewery, though they hope to expand to area liquor stores eventually.
“Mead, over the past two or three years, has grown 130 percent in the market,” Talkington said. “There are a lot of meaderies popping up right now. It’s a very niche market, and I think everyone’s trying to get in on it, but you have to know how to make it correctly or it doesn’t come out right.”
The Brimming Horn is open year round on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, visit brimminghornmeadery.com.